Few if any artists in history have a recorded legacy as deep, enduring and influential as Bob Dylan, who released his first record nearly 60 years ago and boasts a catalog of over 75 studio, live, compilation and boxes in print. Today, Sony Music Entertainment announced that it has “fully acquired” this treasure trove of all of its recorded work with an estimated value of over $200 million according to Billboard. The deal also covers “several future new releases,” according to the announcement.
Dylan signed with Columbia Records, now part of Sony, in 1961 at the age of 20 and has spent most of his career with the imprint, except for a brief stint at Geffen Records in the early 1990s. 70s. This long relationship apparently helped the two parties reach an agreement. “‘Columbia Records and Rob Stringer have been nothing but good to me for many, many years and many records,” Dylan said. “I’m glad all my recordings can stay where they belong.”
Stringer echoed those sentiments. “Columbia Records has had a special relationship with Bob Dylan since the beginning of his career and we are extremely proud and excited to continue to grow and evolve our 60-year partnership,” he said. “Bob is one of music’s greatest icons and an artist of unparalleled genius. The pivotal impact he and his recordings continue to have on popular culture is unparalleled and we are delighted that he is now 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 accessible to his many fans today and to future generations.
From a business perspective, Dylan has had a remarkably varied career. Among his 10 highest-grossing records, 3 date from his heyday in the 1960s (Highway 61 Revisted, Blonde on Blonde, Greatest Hits)4 from the 1970s (Greatest Hits Volume II, Blood on the Tracks, Desire and slow train coming), 1 from the 1990s (time out of mind) and one of the two (Modern times). In 2020, at age 79, his 39th studio album Rough and rowdy ways produced its first-ever number 1 single, “Murder Most Foul”, and the album peaked at number 2 in the United States and number 1 in nearly a dozen other countries.
Clearly, the hoarse-voiced troubadour and 2016 Nobel laureate remains a strong seller for generations of fans, despite passing fads in the music industry. The Times may be changing, but Dylan’s market appeal remains constant, including his ability to move expensive box sets like the annual Contraband Series versions.
The deal with Sony for his recorded output follows Dylan’s 2020 sale of the publishing rights to his songwriting catalog to Universal Music in a deal estimated to be worth around $300 million, according to the New York Times.
With his life’s work now in the hands of the company, Dylan has likely simplified his estate planning and whatever financial complexities come with managing those relationships. This leaves him free to do what he clearly loves: performing, writing and recording as long as he still feels the fire.