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There’s a Reporter Who Knows All That Glitters Is Gold …

… and she’s pricing “Stairway to Heaven.” Portfolio has some of the most entertaining business writing to be found, and I especially liked this little piece on how much money Led Zepplin’s inescapable chestnut has earned. The estimate? North of a half-billion dollars.

In 1972, Zeppelin and its label, Atlantic Records, sparred over the band’s refusal to release “Stairway” as a single. But as a result, the public had to buy the album, known as Led Zeppelin IV, to get the song, snapping it up as if it were a single. All told, “Stairway” has appeared on four Zeppelin albums, sales of which have earned Atlantic and the band $500 million, including $56 million for last year’s downloadable album, Mother­ship. Sales of 2 million DVDs featuring live performances of “Stairway” have brought the band and the distributor, Warner Bros., $48 million. Last fall, Zeppelin, surprisingly, signed a deal ­believed to be worth $2 million with Verizon Wireless that made ringtones, alert tones, and full-song downloads of “Stairway” available. The band, publisher, and label will share a 10 percent royalty on every download.

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