The historic recording contract signing Led Zeppelin to Atlantic Records in 1968 can now be read in full for the first time after LedZepNews obtained the document from a US court filing.
LedZepNews has published the entire agreement, signed by Jimmy Page and Atlantic Records founder and president Ahmet Ertegun on November 11, 1968, at the end of this article. Only the final page of the contract showing Page and Ertegun’s signatures was previously published on Led Zeppelin’s website.
Page signed the document at the Atlantic Records office in New York, accompanied by manager Peter Grant and lawyer Steve Weiss. Atlantic Records proudly announced the signing of the agreement in a November 23, 1968 press release. “Although the exact terms of the deal are secret, it can be disclosed that it is one of the most substantial deals Atlantic has ever made,” Atlantic Records wrote at the time in the press release.
Now, the exact terms of the contract can be revealed. The 14-page document shows that the band, then “tentatively professionally known as Led Zeppelin”, immediately received $104,100 from Atlantic Records as part of a three-year deal to record 24 sides of 45rpm vinyl records per year. The band then received $51,300 in 1969 followed by another $51,300 in 1970.
Led Zeppelin’s 1968 recording contract also shows that Page could replace Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham while keeping the Led Zeppelin band name. Any fired band members would have been blocked from performing under the name Led Zeppelin.
LedZepNews obtained Led Zeppelin’s recording contract from a 2005 Florida court filing made by a lawyer representing Weiss, who represented Led Zeppelin from 1968 to the 1980s. Weiss took legal action against Atlantic Records over his share of royalties from Led Zeppelin releases in the 2000s such as How The West Was Won and the Led Zeppelin DVD, entering the band’s original contract into evidence. The case was eventually settled out of court.
Led Zeppelin’s 1968 contract was a three-year agreement, not a five-year agreement as has been widely reported. However, the legal filings from 2005 also include a letter showing that on December 4, 1969 Led Zeppelin’s contract with Atlantic Records was extended by two years to end on October 31, 1973.
The 1968 document also reveals that Led Zeppelin received a royalty rate of 7.33% on record sales in the US, Canada and the UK and a royalty rate of 5.5% in other countries.
Led Zeppelin’s contract was signed only by Page and Ertegun, reflecting Page’s crucial role in forming the band. Indeed, the contract specifically says that Superhype Tapes, a company set up by Page, “may if it so desires engage the services of other persons in substitution for the present members of ‘The Led Zeppelin’”
The band could only continue as Led Zeppelin if Page remained a “member of and the leader of ‘Led Zeppelin’”, the contract states. “The person or persons whose services are terminated shall not use the name ‘The Led Zeppelin’ in any commercial or artistic endeavors.”
Atlantic Records also included a morality clause in the contract, writing that Led Zeppelin’s “material shall not be offensive to public morals in the United States.”