Private and Promotional Vinyl Records

Before a vinyl record was released to the public, a small number of copies were often pressed and sent to distribution-company executives and radio-station disc jockeys for promotional purposes. In some cases the limited press runs of these promo records (they were called demo records prior to the 1970s) were produced so the band could approve the final layout, album-cover art, and sound quality.

Because of their small quantities, as well as the fact that changes would often be made to the finished product, these private and promotional pressings are highly valued today. Promo records that differ from the final, official release are most coveted.

Some promo records had a cutout—usually a trimmed corner—or a hole punch to indicate that they were not for public sale. Others were adorned with stickers saying, “Not For Resale” or “For Promotional Use Only.” (Despite the warnings on these stickers, in most countries it is legal to resell promo records after the stock record has been released.) Later promo records featured a destroyed barcode. In a few instances, promo records can be collected along with their accompanying paperwork, which was included with the demo so the recipients could verify their approval—such documentation generally increases a record’s value to collectors.

Pressings of British demos were usually less than 1,500 copies. In the United States, far more copies of promos were produced, which is why American discs don’t tend to be as valuable as those pressed in the U.K.

Demo records date to the days of 78s—some of the most sought-after of these are Elvis Presley promos. However, 45s are the most widely collected vintage promo records today. The first 45 ever pressed, RCA’s “The Whirl-Away Demonstration Record,” was a promo record. It featured snippets of songs, including Eddy Arnold’s “Bouquet of Roses.” Though many copies were made at the time, there is only one known version of this seminal 45 demo today.

Ironically, the oldest promo records are not necessarily the most desired by collectors. That’s because the trend of including tracks or different packaging for the promo didn’t come about until the early ’70s.

In the 1950s and ’60s, demo records tended to be identical to their stock counterparts, with the exception, of course, of the sticker, hole punch, or cutout. By the 1970s, though...

David Bowie released a solely-promotional EP, with two tracks featuring Mick Ronson and two tracks featuring Dana Gillespie, that was meant only for radio stations. Another method of release was to highlight certain songs on the demo, like the Kinks did with "Give the People What They Want" in 1981—only four tracks were on the promo. More recently, Oasis released a 12-inch promo covering the Beatles song, “I am the Walrus,” which never made it onto any of the band’s albums.

The Rolling Stones were also one of the first bands to use different sleeves for promo records. One of the rarest promo records is the Stones’ “Their Satanic Majesties Request” with a padded silk sleeve. In many more cases, the covers and sleeves of promo records were colorless, hence the other term for them, “white albums.”

Some of the most fascinating promo releases came in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when record companies were switching from mono to stereo. Some artists whose music was only released in stereo, like the Grateful Dead, Cream, and Janis Joplin, actually distributed mono promos solely for play on the radio. These are fairly rare, as are mono releases such as Paul McCartney’s “Ram” and Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy,” both of which were released in mono only to radio stations.

Other promo records are desired because the order of tracks got changed between promo and stock release. This was the case with Art Garfunkel’s “Watermark” LP. On some promo copies of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” the words “white boy” were removed for radio consumption, apparently to avoid being offensive. Similarly, the first promos of Michael Jackson’s “Ben” featured rat noises in the background—these were edited from later-issue promos and all stock releases.

The charm of promo records began to dissipate in the latter part of the ’70s as bands began putting everything but the kitchen sink onto these private releases. Often t-shirts, badges, and other band paraphernalia came with the discs.

A few decades later, possibly sparked by backlash to the CD takeover of music, promo records made a comeback. They became popular in the 1990s in dance/techno/electronic music circles, as DJs spun obscure tracks that had never been released to the public. In pop music, stars like Madonna and Prince also released promotional records.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas pays homage to international female opera singers of the LP era. Chronicling more than 800 singers, the… [read review or visit site]

317X

317X

Despite its mysterious title, 317X is plain and simple—an online gallery of vintage LPs, with a 1950s vintage fee… [read review or visit site]

Mybeatles.net

Mybeatles.net

Jesse Barron's collection of Beatles 45s, picture sleeves, magazines, books, and memorabilia. Browse singles and al… [read review or visit site]

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

This great site, from the Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors, offers detailed background information an… [read review or visit site]

