Paul Simon sells out, just like Dylan

Paul Simon sells out, just like Dylan


norman lebrecht

April 01, 2021

The singer-songwriter, 79, has sold his lifelong catalogue to Sony Music publishing for an undisclosed sum.

Dylan got $400 million for a similar recent sale to Universal.

What will that buy them at this stage in their lives?


  • Rogerio says:

    It buys them the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their heirs will not sell the catalogs to;
    – The National Rifle Association
    – The Chinese Communist Party
    – The Trump Organization
    – The ‘Ndrangheta
    – Rudy Giuliani
    You see what I mean?

  • Jack Frost says:

    I expect it’s got more to do with leaving the proceeds to family and friends etc than personal gain.

  • Kenneth Griffin says:

    Realising the financial value of their back catalogues at this stage of their lives, allows them to personally control the establishment of their legacies. Otherwise, they would be reliant on their Executors to act out their wishes, and would never see the outcome. And they have crystallised their financial value at a satisfactory level, rather than be subject to the unknowable whims of fashion after their deaths.

  • Gary Freer says:

    Diamonds on the soles of his shoes?

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    Why is it selling out when you are monetizing your intellectual property while you are still alive?

    Bravo to all those that are smart enough to do this and have something that the market values.

  • Christopher Culver says:

    My question isn’t why they would sell, but why someone would buy for those huge sums. It just doesn’t look like a good investment. Cultural fashions change as generations die out, and sadly a lot of 1960s music – as powerful as it was for generations like my own that grew up with it – will fade over time. Hasn’t it been observed in recent years that Elvis is registering less and less on the cultural radar now? These 1960s stars are just a few years removed from him.

    • MacroV says:

      Their songs will remain under copyright for, what, 90 years after they die? So Sony is going to be collecting royalties on the Simon & Garfunkel catalog (plus the rest, but that’s the crown jewel) for a century? I could see that having a NPV of $400 million or more.

  • myron says:

    both of them have always seemed to be hype and about the money. especially, paul simon. as for dylan, he has never hidden the fact that he likes to get paid.

  • Nathan says:

    Simon’s work will live on in a myriad of ways into the far future, or however long we exist.

    I frickin’ hope he is partying hard right now, holding that check with his guests shooting Benjamins from a hundred cash guns like confetti.

  • Pamela Brown says:

    Paul Simon was classy to not disclose a dollar amount…

  • Bill Ecker says:

    I think I’ve touched on this before as this is part of my business. Several others who posted earlier are absolutely correct. Simon will be 80 in October and with the current estate tax laws likely to change, he has decided that it is important to provide for his beneficiaries with the best possible tax outcome for him. (whether those beneficiaries are his family, friends, schools, or NFP organizations.) We can take his royalty earnings over the past 20 years and based on the rates of payout come to a projection for the future royalties over a given period. As Simon “retired” from touring in 2018, it is likely his creative output is likely complete at this point, so he could take the projection and sell his catalog with likely stipulations. He could still receive royalties, he can also make stipulations regarding how the catalog is used in the future as long as the parties agree. One does not know until one actually examines the contract which likely will remain private. Simon can then decide what to do with the money, likely it is going into a trust, or foundation which he can control to a big degree from the grave with stipulations in his will.

    This is not an uncommon situation for wealthy composers and musicians as they age. They all have lawyers and the smart lawyers recommend such action. Dylan took a further step and sold his archive to the Special Collections of the University of Tulsa Library which maintains his mentor Woody Guthrie’s papers. Some choose to donate this sort of material, rather than sell. Once again, various stipulations can be made in the contracts whether the archives are sold, or donated in regard to intellectual property, access etc. etc.

    In the past when one saw sales of catalogs/intellectual property and archives, it usually was due to a need for financial infusion for a certain individual. In the case of the Beatles, they sold their song writing intellectual property due to bad initial deals and later due to infighting on later tunes. The Taylor Swift catalog was recently in the news, as she through her parents sold her rights away from the start to her early catalog and then it was sold again to someone she did not like. In that case, her parents sold it for an initial payout and likely some royalties, but she now has no rights to those early records.

    For decades most creative people, like doctors have been looked at as professional and some gifted in their given profession, but lousy business people. All of that is now changing, where doctors now are incorporating and bringing in income they would not have seen 20-50 years ago; composers and musicians are wising up as well and controlling their intellectual property during their lifetimes and then planning for the hereafter. I would not look at this as “selling out” rather making prudent business decisions while they can control their creativity.