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Dylan, Springsteen, Bowie … Why do musicians sell the rights to their songs?

“Times change,” sings Bob Dylan. And musicians are increasingly selling the rights to their songs. Music company Sony announced Monday that it has purchased its entire catalog of recorded music from Bob Dylan from 1962 to the present, and the deal includes future releases and reissues.

The price has not been announced, but experts estimate that Dylan could get $ 200 million for it.

This is not the first sale of Dylan’s opus. Just over a year ago, he sold the copyright to his songs (which is different from the recording rights) to Universal for an alleged $ 300 million.

The Nobel Laureate in Literature is just the latest in a string of musicians to decide to sell their rights to major record labels and corporations.

Just before the 75th anniversary of his birth, David Bowie’s heirs gave him a great gift by selling the rights to his entire music catalog. They received $ 250 million for it, according to Variety magazine.

Bowie’s work, which spans six decades of creativity, includes more than 25 studio albums with hits including “Space Oddity”, “Changes”, “Heroes” and “Let’s Dance”. All of this now belongs to Warner Chappell Music.

Bruce Springsteen has sold all his work to Sony. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shakira, Tina Turner and many others have also made significant money by giving up their music rights.

The result is a drop in record sales as people turn to streaming music on platforms like Spotify. In addition, there was a decline in concert revenue due to the pandemic.

“I can not work,” US singer-songwriter David Crosby tweeted a year ago, deciding to sell his rights. “Streaming stole money from my records… I have a family and a mortgage and I have to take care of them, so that’s my only option.”

Once sold, it is difficult to regain song rights. But at least in the short term, artists make big money. The rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers is said to have made about $ 140 million from the sale of the British corporation Hipgnosis.

Springsteen is estimated to top the list with a record $ 500 million in sales, a significant amount for a man whose songs speak to the problems of the working class.

Hipgnosis is considered a pioneer in rights management. The British investment company was founded by Merck Mercuryadis, a music veteran who was the manager of Beyoncé, Iron Maiden, Pet Shop Boys and Neil Rodgers, guitarist in the disco-funk band Chic and famous producer.

American singer-songwriter Barry Manilow, Neil Young and Shakira are also part of the company’s portfolio.

Although fans of these artists often accuse them of selling their idols, Hipgnosis has repeatedly stated that they place music exclusively under conditions set by the artist, such as in advertising.

The move may make sense, especially for young musicians, as it may be financially viable for just one song, as streaming platform revenue is relatively low compared to record sales, a problem often highlighted by musicians.

Radiohead vocalist Tom York is considered one of the fiercest opponents of the streaming service and has long refused to make his music available through Spotify and other platforms.

Pop star Taylor Swift even temporarily withdrew her entire music catalog from all streaming services, showing her attitude towards their payment method.

Swift has even stronger views on the song’s copyright. The rights to her first six albums belong to Big Machine Records, after she signed a lease at the age of 15.

Since then, the rights to her albums have been resold several times, but Swift has never been able to redeem them. She recently resumed recording those six albums for her current house, Universal, so she could regain control of her work.

The song rights debate is nothing new in the music industry.

In the 1980s, Michael Jackson bought the rights to the entire Beatles music catalog for $ 45 million – much to the dismay of former band member Paul McCartney.

Although they had previously recorded two songs together, “The Girl is Mine” and “Say, Say, Say”, the problem eventually destroyed Jackson and McCartney’s friendship when Jackson allowed Nike to use the Beatles song “Revolution” in sneaker ad.

A decade later, the King of Pop, in debt, resold the rights to the Beatles catalog, earning twice as much as he had paid.

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