The Remington Site

The Remington Site

Since 1999, the Remington Site has offered classical music collectors a glimpse into Remington Records, an independ… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Frank Beverly & The Butlers ~ If That's What You Wanted ** Us Sassy 45 PromoPink Floyd The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn 1st Stereo Press Blue Columbia Ex/ex+The Beatles - The Beatles (white Album) Uk 1st Press Mono (no Emi) No. 49998 Ex/Julians Treatment A Time Before This Lp 1970 Youngblood 1st Press! 1g/1g/1g/1g!!Free Tons Of Sobs Lp 1969 Island 1st Press! Circile Logo!! Dated Labels!!!!Jackie Wilson ~ Because Of You ** Us Brunswick 45 PromoTemple Of The Dog - S/t 395 350 Eu Lp 1st Press 1991 A&m Soundgarden VinylBeatles Rubber Soul Lp 1965 Mono Corrected 1st Press!! Brilliant Example!!!!Morrissey / The Smiths -southpaw Grammar Rare Uk Promo Only Listening Party PackMorrissey / The Smiths - Bona Drag Rare Withdrawn Test Pressing Promo Only !!!Spooky Tooth It's All About 1st Press Uk Lp Pink Island 'eye' Rare Prog PsychGeorge Michael Older 1st Uk Press Lp 1996 Virgin *very Rare* Peter Greens Fleetwood Mac 1st Uk Press Lp Blue Horizon Mono Blues *stunning*The Damned The Black Album Side 2 One-sided Test Pressing Uk Chiswick 1980Beatles,please Please Me 3rd Press *stereo* Small 33/13 1g / 1p Vg++ Gold SleeveChillum 1st Lp 1971 Mushroom 1st Press + Insert! A/b!! Superb!!!!Gnidrolog Harry's Toenail 1st Lp 1972 Rca 1st Press!! Brilliant Example!!!!Roger Waters - Amused To Death 468761 Eu 2lp 1st Press 1992 Columbia + Ins VinylThe Beatles White Album Ex+ Mono Complete Top Audio No Emi 1st Press ~~~~~~Budgie Lp Squawk Uk Mca Press A1 & B1 Near MintPink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon 1st Uk Press Solid Blue Prism Outstanding AudioMadonna You Can Dance Promo 12" Picture DiscEddie Spencer - If This Is Love Rare Uk Demo Promo / Northern Soul / Mint- !!!Atlantis S/t 1st Press Vertigo Swirl Lp Very Rare Uk Pressing *stunning Vault*Led Zeppelin 4 Iv Plum Rare Ex + Press A3 B4 Rare Label Stairway To HeavenPink Floyd: A Saucerful Of Secrets 1968 Sx6258 Mono 1st Press!! Rare: Xax 3633-1Venom Black Metal Lp 1st Press Light Grey Black Pink Marbled Vinyl Nwobhm The Beatles<sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band >1967-first Uk Press -mono-ex+The Stooges Lp Same France Elektra Butterfly 1st Press Beautiful Vinyl //////Jimi Hendrix Lp Axis Bold As Love Uk Track Mono 1st Press !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!jCaravan In The Land Of Grey And Pink 1971 Uk Deram 1st Press Fleetwood Mac Then Play On Lp 1969 Reprise 1st Press!! A1/b1 Matrixes!!!!Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon A3/b3 Very Early Press Vinyl Lp Ex+/nm Audio7 Inch Single Ac/dc Touch Too Much Japan PromoBruce Springsteen Two Hearts 7" Uk Promo Demo 45 Cbs + Ramrod Vinyl Mega Rare Beatles Lp Vinyl.sgt Pepper' 1st Press Monowith Red/white Inner And InsertMarianne Faithfull Loveinamist Lp 1967 Mono 1st Press!! Her Rarest Lp Ever!!!!Jimi Hendrix Lp Band Of Gypsys Uk Track 1st Press Puppet Cover Best Ive SeenBeatles. Ticket To Ride 1st Uk. Press 7" Single. Factory Sample. Near Mint.Moody Blues Childrens Children Lp 1969 Threshold 1st Press!! Mega Rare Mono!!!!Jethro Tull Stand Up Lp Stereo Island 1969 Uk 1st Press!Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti Lp Uk 1975 1st Press Swan Song Ssk 89400 MintBeatles. Strawberry Fields Forever Uk. 1st Press 1967. Solid Centre 7" Vinyl. NmLight Of Darkness S/t 1st Press! Plays Ex!! Original Philips Germany 1971 Lp Morrissey / The Smiths - Jack The Ripper Rare Uk Demo Promo / Indie Pop / Mint-Jimi Hendrix Lp Are You Experienced Uk Track Mono 1st Press !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!jBudgie Lp Never Turn Your Back On A Friend Uk Mca Press A1 & B1The K9's ‎– The K9 Hassle 7" 1st Press + Insert Kbd Punk 1979 Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street Lp Uk 1972 1st Press Stereo Coc 69100 MintFree Tons Of Sobs Lp 1969 Island 1st Press! Circile Logo!! Undated Labels!!!!Day Of Phoenix 1st Lp 1971 Greenwich 1st Press!! 1/1 Matrixes!!!!The Stooges Lp Fun House Canada Elektra 1st Press Gatefold Lovely Vinyl //////The Beatles Let It Be Box Set Album 1st Press 1970 Original Tray Slip CoverGeorge Harrison 3x Lp All Things Must Pass Uk Apple 1st Press Uk Poster BeatlesBeatles ‎– Abbey Road 1st Press Misprint W/o Her Majesty & Misaligned Logo - C61The Beatles ‎– abbey Road - Uk 1st Press Misaligned Apple - Ex Cond - ListenMorrissey / The Smiths - Interesting Drug 12” Promo Demo / One Sided Etched !!!Decca Sxl 2194 - Paganini, 24 Caprices, Ricci - 1st Press - 12" Lp Record AlbumBeatles * Abbey Road * Original 1969 1st Press Uk Lp Pcs 7088 Nice Example !Morrissey / The Smiths - We Hate It Rare Uk Demo Promo 10" / Indie Pop / Mint- !