Shine On, You Crazy. . .

Bob Dylan, the troubadour of the ‘60s who managed to write his way through the following decades with a number of songs that have become like cotton for many people, whether they know that he wrote the songs or not, is 81. For some people his career might be like the old joke about McCartney being in a band before Wings, but in Dylan’s case, that he actually did something before the Traveling Wilburys (and if you think about that band, it is a rather creepy situation, given that only Dylan and Jeff Lynne still on stage, with George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison all exiting) may be somewhat astonishing to some people, although the best of Dylan was in that earlier period, not the later.

Although Dylan received the Nobel Prize in Literature (2016), he never had a number-one song on the charts. He did get to #2 twice, with “Like a Rolling Stone”* and Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” The Byrd’s 1965 cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” did make it to the top of the charts, however.

Dylan, of course, has a resonance that transcends whether he managed to acquire gold discs to adorn his walls. Which goes a long way to explaining why he’s managed to acquire, in the last couple of years, some $350-million or more by selling his recordings and catalog (to Sony Music and Universal Music respectively). Given that an LP weighs about six ounces and the price of an ounce of gold is $1,825, Dylan could easily wallpaper a room with gold records.

If we roughly estimate that Dylan has been working for the past 61 years, that means $5.7-million per year, which is probably somewhat better than he’d imagined when he lived in a cold water flat. (I don’t know for certain whether he lived in such a place, but obviously the nature of the performer lends itself to that, just as now we can posit that he has more than the wherewithal to live in the manner to which he has probably become accustomed, which has an expectation of more than hot water.)

Springsteen has done better with his catalog, estimated to have garnered $550 million, and odds are that he will add more work to his back pages.

Word now is that Pink Floyd—or the band previously known as Pink Floyd—is putting its catalog up for sale. The price is estimated to be $500 million.

Unlike the individuals Dylan and Springsteen, Pink Floyd included four members, one of whom, Richard Wright, is passed.

Pink Floyd was established in 1965 by Syd Barrett, who left the three years later. Barrett was having mental health issues. He, too, is now departed.

David Gilmour joined the band in 1967. At that point the band included Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Wright. Wright left the band. Waters left the band. Gilmour and Mason kept the name of the band alive (at this point it could be that I would examine whether half the members of a band constitute a band, which is all the more interesting in this case because the founder of the band had left the band, so the loss of two others doesn’t exactly make it the loss of three-fifths of the band, but certainly puts it in an organizationally different space). Wright rejoined the band, so the balance was tipped. Waters didn’t rejoin the band after his 1985 departure. In fact, he was to file suit over the other guys using the name. A settlement was reached.

While to call some albums “phenomenal” is an exercise in little more than puffery, to describe The Dark Side of the Moon, which was released in 1973, that way is to understate the case: It charted in the U.S. for 962 weeks (just under 19 years). There were some 45 million sold.

What is also notable is that the British band’s album, which is probably more responsible for the burning of more marihuana than any other in all of recorded time, was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for inclusion in the U.S. National Recording Registry because of its significance.

The band could have stopped there, but it went on to do more than OK with released like The Wall, which is impressive in that it was a concept album released near the end of such undertakings (1979), and in that it gave rise to an anthem with a line that plenty of people chant and who are probably unaware “We don’t need no education” comes from a Pink Floyd album (and a large percentage of them probably have no idea that there was such a band).

In 2014 the last Pink Floyd album was released, The Endless River.

For the remaining members of Pink Floyd, and presumably the estates of those past, the purchase of the catalog is something of an endless river of revenue.

All of the people written about have put in the work. Have, as is said, “paid their dues.” Unquestionably, all of them have talent. And undoubtedly all of them have been the beneficiaries of a little luck.

To what extent is the value of the catalogs predicated on the widespread popularity of the music, with the popularity being predicated on millions of people who have shown, with their spending on records and tickets, that there is value? In effect, the value of the catalogs is predicated on the investments made by millions of individuals. And for those entities buying the catalogs, there will be a return only should this popularity remain viable going forward.

How long will there be people who have interest in Dylan, Springsteen, Pink Floyd, et al such that there is usefulness for, presumably, advertisers and film makers to use the music? I would suggest that for each day that goes by that number diminishes.

*Had he been like a member of the Stones he would have had several number-ones: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Paint It Black,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Angie,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar,” and “Miss You.”

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