Bob Dylan has sold the rights to his masters to Sony Music Entertainment, the company announced on Monday, marking yet another blockbuster deal for artists cashing in on their music copyrights amid the ongoing catalog boom.
This is Dylan’s second major rights deal; he sold his publishing rights to Universal Music Group for over $300 million just over a year ago. (All songs have two copyrights. Recorded rights pertain to a specific recording, including the master tracks, while publishing rights comprise the song’s composition such as music and lyrics. Recorded rights are tied more directly to streaming and sales royalties while publishing rights pertain more to performances and use in film and television.)
Sony didn’t disclose the financial details of the sale in its announcement, but Bob Dylan’s catalog is perhaps the most celebrated song collection in the history of American artists, and Sony likely paid between low-to-mid nine-figures for the masters.
“Columbia Records has had a special relationship with Bob Dylan from the beginning of his career and we are tremendously proud and excited to be continuing to grow and evolve our ongoing 60-year partnership,” Sony Music Entertainment CEO Rob Stringer said in a statement. “Bob is one of music’s greatest icons and an artist of unrivaled genius. The essential impact he and his recordings continue to have on popular culture is second to none and we’re thrilled he will now be a permanent member of the Sony Music family. We are excited to work with Bob and his team to find new ways to make his music available to his many fans today and to future generations.”
Dylan making a deal with Sony isn’t particularly surprising given that he’s been signed to flagship label Columbia since the Sixties. Dylan’s masters are the latest in several major deals Sony has closed in the past year. The record company bought Paul Simon’s publishing rights last March and bought Bruce Springsteen’s recorded and publishing rights at the end of 2021. Billboard reported that Springsteen sold to Sony for about $500 million, one of the largest individual music acquisitions ever.
Catalog acquisitions have been particularly appealing for artists and songwriters for the past several years. Companies like Hipgnosis Songs Fund have paid what were previously considered outrageous prices for copyrights, and the majors have followed suit. Powerful investment firms like KKR and Blackstone have entered the fold as well, partnering with music companies to buy more high-profile catalogs.
Legacy artists in particular have been active in the space as they plan their estates and are choosing to take major payouts and leave their musical legacies with music companies rather than through family-lead estates. Other legacy acts who’ve made deals include Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks, Mötley Crüe, and Neil Young.
“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. “I’m glad that all my recordings can stay where they belong.”