The $300 Million Dollar Man
Recently, Universal Music announced one of the biggest deals in music history: they have paid an estimated $300 million dollars for complete ownership and control of Bob Dylan's recorded back catalog. This feels like a watershed moment. If the 60s weren't yet dead when Dylan first allowed a song of his to be used in advertising, in 1994, this feels like the final nail in its coffin.
It's hard to overstate Dylan's impact on western music, and on generations of musicians and music-lovers over the years. He grew up in the classic rock n' roll era, but was dissatisfied with how shallow pop songs of the day were. This led him to move towards the more grounded realism of folk music, the genre he will forever be associated with.
He quickly rose to fame in the 1960s, especially after the release of his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. He became one of the most prominent voices of the counterculture and anti-war protest movement. His work inspired more musicians than could be named, across a huge range of genres - everyone from Johnny Cash to The Beatles took inspiration from Dylan.
While he faded from the spotlight somewhat as the 60s counterculture era moved into the rearview mirror, he never went away. He continued to record, and even experienced a significant revival in interest in the early 2000s. His poetic ruminations on the nature of war and human inequity seemed just as relevant in the post-9/11 world as it did during the Vietnam War. In 2016, he was even awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature for his lifelong contributions to western art.
Dylan is still with us, and still recording and performing. Interestingly, the deal for his back catalog does not include any future works.
So what makes the Bob Dylan back catalog worth $300 million? His music itself still continues to resonate, being played, and being covered. The latter may be the real draw for Universal. Dylan is without a doubt one of the most-covered artists in western music. Universal now gets royalties not just for every play of a Dylan recording, but for all of the thousands of covers that are in circulation as well. That will undoubtedly pay off for them, in the long run.
For fans of 60s counterculture, it may hurt a bit knowing that Dylan's catalog is now in corporate hands for perpetuity. However, at least it guarantees that his music will remain heard for generations to come.
I wish Bob had made a not made a deal like Beatles and turned over his poetry to be adultarsed for profit. If “come on buick light my fire” isn’t cringe worth enough how about “One more cup of coffee for the road _________” In-cert least favored stale caned coffee brand.
I think he mad a good decision I would have done the same, but I’m not too sure if the song “Rainy day woman #12 & 35” could go good in a car commercial? LoL!!! But, then again what Dylan song would fit in a commercial & what could they be advertising?
Right on! Thank you! Bob Dylan. You certainly earned it…. We have grown old with you and you are part of the soundtrack of our lives. Well done!
Interesting article…. really enjoying these posts. Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder Revue” (directed by Martin Scorsese – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9577852/) is a great way to experience Dylan and his impact, especially with his fans. BTW…. Grado and Schiit is an affordable match made in heaven. I recently purchased the SR 225es and they are driven by the Schiit Asgard 3 and Modi 3+ stack… the sound is amazing….time to re-watch the “Rolling Thunder Revue”!
Fan since the 1990’s – started with the SR 60s
Money doesn’t talk, it swears!