Now I know everyone’s making a big deal out of this Beatles deal we’re working on, but what most people don’t realize is that there’s something even bigger coming along involving Led Zeppelin. I’m not supposed to say anything about it, but it’s 99.999% done and it’s really unique among all the deals we’ve done. Cool thing is that Zep isn’t just going to sell stuff online like everyone else, mostly because they just don’t see the point of it and they don’t need the money and they really don’t like the idea of people buying one track at a time when they created their albums to be albums.
Keith Daly, our iTunes dealmaker guy, has spent years going back and forth with them on this and he’s agreed to do albums-only if that’s whey insist upon and he also says another reason for the holdout is that they want to feel special or whatever and they figure that by waiting until everyone else jumps then there will be a big deal when they finally sign on. Don’t ever underestimate the egos on these guys, especially on Plant, but anyway in the end we’ve managed to craft something that turns out to be way more exciting than any deal we’ve ever made, because it’s going to involve not just a great band but also a huge breakthrough in sound quality, one that’s going to require us to do loads of work on our end to accommodate a new digital format.
Eventually we are going to have the entire Zeppelin catalog, plus extra tracks, outtakes, and some live stuff that’s never been heard anywhere, and we mght even be putting out new Zeppelin albums based on previously unheard archival work and possibly some new solo stuff from Jimmy and Robert. Now, however, in the beginning, we’re going to just have the original Zep albums, and Zeppelin is going to release them one at a time, in chronological order, hoping to hype the crap out of each one, maybe doing one every six months or so, or however long it takes Jimmy to remaster the tracks and then sprinkle the hard drives with goat’s blood or whatever it is he does during his black masses.
The albums will all be personally remastered by Jimmy himself from the original tapes and re-done in a high-resolution digital format that some dudes in Germany have developed and which is supposedly 100 times better than CD quality. On a trip to England last month I spent a day with Page and Plant in Page’s home studio and they played me a version of Stairway that Jimmy had remastered on one of these high-rez A-to-D converters and honestly it was stunning. Never, ever, in any format, have I heard music that sounds like this. It sounded real.
So what this means for consumers is that soon we are going to be able to deliver digital sound through iTunes that’s unimaginably better than anything you’ve ever heard on LP or CD, and so lifelike that it’s like being in the studio with the musicians when they were recording the songs. And this is why Zep has held out for so long, not simply because of their egos but because Jimmy (who by the way is a huge Mac user) doesn’t want to just put his stuff on the Internet for the sake of doing it, but rather he wants to find a way to push digital downloads to the next level. CDs have always been complete shit, he says, and he’s never liked any of the Zeppelin CDs that have been put out, mostly because of the low sample rates and other limitations which have made them at best “a pale shadow” (his term) of what exists on the original analog master tapes.
Unfortunately, most of the stuff people listen to on iPods is even worse than what they had on CDs, and way worse than the original tapes. Now, however, that’s going to change, because we’re on the verge of a huge breatkhrough in which the quality of digital music is going to leapfrog past analog, and Led Zeppelin is going to be on the cutting edge of this, along with Apple and iTunes. The engineers in our labs have ordered three of these German A-to-D machines and as soon as they get here we’re going to start doing some experiments of our own with high-rez downloads, and I’m hoping that by this year’s Christmas season we’ll be delivering Zeppelin I in glorious high-rez digital, and we’ll maybe a special ZOSO iPod, in black with a pentagram, available in a bundled purchase promotion type thing.