Bob Dylan has sold the rights to his entire recorded music catalogue to Sony Music Entertainment, the company announced on Monday. The deal includes the masters to every single album the singer-songwriter has put out in his six decades of performing, plus “the rights to multiple future releases”.
“Columbia Records and [Sony Music Group Chairman] Rob Stringer have been nothing but good to me for many, many years and a whole lot of records,” Dylan said in a statement. “I’m glad that all my recordings can stay where they belong.”
Dylan first signed with Columbia Records in 1961 and released his self-titled debut album, Bob Dylan, the following year. Apart from a brief spell in the mid-1970s where Dylan singed to David Gaffer’s Asylum Records, Dylan has released every single one of his albums on the label. Columbia gained reissue control over the two Asylum albums, Planet Waves and Before the Flood, in 1981. Now, he’s bringing it all back home to Columbia.
Dylan has released 39 studio albums over the past 60 years, plus a large number of live albums, compilations, and additions to his famous ‘Bootleg Series’. All told, Bob Dylan has one of the most extensive and expensive catalogues in all of music, with Billboard estimating that Dylan’s master rights are worth over $200 million.
Dylan seems eager to clear house, as the singer had previously sold the publishing rights to his work to Universal Music Publishing in 2020 for a reported sum of over $300 million. The reason why publishing rights are worth more than master rights is simple: most people stream their music nowadays, streaming has very little profit for artists, and master rights are tied into streaming revenue. Publishing accounts for use in media like television and movies and is worth considerably more.
Once Dylan sold his publishing rights, artists like Neil Young and Lindsey Buckingham followed in his footsteps by doing the same, raking in multi-million dollar deals for the rights to play their songs in movie trailers and car commercials from now on until the fall of western civilisation. Here’s the truth: Dylan is 80, and no iconoclastic that he probably couldn’t give a damn what anybody does with his music once he’s gone. Dylan never seemed too much like a legacy guy, and so there’s no down side to cashing in. He’s a man who appreciates money, after all.