How Led Zeppelin Earned $2 Million for 1 Song

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Jimmy Page playing a Gibson double neck guitar on stage with British heavy rock group Led Zeppelin, at Earl's Court, London, May 1975. The band were initially booked to play three nights at the venue, from 23rd to 25th May, but due to public demand, two more concerts were later added, for 17th and 18th May. Total ticket sales were 85,000. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

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After the Yardbirds broke up, Led Zeppelin came together swiftly. Jimmy Page transitioned from playing lead guitar in one well-known English band he joined to starting his own illustrious band in a matter of days. Zeppelin’s debut album was paid for by Page, but when the band received the largest advance in history in 1968, he more than made up for his initial outlay. A distinctive riff Page created over 50 years prior helped Led Zeppelin earn $2 million many years beyond the band’s peak and after their breakup.

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Instead of singles, Led Zeppelin earned money via album sales and touring.

Led Zeppelin was founded by Jimmy Page soon as the Beatles started to break apart. In 1969, Zep published their first two albums, right as the Fab Four was on the verge of breaking up. Both groups achieved rock & roll acclaim, but they adopted various strategies (and not just with their music).

Never having a No. 1 hit, Led Zeppelin. Ten of their songs reached the Billboard singles list, with “Whole Lotta Love” being the only one to reach the top 10. (peaking at No. 4). The Beatles, meanwhile, consistently produced singles that were at the top of the charts. They have 34 songs that reached the top 10 and 20 No. 1 singles.

To be featured in “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Immigrant Song” brought Zeppelin a $2 million salary.

Zep’s albums were successful even though they didn’t have any number-one hits. Five albums peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts, ten albums received platinum certification, and four albums were given diamond status.

Even though Zeppelin didn’t make their money by writing successful singles, they did get a $2 million payoff more than five decades after they produced one of their signature tunes.

Led Zeppelin’s singles only achieved modest chart success, but it doesn’t diminish the appeal of their music. A good example is “Immigrant Song,” the album’s main track from 1970’s Led Zeppelin III.

It is immediately identifiable due to the straightforward, upbeat riff by Page, Robert Plant’s war cry yell, and John Bonham’s relentless pace. The song’s music both sounds joyous while conjuring up a sense of mystery and danger.

It’s the ideal tune for a film soundtrack, and when director Taika Waititi used it in the 2017 film Thor: Ragnarok, it was very expensive. Led Zeppelin didn’t acquiesce just by being politely asked to, though. Led Zeppelin received a $2 million payment from Marvel Studios for the rights, which represented just over 1% of the $180 million total cost of Ragnarok.

It helped that Waititi had an idea for how to include “Immigrant Song” into the picture. He presented the band a preview trailer that featured it, and he said that this persuaded the finicky Led Zeppelin to accept.

“When we had the first cut of the trailer and showed [Led Zeppelin], they understood how perfect the song was for this character,” Waititi explained via Business Insider. “I think it wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t start the conversation with them really, really early on.”