Useful lawyers are not just lawyers. That started to be recognised openly decades ago with the expression that lawyers need to be “commercially-minded”. Yet that’s inadequate, it underplays what’s required.

Commerciality is not just about money. In the context of non-litigation intellectual property and entertainment law, the better lawyers know their client’s personality, strengths, weaknesses and work. They engage with the client’s creative process, even shape it in part. They help develop the intellectual property, the asset.

Commercialisation in music and other industries

entertainment law australia

Ray Charles knew the importance of copyright ownership. He appreciated the revenue streams that can be earned from both ownership of his songs and ownership of his studio recordings.

In this Lightbulb law firm blog I’ve written since  2006 about musicmakers and their work:

Thinking commercially for me extends beyond music or the United States. Listed in Commercialisation success stories and guides are Australian commercialisation stories.

Dylan’s creative process

This weekend I heard a repeating pattern, and gained an insight into Bob Dylan’s creative process. In a word, it’s editing.

I listened to Bob Dylan playlists(*) and added 52 of his outtakes and live recordings to my music collection. I added to all of them the “Outtakes & Booklegs” image that accompanies this post. That brings the total number of Dylan pieces in the collection to 250. In his 65 years as a performer that may be roughly half his recorded songbook and a quarter of his written songs.

The 52 were recorded between 1962 and 1975, one is from 2013. I’m largely unfamiliar with Dylan’s output after the 1976 Desire album, I always feel like I’m just catching up.

Some years ago when Dylan was asked how he managed to write so many gems early in his career, he responded that he too is unable to explain that well of creativity.

From the 52 I gained an insight into Dylan’s creative process.

With each piece he seems to begin with relatively settled lyrics, maybe too a chordal progression, a melody.

Crafting in the studio

I admit it, I’ve been influenced by Dylan since I was in my mid-teens. Dylan on the left. Me on the right. Photo credit: Adam Szumer.

Turning to recording, with each take and band rehearsal he discovers which words to emphasise. That’s critical for his storytelling purpose. Emphasis strikes a tone, sharpens an edge, and provides perspective and bite.

Early takes of a song are a walk-through. Few lines have a strong emphasis distinguishing them from others. The spotlight is off. In this early stage, he’s a theatre actor in a first rehearsal, just sitting and reading a part as instrumentation adds colour and emotion.

Discovering a tone, it pops with specific words, phrases or whole lines. When stanza after stanza is in sync with the music experimentation, ceramics appear from wet clay. With each studio recorded take, he and the musicians try different approaches. It’s a process unlike the modern jazz musicians of the 50s, who walked into a studio and achieved perfection in a first, second or third take. Dylan brews and crafts. In a word, he edits the elements or lyrics and music.

Famously he regularly changes the musicians he works with in studios. There’s a late 60s or early 70s audio interview with Mike Bloomfield in which he is audibly hurt, unable to explain why Dylan never used him on more recordings, beyond one album in 1965, Highway 61 Revisited. Bloomfield felt cold-shouldered. I’m disappointed too, Bloomfield was brilliant. When the three Jews combined on that album, beauty flowered – Dylan, Bloomfield and Al Cooper.

Hear Bloomfield famously playing lead guitar live with Dylan singing Maggie’s Farm in 1965 at the Newport Jazz Festival.


(*) One of the two YouTube Playlists I drew from is here: Bob Dylan – Bootleg Series.

Noric Dilanchian
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