In a landmark move, Universal Music Publishing Group has acquired legendary musician Bob Dylan’s entire catalog of songs dating back to the 1960s.
The agreement encompasses more than 600 copyrights over a 60-year period, including “Blowin’ In The Wind” and the artist’s latest track from this year, “Murder Most Foul.” While the company announced what it gained from the deal, it did not disclose what it paid out to acquire such a vast catalog.
However, a source told Variety that the deal is easily in the nine figures, which the outlet notes is on track with other purchases like this in recent memory. It notes that Stevie Nicks’ publishing catalog was acquired by Primary Wave recently for a reported $100 million, meaning Dylan’s deal was likely much higher.
"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,” UMPG Chairman and CEO Jody Gerson said in a statement announcing the news. “The UMPG global team is honored to be Bob Dylan's publishing partner and I especially want to acknowledge Marc Cimino, whose passion and perseverance were instrumental in bringing this opportunity to us. We look forward to working with Bob and the team in ensuring his artistry continues to reach and inspire generations of fans, recording artists, and songwriters around the world."
Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, added: “As someone who began his career in music publishing, it is with enormous pride that today we welcome Bob Dylan to the UMG family. It's 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. 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. It is no exaggeration to say that his vast body of work has captured the love and admiration of billions of people all around the world. 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."
The transaction's announcement comes a few weeks after the singer-songwriter’s musings about anti-Semitism and unpublished song lyrics sold at auction for a total of $495,000. Dylan got his start in the 1960s in New York’s Greenwich Village folk music scene before going on to sell more than 125 million records around the world. He continues to tour the world, performing close to 100 shows each year.
As Variety notes, the move from Universal is one of the biggest acquisitions to date, but is in keeping with a growing trend as copyrights and music publishing have proven to be strong assets amid a global pandemic that’s crippled the live performance industry in many ways.
The outlet notes that artists like Calvin Harris and The Killers have sold catalog assets to private equity firms in recent weeks. However, Dylan’s deal with Universal is something to keep an eye on given that it’s being done by a traditional publisher rather than an investment fund or private equity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.