Eh-Hem. “And she’s buying a stairway to heaven, uh uh uh.” Oh Gosh, did you hear that? I apologize. I mean I’m not one to usually break out spontaneously into song, but I am one of the millions of extremely excited fans who just heard that Led Zeppelin will now make their songs available digitally. Yes, it’s true. Long-remaining one of the last groups to refrain from selling their music online, the infamous English band announced that it plans to release its back catalogue of music online, November 13 of this year. Digital downloads of songs from the band’s eight studio albums and other recordings are expected to be available through Verizon and digital-music services, including iTunes, on Nov. 13.
In an exclusive deal with Verizon Wireless, the band made its songs available first as Ringtones and comparable mobile features, beginning last week. Songs such as “Rock and Roll,” “Kashmir,” “Communication Breakdown,” and “Stairway to Heaven” are some of the classic songs that will become available.
The band’s decision to go digital comes at an extremely hectic and poignant time for Led Zeppelin. The three surviving band members are scheduled to perform in concert in November for the first time in 19 years, as part of a memorial tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, the co-founder of Atlantic Records. Furthermore, a relentless bidding war over the rights to administer Led Zepellin’s music was just won by Warner/Chappell, when the music house agreed to raise the royalty rate on certain Led Zeppelin recordings. Plus under a separate deal, the band will receive an estimated $60 million in exchange for extending its ties to its longtime music publisher, Warner/Chappell Music. Wooh. Seems like the band is cleaning up.
So why did Led Zeppelin decided to go digital? Did they sell out? Was it all for the moolah? No one can say for certain. Yet even before going digital, the band remained one of the most highly played groups on rock radio stations across the world, and they have received consistent chunks of change for licensing the use of their songs in movies and with other recording artists. So maybe, just maybe, their decision was about more than the money. Maybe it was about bringing the music to a new mass, and getting up with the times. Maybe it was a realization that to remain legendary, you must consistently gain a new, younger audience, and in order to do this, going digital is a necessity. And maybe, with their long-awaited reunion concert just around the corner, the band is not just looking for my generation of fans to attend. Maybe they’re looking to inspire a new group of fans, who with the click of a mouse, will discover the stairway to heaven.