Take the Money When You Can

Bob Dylan has sold his songwriting portfolio for somewhere in the neighborhood of $300, maybe $400, million. That means that whenever “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Blowin’ in the Wind” or any of six hundred other Dylan songs is sold, streamed, played on the radio or used in a commercial, the songwriting royalty payment will go to the Universal Music Publishing Group, not Bob Dylan. This includes songs covered by other artists, such as “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds or Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower.”

Could it be that Mr. Dylan, now seventy-nine years old, decided it was time to take the money? With nobody buying CDs or records any more, and no live performances in this era of COVID 19, and Spotify and other streaming services paying infinitesimal royalties, an upfront lump-sum payment is the reverse-mortgage of the music business.

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Creeping Memory Loss

Bob Dylan purportedly gave this advice to young songwriters: Don’t write songs with a lot of words; it’s hard to remember ‘em when you get old.

Aaron Neville has been touring, just himself with only piano accompaniment, performing mostly soulful ballads. A music stand close to Neville held a book of song lyrics which he referenced a few times.

Performing solo, John Hiatt stopped in the middle of a song, trying to remember the next lyric. Someone in the audience called out, “Just go ahead with it.” Hiatt responded that a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder couldn’t do that; he has to sing the song from beginning to end. After a few more beats, he smiled, nodded, then re-started the song from the beginning.

Even a much younger singer needs a little help remembering the words… or maybe it was just part of the act.