MUSCATINE, IA—Seeking to revitalize his musical operations following years of declining revenue and mounting production costs, musician Bob Dylan laid off 2,000 workers from his flagship songwriting factory in Muscatine, IA this week, sources confirmed.
According to representatives of Dylan’s Watchtower Consolidated Song Manufacturing, which owns and operates over a dozen chord assembly, rhythm works, and lyric forging plants throughout the nation’s heartland, the headcount reduction comes as the iconic recording artist seeks to streamline operations in order to better compete in the modern songwriting landscape.
“In light of our dwindling market share, we were left with no choice but to idle a number of our instrumentation mills and consolidate several shifts on our verse and chorus production lines,” said Watchtower spokesperson Mark Valentine, confirming that the majority of workforce cuts were made in the vocals and timbre divisions, which he claimed had been unprofitable for decades. “The fact is, we’ve been hemorrhaging money since the early-’90s World Gone Wrong release. These layoffs are imperative if we are to continue building the top-notch musical products the Bob Dylan brand is known for.”
“The simple fact is that today’s industry is moving away from labor-intensive songwriting by skilled workers, and toward a cheaper, quicker, more mechanized process, and we have to adapt,” Valentine continued. “We wish the best of luck to employees who have been affected by this restructuring, and Mr. Dylan thanks them for their years of dedicated service building his catalog.”
According to local citizens, workers on the Muscatine assembly line have constructed Bob Dylan songs for more than five decades, having seen hundreds of their successful products, such as “Lay Lady Lay” and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” roll off the factory floor and into American culture.
Beginning with a staff of just 20 employees that handcrafted the 13 tracks on Dylan’s 1962 self-titled debut album in a sparse workshop, the company quickly began experiencing explosive growth, moving into a fully electrified factory by 1965 and eventually expanding operations to 18 plants across the country.
At its peak in the 1970s, Watchtower reportedly employed over 25,000 laborers, including meter fitters, metaphor galvanizers, riff smelters, rhyme press operators, and highly skilled technicians in the company’s political symbolism injection facility. Throughout the decade, Dylan’s factory floors are said to have bustled around the clock in a constant din of whirring, hammering, and harmonica licks, as workers churned out scores of precision-engineered folk, blues, and rock tracks at the prolific pace of two LPs a year.
Although these workers once fabricated such profitable Bob Dylan products as Highway 61 Revisited and Blood on the Tracks, deepening losses in recent years reportedly forced Dylan, as Watchtower’s CEO and chairman, to make what analysts are calling the most drastic changes to the company’s production model since it shuttered its underperforming Christian and gospel foundry in the mid-1980s.
“This is a rapidly evolving industry, and frankly, there’s no way we can compete by relying on equipment and a manufacturing process that haven’t changed much since the 1970s,” said Valentine, noting that Watchtower’s board of directors had already broken ground on piano and Hammond organ facilities in Taiwan. “Despite our best efforts to continue assembling songs the old-fashioned way, we can’t overlook the increased efficiencies offered by fully automated symbolism generators and the use of mass-produced chorus components.”
“And with Van Morrison and other overseas rivals producing songs for pennies on the dollar, we must accelerate our foreign expansion,” he continued. “We would love to continue putting out American-made Bob Dylan songs, but we simply cannot afford to ignore the shifting nature of the business. Not with Neil Young churning out two albums a year in Jakarta.”
Local community members, however, told reporters that the cutbacks at the Muscatine plant will devastate the small Folk Belt town, one of the few remaining outposts of the once vibrant American roots music industry. The newly laid-off craftsmen, many of whom reportedly spent their entire working lives molding and bending raw words into socially conscious lyrics, expressed unwavering pride at the work done in Muscatine, claiming the city made the “best damn Bob Dylan songs in the world.”
“Muscatine’s always been a songwriting town,” said Caspar Jenkins, 32, who received a pink slip Friday after welding together the bass and percussion framework for a forthcoming traditional country-western track. “My father worked here, and so did his father before him. But now they’re saying that some machine in Taiwan can rhyme ‘the mournful jester’ with ‘My Lord, confessed her’ better than I can.”
“I guess my only hope now is to see if they’re hiring at the Springsteen factory over in Eldridge,” Jenkins added. “They’re unionized over there, and they’ve got benefits like you wouldn’t believe.”