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Positively Easy Street? --- Why did Bob Dylan choose to sell his Songbook Now?

From the December 7, 2020 announcement in the news..... Bob Dylan to Sell His Entire Songwriting Catalog to Universal - Bloomberg


Why would Bob Dylan sell his vast catalogue of songs at the age of seventy-nine? When I learned at the end of last year, that Dylan had decided to sell his songs to Universal Music Group now rather than let his heirs deal with the royalty income stream after he's gone, I was curious to know why. Since the Flaxlaw Blog was unable to interview the press-shy rock star, I decided to use this blog post to speculate on the pros and cons of Bob Dylan’s decision and to examine the considerations that may have gone into his thought process.


1) Certainty and Convenience --- At 79, Dylan may have wanted to make sure that his songs were managed in a certain way ---where he could provide for himself and/or the people he wanted to provide for --- without having to spend the time and energy managing them now and without burdening his estate with the task.

2) No fights in Court --- Dylan may have wanted to make sure that his catalogue of songs was not fought over by people claiming to be entitled to portions of their worth after he was gone.

3) Monetizing the value of his life's work --- The ability to turn royalties into a big lump sum that could be used or gifted now instead of watching the income stream arrive in smaller amounts over time.

4) Timing --- The pandemic....Paid live performances are not a thing right now--- and streaming royalties are more valuable --- so it may have been an opportune time to sell.

5) Taxes and More Timing ---- Saving on taxes due to possible changes to the tax laws in the upcoming years.... Dylan's financial advisors may have seen the tax rates as being more favorable now than they would be in the future.

6) More Certainty and Convenience ----The ability to sell to an entity that would allow him or his estate some control over the use of the songs?


1) Loss of Control and Ownership ---- Does Dylan lose control of the songs? Could we end up hearing the songs of Bob Dylan in a way that he would not have wanted? Could it effect his popularity? Or could Dylan want one of his songs used in a way that Universal will not allow once they own them.

2) Potential for Breach of Contract ------What if the Buyer reneges on the deal, can't pay the price, or has to dissolve or liquidate at some point in the future?

3) Future Songs ------ What happens to the Dylan songs written after the sale? Do they still belong to him?

4) Gold-Diggers May Pounce ---- What if the post-mortem disputes over his assets that he presumably was trying to avoid — instead are sparked while he is alive. People in his life may now seek compensation or gifts they believe they are owed.

5) New Responsibility for securing and protecting a cash asset ---- What if he can't protect the proceeds of the sale while he is alive and the proceeds of the sale are somehow dissipated either by bad investment decisions, a poor economy, or some other unforeseen event, over time.

6) Timing --- What if the value of the songs increase dramatically after the sale? The increase will inure to Universal and not to Dylan.

While we can only speculate as to Bob Dylan's motivation, contemplating the pros and cons of transferring assets while still alive is a good way to ensure that the value of our life’s work is not left "blowing in the wind"....

If you would like a free initial consultation to discuss creating your personalized comprehensive estate plan, please contact the Law Offices of Martin I. Flax, P.C. at

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