When an artist dies, the inheritors are often not equipped to deal with the responsibility of owning such valuable work. The estate inheritors almost always end up selling this intellectual property to a conglomerate, and for less than the artist would have received, because they don’t know the business, or have the clout. This is why Bob Dylan just sold his entire song catalog of over 600 songs to Universal Music Group, for reportedly over $300 million.
Bob Dylan is 79 years old, and he lived a hard life, which means he knows his death is near. Selling his song catalog makes inheritance easier, as an artist can’t control their music when they’re dead. I’m guessing that’s Bob Dylan’s primary motive for selling out at this time. A lot of other prolific musicians have been doing the same lately, and it’s because they need the money.
As for Dylan’s legacy, he did his part as an artist, and more. A major reason Bob Dylan turned towards the mainstream was because there was no politically organized “left” back in the 1960’s. The Trotskyist movement itself was splintered, and needed to be ridden of Pabloists, Stalinists, and worthless middle-class radicals.
Bob Dylan was so far ahead of his time in 1965, that in many ways, the world has yet to catch up. That’s why “It’s Alright, Ma”, “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Visions of Johanna” lead his list of timeless classics. Find those albums and you will discover the meaning of art in songwriting.
This brings up the issue of artists becoming dinosaurs. “Dinosaur” is an industry term for a performer who can no longer adapt to the current culture, and gets left behind. It’s partially a misnomer, as the real dinosaurs didn’t go extinct because they failed to adapt, they were wiped-out by an asteroid impact which changed the conditions of life on our planet. In truth, they survived in miniature form, as birds.
With that anthropological understanding in mind, it can be said that all artists eventually become dinosaurs, because no one can stay current & relevant forever. Once you become a dinosaur, your priorities change from being an artist, to making a living & survival. Bob Dylan is the most extreme example of this phenomenon. Fans can debate when he became ossified, but by the 1980’s (for sure) Bob Dylan was a dinosaur.
This is what capitalism does to all artists. You have a choice of “playing ball,” or being left out in the cold. By orienting towards a genuinely revolutionary organization such as the Socialist Equality Party, an artist can remain relevant much longer than most contemporaries, because that artist is staying in-tune with the times for inspiration. It’s reactionary politics which overwhelmed & ossified Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna & the rest. The price of remaining a true artist is the lack of money, sponsorship & venues to perform. That’s the lesson to be learned here.