T Bone Burnett, Bob Dylan’s partner, revealed why the two created a series of tunes to be released on a “one-of-one” basis.
The first of such, a new rendition of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” will be auctioned off on July 7 for between $700,000 and $1,200,000. It was recorded on a structure known as Ionic Originals, which is built on a hybrid media that is supposed to blend the best bits of CD and vinyl to produce a much more genuine rendition of the output.
“There are two things I think it is important to know for people who are concerned about the exclusivity of what we are doing,” Burnett told Variety in a recent interview. “An Ionic Original is not a ‘copy.’ It is an original recording. We are not contriving scarcity. This is actually scarce. It is a unique, handmade, original recording. We have all been conditioned to accept the terms of and react to things from the frame of mass production. This is not that.”
He said that the couple first discussed the “one-of-one” concept a few years back in reaction to the method “recorded music has been commoditized to zero over the last 20-30 years.” He continued: “Because we work in an age of mechanical reproduction, musicians have had to accept the definition of the value of their music from the government, from corporations, from technologists, from record companies, from streamers.
“[W]e have taken matters into our own hands, and we control the means of production and we control the copyright. We’ll be able to explore: What is the value of a song? What is the true value of Bob Dylan singing ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ 60 years after he wrote it, in this environment?”
He went on to say that the goal was to “enter a music space in the fine arts market. Because music is to the United States as wine is to France – it’s the most valuable and important part of our culture. And for the last 25-30 years, we’ve had parts of the audience telling us that we ought to put our music out for free. This is a chance for us as artists to work at complete autonomy.
“It’s something both Bob and I have done to the degree we could for our whole lives, but this is a chance now to do it not just for Bob, but for many other artists who are gonna do this with us, who’ve already signed up. With any luck, this is the way I’ll spend the rest of my working life, doing these beautiful one-of-one pieces of high art.”
Burnett would not say how many songs Dylan had produced for the Ionic Originals series, but he did say that they had determined that “it would be easier to sell one of these for a million dollars than a million of them for $1.” He explained why he chose “Blowin’ in the Wind” as his debut release: It’s a historic song, to premiere this new technology. It’s the song that kicked things off for Bob. And there’s no bigger song than this.”
Burnett went on to discuss the song’s ongoing popularity. “Nobody has any idea what it means, but everybody knows it has something to do with civil rights,” he noted. “But what does it mean that the answer is blowing in the wind? Does it mean it’s blowing toward you; does it mean it’s being blown away from you? It doesn’t dictate a meaning. And that’s the beautiful thing Bob’s always done. He’s always proposed the right questions. That’s much more valuable than somebody giving you answers, especially the kind of people we have giving us answers these days.”