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Music rights: Universal buys Bob Dylan’s complete works

The musician and Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan has sold the rights to his songs to Universal Music Publishing (UMP). The music publisher has acquired the rights to over 600 titles that Dylan has composed over the course of around 60 years, including numerous classics such as “Blowin ‘In The Wind”, “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”.

UMP does not provide any information on how much money the company pays for these rights, which are particularly attractive in times of streaming. According to a report by New York Times the package is estimated at over US $ 300 million (around € 250 million). The 79-year-old folk-rock pioneer Dylan was one of the few artists who control most of the rights to their work themselves.

The package includes the rights to the composition and the text, which must be paid for in the event of performances, reproductions or other publications. In the age of streaming, these rights are a valuable asset because streaming is legally considered to be performance and replication. The streaming services dominate the music market and generate the majority of the revenue. The rights holders also receive money for using the compositions in films or commercials.

While streaming services like Spotify on the US market distribute a large part of their income to the producers of the respective recording – usually the label – around 12 percent go to the owners of the performance and reproduction rights. In Germany, too, these rights must be licensed by the music publishers, but the conditions are not uniform internationally.

Dylan, who did not want to comment on the sale, had been in talks with UMP boss Jody Gerson for years, reports the Financial Times. The 79-year-old is the only musician to have received a Nobel Prize for Literature. In 2016 the Nobel Prize Committee of the Swedish Academy honored him “for his poetic new creations in the great American song tradition”.


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