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The Bob Dylan tune that will prop up Universal: Alex Webb

(Bloomberg) – It couldn’t have been a difficult decision for Bob Dylan to sell his songwriting catalog to Universal Music Group. Perhaps the most interesting question is why the record label wanted to spend several hundred million dollars to buy it. Dylan’s logic is straightforward. The copyright to his music will expire 70 years after his death, at which point his work will go into the public domain. The older you get, the closer your catalog gets to depreciating in value. Selling now allows the 79-year-old artist to cash in on the value of the portfolio, which has likely been given a new lease of life as online streaming revives growth in the recording industry. The value of music catalogs has risen accordingly, and last week, Fleetwood Mac star Stevie Nicks, 72, sold an 80% stake in his copyright in a deal that valued his catalog at around $ 100 million. How does Universal Music Group benefit? The parent company, Vivendi SA, plans to hold an initial public offering for the world’s largest record label next year. Therefore, the French media conglomerate is in the process of preparing it to be as attractive as possible to new investors. While streaming services such as Spotify Technology SA and Apple Music have reinvigorated the music industry, they have also highlighted some of its vulnerabilities. Digital distribution has made it easier for artists to reach audiences without a record label, which traditionally financed the costs of music. study and marketing in exchange for a portion of future income. Making your way is still a tall order, and a label’s huge marketing budget can help, but the internet has allowed artists like “Old Town Road” singer Lil Nas X to build a significant following (and gain influence). ) before signing with a label. The shifting power dynamics that allow some artists to negotiate more generous terms has led record labels to place greater emphasis on intellectual property, and the reliable income that comes with it. In this case, it’s the Dylan’s compositions. When the time comes for Universal Music Group’s IPO tour with investors, a deep catalog of recording and publishing rights will allow CEO Lucian Grainge to paint a more resilient picture of the company’s earnings. The reliable returns promised by Dylan’s work will certainly help with that. Meanwhile, Universal Music Group can extend the lifespan of each song better than Dylan or his heirs alone, for example, by encouraging its group of artists to record covers. The strategy has already been implemented with some success by its rival. Warner Music Group Corp., which went public in June. In his IPO filing, he was eager to point out that much of his income came from “stable and recurring sources, such as our music publishing library,” and that “less than 10% of our total income relies on artists without a license. established track record. ”Music publishing (the rights to the underlying song and lyrics) is also more profitable than the rest of the business, with profits accounting for 23% of revenue, compared to the 15% profit margin of recorded music (the performed versions of songs or pieces). It’s the same reason Spotify has been boosting its podcasts – owning more content means you don’t have to pay as much in royalties to third parties. Times can change, but Dylan’s tunes will generate an income for years to come. Original Note: Bob Dylan’s Latest Tune Is ‘Hey Mr. Cash Machine Man’: Alex WebbFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source. © 2020 Bloomberg LP

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