Few if any artists in history have a recorded legacy as deep, long-lived and influential as Bob Dylan, who released his first record nearly 60 years ago and has a catalog of more than 75 studio, live, compilation and box-set albums in print. Today, Sony Music Entertainment announced it has “fully acquired” this treasure trove of his entire recorded body of work with an estimated value of over $200 million according to Billboard. The deal also covers “multiple 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 nearly his entire career with the imprint, with the exception of a brief stint on Geffen Records in the early 70s. That long relationship apparently helped the two sides reach an agreement. ““Columbia Records and Rob Stringer have been nothing but good to me for many, many years and a whole lot of records,” said Dylan. “I’m glad that all my recordings can stay where they belong.”
Stringer echoed those sentiments. “Columbia Records has had a special relationship with Bob Dylan from the beginning of his career and we are tremendously proud and excited to be continuing to grow and evolve our ongoing 60-year partnership,” he said. “Bob is one of music’s greatest icons and an artist of unrivaled genius. The essential impact he and his recordings continue to have on popular culture is second to none and we’re thrilled he will now be 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 available to his many fans today and to future generations.”
From a commercial standpoint, Dylan has had a remarkably varied career. Of his top 10 highest-grossing records, 3 date from his 1960s heyday (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 from the aughts (Modern Times). In 2020, at the age of 79, his 39th studio album Rough and Rowdy Ways produced his 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 rough-voiced troubadour and 2016 Nobel laureate remains a potent seller to generations of fans, notwithstanding the passing fashions of the music industry. The Times may be a-changin’, but Dylan’s commercial appeal stays constant, including his ability to move high-priced box-sets like the annual Bootleg Series releases.
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 corporate hands, Dylan has probably simplified his estate planning and whatever financial complexities came with managing those relationships. That leaves him free to do what he clearly loves: performing, writing and recording for as long as he still feels the fire.