News How does it feel? Universal Music buys Bob Dylan’s entire 600-song catalogue

How does it feel? Universal Music buys Bob Dylan’s entire 600-song catalogue

A collection privately held by a long-time confidante of Bob Dylan has been sold at auction in individual lots for $677,000. Photo: Getty
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Legendary singer song-writer Bob Dylan, who made timeless counterculture songs like Blowin in the Wind has sold his entire music catalogue to Universal.

The deal, believed to be upwards of $400 million, means that Universal Music Group’s publishing arm now owns all of the Nobel Prize winner’s 600 songs written over six decades.

The once priceless collection now has a value, and includes songs like Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Lay Lady Lay and Like a Rolling Stone, the company said in a statement, but did not disclose the terms of the deal.

Dylan’s song catalogue was previously administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, according to a Variety report.

Dylan, 79, has never been a purist when it comes to commercial endeavours, having records commercials for Victoria’s Secret and Cadillac.

The Associated Press reported the sale gives Universal the right, in perpetuity, to “lease use of Dylan’s compositions to advertisers and movie, television or video game producers, or anyone who thinks his words and melodies could enhance their product”.

Anthony DeCurtis, a veteran music writer and contributing editor at Rolling Stone, told AP the collection is “quite literally priceless”.

“It has been 60 years and it’s still going strong,” DeCurtis said. “There’s no reason to believe there’s going to be any diminishment in its significance.”

Dylan’s songs have been recorded more than 6000 times, by artists from dozens of countries, cultures and music genres including the Byrds’ chart-topping version of Mr. Tambourine Man, Jimi Hendrix’s reworking of  All Along the Watchtower and Adele’s cover of Make You Feel My Love, AP reported.

The 79-year-old US singer-songwriter, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, has sold more than 125 million records around the world.

AP reported the songwriter does not lose total control over his work as the deal does not include rights to Dylan’s own recordings of his material. This means that if Universal is approached to use a recording, that would have to be cleared by the artist.

Billboard’s industry editorial director Robert Levine said: “It’s the kind of thing, if you want it done right, you want to take care of it yourself while you’re still at a stage in your life when you can do it right”.