A word or several about the reported $300-million+ that Bob Dylan reportedly will be getting from Universal Music Publishing Group for his catalog of 600+ songs, songs written from 1962 until now. That is $500,000 per song. Yes, some of them—“Blown’ In the Wind,” “The Times They Are a Changin’,”“Like a Rolling Stone,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”—are certainly well known. One assumes that there are many, many, many others whom only the most dedicated Dylan fan would know or even be aware of (as I am not the most dedicated Dylan fan, I’ll not name any).
While it does make one wonder whether he’d gotten a few more dollars were he to have used the “g” rather than the “’” in the title of some of his tunes, we’ll let that go. Dylan has sold some 125-million records during his career. If we look at this as being a 58-year career (starting in 1962), this would mean that Dylan has sold an average 2.1-million records per year.
The times certainly are changing. For example, according to numbers from Billboard, Taylor Swift’s Folklore has become the first—and only—album to sell more than a million times in 2020.
Since her self-titled album of 2006, there have been nine Swift albums that have sold more than a million copies.
Taylor Swift: 5.75 million
The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection: 1.08 million
Fearless: 7.21 million
Speak Now: 4.71 million
Red: 4.49 million
1989: 6.25 million
Reputation: 2.28 million
Lover: 1.22 million
Folklore: 1.04 million
That is a total 34.03-million albums during a 14-year period. Which means that Swift has sold an average of 2.4-million per year, just edging Dylan out.
To be fair to Ms. Swift, she is 30 years old. Dylan is 79. She, presumably, has a whole lot more music in her to come than he does. [Correction: Swift turned 31 yesterday. -ed.]
This might lead some of you to think that I am making a comparison between the two musicians, causing a certain level of apoplexy among you. Yes, while I am making a comparison, this is not a comparison of talent.
Rather, it is a comparison of numbers.