On Guitar Hero and Led Zeppelin

When Guitar Hero first started out, it was really tough to get big bands to commit. 

There were definitely wish lists, including Metallica, who finally came aboard a few games down the line, but it took the game becoming a big phenomenon before a lot of the big boys finally committed. Aerosmith, for one, made a ton of money on their Guitar Hero game, and for a while Guitar Hero was keeping what was left of the music business alive.

Metallica certainly wasn’t easy to get, because they very rarely do endorsements and are very picky about what their name is associated with, as is Jimmy Page, who declined doing a Guitar Hero game. Of course, as Activision CEO Bobby Kotick told Forbes, he was desperate to get the band for the GH franchise, and it was the #1 request from the fans, but the keeper of the Zeppelin flame still said no.


Although they did allow the song “Rock and Roll” to be used in a Cadillac commercial, again, for the most part, Page won’t whore out the band’s songs. The first time Zeppelin ever allowed their music to be used in a movie was for Almost Famous, and several years back Portfolio did an interesting article on how much Zeppelin could make if they ever decided to sell out “Stairway to Heaven.”


As Miriam Datskovsky reported, the song had been played on the radio nearly three million times by 2008, which meant estimated royalties of almost $2 million just for airplay, not to mention it was reportedly the best selling sheet music for a rock song. Zeppelin did sign a $2 million ringtone deal with Verizon, that netted the band and their label, Atlantic, a 10% royalty, and a total value of the song’s earning potential, as Portfolio estimated, could be as high as $572 million dollars.


You still have to admire the fact that even with all the potential revenue streams Page won’t sell the music out, and has maintained his integrity. Zeppelin definitely fought long and hard for the musical and critical respect they have today, and just like the Beatles, fended off a lot of write your own check opportunities themselves. So it’s quite clear Page doesn’t want to cheapen the band’s legacy.


It’s certainly gotta be nice that Page can control his music’s destiny, and isn’t afraid to turn down a blank check like that. Still, I’m one of those who thought the Guitar Hero phenomenon was a good thing while it lasted, and I don’t think it would have been disastrous for the Zeppelin name for Page to get involved. And long after the Guitar Hero phenomenon came and went, “Stairway to Heaven” is still playing all over the world.