The deal’s financial specifics were not disclosed. The rights to Dylan’s recordings might be worth roughly $200 million, according to a calculation by Billboard, the music trade journal, based on an estimate of $16 million in annual earnings around the world.
When Dylan sold his songwriting rights to Universal Music in late 2020 — which are separate from his recording rights — the deal was expected to be worth well over $300 million.
The thousands of cover versions of Dylan’s songs that have been done throughout the years — from Peter, Paul & Mary in the 1960s to Adele, who sang Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” on her first album — have made his songwriting corpus so precious.
Dylan’s relationship with Sony-owned Columbia Records spans more than 60 years. Dylan was recruited to Columbia Records by legendary talent scout John Hammond in 1961, and his self-titled first album was released the following year, featuring traditional folk songs and a few Dylan originals such as “Talkin’ New York” and “Song to Woody,” a homage to his hero Woody Guthrie.
In a statement, Dylan stated, “Columbia Records and Rob Stringer have been nothing but good to me for many, many years and a whole lot of records.” Stringer is the current CEO of Sony Music and was previously the CEO of Columbia Records.
“I’m glad that all my recordings can stay where they belong,” Dylan remarked.
Dylan, who is now 80 years old, sold Sony the rights to his own master recordings, which he had long owned. According to Sony’s release, the purchase was completed last July, making it one of the few high-profile deals in the music industry to remain leak-free for up to six months.
The sale follows Sony’s $550 million purchase of Bruce Springsteen’s recorded music and songwriting copyrights, as well as other large purchases for Paul Simon, Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, Neil Young, Shakira, and other artists’ portfolios.
The copyrights for recordings and songwriting — the lyrics and melodies that underpin any song’s recording — are different, and both have been sought after by investors in recent years as the music industry’s fortunes have improved thanks to streaming.
In May, the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will open, containing Dylan’s massive archives.