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Spotify Gets the Led Out

Streaming music services need to secure a handful of major bands to stay competitive with—or hopefully beat—their rivals. In the seemingly endless race between Spotify, Pandora Media (P), Rdio, and Rhapsody (not to mention the YouTube (GOOG) and Beats Music streaming services set to make their debuts next year), Spotify looks to be sprinting ahead, thanks to Led Zeppelin.

Led Zeppelin, which had refused to license its music to streaming services until now, has agreed to an exclusive deal with the Swedish company that would allow Spotify subscribers to stream its entire back catalog. This is Spotify’s second big music coup: In 2012 it made a deal with Metallica, the band that successfully sued Napster for copyright infringement.

Spotify is also making its entire 20 million-song catalog available on mobile devices for free. Only its 6 million paying customers could access it before. Now the only difference between paying for Spotify and not paying for it is whether you’re willing to sit through the commercials between songs.

Led Zeppelin was one of the last holdouts on Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes store, too. It finally joined in 2007, leaving the Beatles, Radiohead, and AC/DC as the last major naysayers, although all have since caved and signed up. The Beatles and AC/DC are similarly holding out against Spotify. Radiohead has put its catalog on the service, but earlier this year frontman Thom Yorke railed against Spotify’s infamously low artist payments and pulled his solo and Atoms for Peace albums.

“Streaming suits [back] catalog. But [it] cannot work as a way of supporting new artists’ work,” Yorke complained on Twitter (TWTR) at the time, which may be why Radiohead’s music is still on there. And why Led Zeppelin has finally allowed fans to get the led out for free.

Suddath is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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