Sony Music buys Bob Dylan’s recorded music
By Ben Sisario
Sony Music has acquired the entire recorded music catalog of Bob Dylan, including all his previous albums and “the rights to multiple future releases,” the company announced Monday.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. According to a calculation by Billboard, the music trade publication, the rights to Dylan’s recordings may be worth about $200 million, based on an estimate of $16 million in annual revenue around the world.
When Dylan sold his songwriting rights — which are separate from those for recordings — to Universal Music in late 2020, that deal was estimated to be worth well more than $300 million.
In Dylan’s case, his songwriting corpus is so valuable because of the thousands of cover versions of his songs that have been made over the years — from Peter, Paul & Mary in the 1960s to Adele, who recorded Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” on her first album.
Dylan’s history with Columbia Records, which is owned by Sony, goes back more than 60 years. He was signed to the label in 1961, by its famed talent scout John Hammond, and Columbia released Dylan’s self-titled first album the following year, which included traditional folk songs and a handful of Dylan originals like “Talkin’ New York” and “Song to Woody,” a tribute to his hero Woody Guthrie.
“Columbia Records and Rob Stringer have been nothing but good to me for many, many years and a whole lot of records,” Dylan said in a statement. Stringer is the CEO of Sony Music and the former head of Columbia.
“I’m glad that all my recordings can stay where they belong,” Dylan added.
Dylan, 80, sold the rights to his own master recordings, which he had long controlled, to Sony. According to Sony’s announcement, the transaction was concluded in July, making it one of the music industry’s rare big-money deals to avoid leaks for as much as six months.
The deal is part of a wave of transactions for artists’ catalogs, which have included Sony’s $550 million purchase of Bruce Springsteen’s recorded music and songwriting catalogs, as well as other major deals for the work of Paul Simon, Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, Neil Young, Shakira and others.
The copyrights for recordings and songwriting — the lyrics and melodies underlying the recording of any songs — are separate, and both have been coveted by investors in recent years as streaming has lifted the music industry’s fortunes.
The Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, housing Dylan’s vast archives, is set to open in May.