In December 2020, Bob Dylan caused a stir by selling the author rights to more than 600 works to Universal Music's publishing division.

A deal that is said to have been worth up to $400 million for the music industry's number one and duped number two, Sony Music.

Because outside of America, Sony's publishing arm was responsible for the administration and collecting the royalties from the marketing of the texts and compositions of the Nobel laureate in literature, and it should still be.

The rights have been with Universal Music since the end of 2020. 

Benjamin Fisher

Editor in Business.

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Of course, Sony has grabbed the rights to Bob Dylan's recordings.

As both parties announced on Monday evening German time, the sale was sealed in July 2021 and includes Dylan's complete catalog of recordings since 1962, including 39 studio albums alone, as well as future releases.

As is the norm with deals of this type, no financial details were disclosed.

The industry medium Variety is said to be between 150 and 200 million dollars. 

Springsteen sells the whole package

Sony's Columbia Records has been Bob Dylan's label partner for many years. However, the 80-year-old artist had held the rights to his recordings as well as his texts and compositions for some time until the two packages were sold. This also applied to Bruce Springsteen, who in December 2021 had sold both his author's rights and those to his recordings to Sony Music and Eldridge Industries respectively (Sony's publishing arm cooperated with the US holding company to buy the author's rights). There was talk of up to 550 million dollars for the entire package. However, it should be noted that prices have probably increased again since Dylan's deal with Sony in July 2021.

Rights to catalogs with established hits and the associated royalties have been attracting both small and large players in the music industry and financial investors for some time now.

Dylan's deal was by no means the first sale by a single artist in recent memory.

Stevie Nicks' deal with the US publisher Primary Wave, for example, or that of the band The Killer with Eldridge Industries had previously become known.

Both were about author rights.

Streaming boom and other marketing channels

But the competition has increased significantly over the course of 2021. In addition to the financial investor KKR, which had already acquired a majority stake in the author rights of One Republic frontman Ryan Tedder and the income from the marketing of music recordings to which he was entitled in January 2021, Blackstone, Apollo Global Management and the Allianz investment company are now also interested Pimco for music rights. Like KKR, Pimco has also entered into an alliance for a joint purchase with the Bertelsmann music division BMG. Blackstone, in turn, works with the Hipgnosis fund – one of the busiest buyers of recent years, who not least owns 50 percent of Neil Young's author rights.

BMG recently acquired the rights to the Mötley Crüe recordings and a package of rights from Tina Turner. Industry number three, Warner Music, made the most recent major deal when the company acquired David Bowie's author rights for industry media earlier this year for around $250 million, according to industry media.

While artists secure a handsome one-time sum by selling rights, buyers are counting on the income from marketing them increasing over the years. Streaming, which has been driving the global recorded music market's growth for years, is just one part. Significantly more than 50 percent of the music consumption on Spotify and Co falls on catalog works and not on newly released music. If even more older listeners discover streaming for themselves, catalogs could become even more attractive, according to buyers' calculations.

However, the marketing of the music via other digital platforms such as TikTok, Facebook or Peloton also promises stable income, as does the exploitation via films, advertising or public performances.

Depending on the artist, physical recordings are still a very attractive business, although their share of the industry's total turnover is dwindling.

In any case, Sony also announced further re-issues of old Dylan works in the announcement.

Of course, Sony is left out when it comes to recording covers of Dylan's hits, because only those who hold the rights to the lyrics and compositions are involved.

In Dylan's case, Universal Music.