Bob Dylan’s entire music catalogue bought by Universal Music

Bob Dylan’s entire catalogue of songs, one of the great treasures in music history, has been acquired by Universal Music Publishing Group for an undisclosed sum. 

The catalogue includes such modern standards as Blowin’ In The WindThe Times They Are a-Changin’Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and Like a Rolling Stone. That body of work may only be matched by the Beatles — whose songs were re-acquired by Paul McCartney in 2017 after changing hands several times — for its breadth and influence.

Dylan topped the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time in 2015 and the song Like A Rolling Stone was named by the magazine as the best ever written. 

Dylan was influenced by the bluesman Robert Johnson and folk singer, songwriter Woody Guthrie, but added a lyrical depth to his music that eventually earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. He is the only songwriter to receive the award. 

Financial terms were not disclosed Monday, but the catalogue may be the most prized in the music industry. Four years ago, when Michael Jackson’s estate sold the remaining half-share that it owned in the artist’s catalogue, it fetched $750 million US.

“Brilliant and moving, inspiring and beautiful, insightful and provocative, his songs are timeless — whether they were written more than half a century ago or yesterday,” said Sir Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group, in a prepared statement. 

Dylan’s songs have been recorded more than 6,000 times, by various artists from dozens of countries, cultures and music genres.

Notable releases include the Byrds’ chart-topping version of Mr. Tambourine Man, Peter, Paul and Mary’s Blowin’ in the Wind and Jimi Hendrix’s reworking of All Along the Watchtower.

Joan Baez, Bryan Ferry and the folk singer Odetta put out tribute albums, though his overall influence cannot be measured. Patti Smith, Adele and Sting contributed to an album honouring Dylan for his human rights work in 2012. 

Unpublished lyrics sold at auction

The sale of Dylan’s musical catalogue comes a few weeks after the Jewish singer-songwriter’s musings about anti-Semitism and unpublished song lyrics sold at auction for a total of $495,000 US.

It also follows Stevie Nicks’ recent sale of the majority stake of her music to the publisher and talent management company Primary Wave.

Dylan first entered the public consciousness with New York City’s Greenwich Village folk scene during the early 1960s. When he brought an electric guitar on stage in 1965, he split the music community over what was then considered a radical stylistic choice for a musician. 

Dylan then produced three albums back-to-back in just over a year that changed the course of rock ‘n’ roll that decade, starting with Bringing It All Back Home.

Dylan has sold more than 125 million records globally. 

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Bob Dylan’s entire back catalogue bought in nine-figure deal | Ents & Arts News

Bob Dylan’s entire back catalogue of hundreds of songs has been acquired by Universal Music Group in a nine-figure deal.

The agreement, one of the largest in recent years, covers the copyrights to 600 of the 79-year-old US musician’s tracks, from 1962’s anthemic Blowin’ In The Wind and 1964’s The Times They Are A-Changin, to this year’s acclaimed Murder Most Foul.

It is understood that the catalogue was acquired from the artist himself.

Someone with knowledge of the deal has told Sky News it is worth nine figures, and The New York Times estimated it at more than $300m (£226m).

Dylan first emerged in the spotlight in the 1960s

Universal Music Group (UMG) – which is headquartered in Los Angeles – is among the world’s largest publishing companies and represents songwriters and their back catalogue including Sir Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Adele, Abba, Coldplay and The Clash.

Jody Gerson, chairman and chief executive of the company’s publishing division, said: “To represent the body of work of one of the greatest songwriters of all time – whose cultural importance can’t be overstated – is both a privilege and a responsibility.”

In recent years, Dylan’s catalogue of music has been administered by Universal rival Sony/ATV outside the US and by the singer-songwriter’s own operations inside it.

One of the music industry’s most influential and ground-breaking artists of all time, Dylan emerged from New York City’s Greenwich Village folk music scene in the early 1960s.

Born in Minnesota, Dylan was also the first songwriter to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, with the Swedish academy crediting him with “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

His songs have been recorded more than 6,000 times by a wide variety of artists from Adele to Jimi Hendrix, who have found both commercial and critical success with covers.

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The news follows recent high-profile UMG signings including Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar.

Sir Lucian Grainge, chief executive of Universal Music Group, said it is “no secret that the art of songwriting is the fundamental key to all great music, nor is it a secret that Bob is one of the very greatest practitioners of that art”.

He added: “Brilliant and moving, inspiring and beautiful, insightful and provocative, his songs are timeless – whether they were written more than half a century ago or yesterday.

“I have no doubt that decades, even centuries from now, the words and music of Bob Dylan will continue to be sung and played – and cherished – everywhere.”

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