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, bands deliberately released promo records that were never intended to make it into the mainstream. Led Zeppelin and Cliff Richards were early pioneers of this practice, while one of the famous firsts came from the Rolling Stones, whose promo-only album was aptly named, "The Rolling Stones Promotional Album."...

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]



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]

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    

Led Zeppelin Genuine 1969 Uk Press - Turquoise Text Superhype - Excellent AudioA.alessandroni "prisma Sonoro" Lp Sermi 1972 1st Press Lounge Scat Bossa LibraryJosefus - Dead Man - Heavy Psych Hard Rock Monster Private Press Hookah Usa 1970Pink Floyd A Saucerful Of Secrets 1968 Columbia Mono Early Press Lp - No Sleeve " Black Sabbath "sensational Nmint Unplayed? Vinyled 2nd Vertigo Swirl Uk PressBlondie Rare Unique Uk 1977 Test Pressing Album / Punk / Promo A1 P B1 P MatrixNo For An Answer - You Laugh 7" Test Press Revelation Records RareRare Psych Promo~top Audio~paul St. John~flying Saucers Have Landed~uk 7"~ex/exTony Galla ~ Northern Soul Rarity On Swan Promo. Close To NewBlack Sabbath Master Of Reality - Uk 1st Press Vertigo Swirl Box Cover, Ex AudioJohn Bender Plaster Falling Sealed Private Rare Original Minimal SynthRolling Stones Lp Sticky Fingers Rolling Stones Press Zipper Cover & Plays MintConverge 2 X Lp Jane Doe First Press Very Rare Evr American Nightmare Cave InPink Floyd Lp Dark Side Of The Moon 1st Uk Press Solid Light Blue Triangle Van Dykes 45 Save My Love For A Rainy Day/tears Of Joy Svg+ Promo Northern SoulJohn Bender Pop Surgery Rare Private Minimal SynthVenom Black Metal 1982 Lp W/ Poster & Lyric Insert!! 1st Press Embossed CoverRolling Stones Lp Their Satanic Majesties Uk Decca Mono 1st Press Best 3d CoverFaust Lp Same Clear Vinyl German Polydor 1st Press Krautrock GemCreedence Clearwater Revival 1969 Debut Lp Uk 1st Press - Barely Played - MintMadonna - La Isla Bonita 7" Spanish Promo Spain 1986 V Rare!!! Vinyl Rebel HeartVelvet Underground And Nico Lp Same Uk Verve 1st PressRobert Ashley Private Parts Synth Experimental PoetryThe Beatles - Sgt. Pepper Lp Uk 1st Press Mono -1 / -1 Pmc 7027 + Red Inner Don Rendell/ian Carr 5et Phase Iii On Columbia 6214 Uk Original Mono Promo M-/mRare Northern Soul Promo 45/ Billy Thompson "black-eyed Girl" HearFuzzy Duck Same Lp Orig Uk 1971 Mam 1st Press Monster Prog Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon - 1st Uk Press VinylLed Zeppelin 4 Zoso "porky Pecko Duck" Uk 1st Press Ex 1971 Plum/redCreedence Clearwater Revival Bayou Country 1969 Uk Liberty 1st Press Mint AudioThe Damned New Rose 1st Press 1976 Stiff 45 & Picture Sleeve + Etched RunoutsCreedence Clearwater Revival Green River 1969 Uk Liberty 1st Press Nr Mint Placebo (marc Moulin) Original Press 1974 Harvest Ultra Rare Jazz Funk Breaks Turnstyle - Riding A Wave (mega Rare Pye 7" Promo, Nr Mint, Psych)Madonna - Spotlight Spanish Promo 7" Single Official Mega Rare Spain Rebel HeartSex Pistols 45 Japan Sample/promo? -" Silly Thing " - Yk 122 Ax-excellent!!Moolah Woe Ye Demons Possessed Sealed Rare Private Experimental Prog PsychThe Small Faces Ogdens Nut Gone Flake Lp 1968 Uk 1st Press!Ocean Colour Scene - Marchin' Already(uk 1997 1st Press Double Vinyl Album)Lemon Kittens The Big Dentist Experimental Uk Press W Danielle DaxOasis - Definitely Maybe(uk 1994 1st Press Double Vinyl Album / Nr Mint!!!!)T. Rex Electric Warrior 1971 Uk Fly 1st Press W/inner, Strong Loud Cut, Nr MintCreedence Clearwater Revival Willy And The Poor Boys 1970 Uk 1st Press Nr Mint Mercyful Fate-melissa Japan W/obi King Diamond Metallica Prestige 7111 Mal Waldron Mal/2 Lp John Coltrane Promo Deep Groove 50th St. Morbid Tales Lp Celtic Frost Switzerland Death Poster Hellhammer Promo SignedPink Floyd Wish You Were Here 1975 1st Press Lp Factory Sealed!Circa Survive Blue Sky Noise Vinyl Record Test Pressing 1-525459Joy Division Unknown Pleasures Lp 1st Press Uk Factory 1979 Vinyl Texture SleeveLed Zeppelin 1969 Uk Press A1/b1 Plum Label Atlantic Records 588171The Clash Rare Us 1980 Promo / Demo Only Sampler Copy / Punk / Kbd !!!Pink Floyd: ‘dark Side Of The Moon’ 1st Press Vinyl Lp Solid Blue TriangleDavid Bowie Lp "in Person 1972 Santa Monica" Rare Private Press On Gold Vinyl NmJimi Hendrix Axis Bold As Love Uk 1st Press Track Mono 612 003 1967 Metallica Stone Cold Crazy Cd Promo Rare MintDusko Goykovich Slavic Mood On Vista 1115 Italian Original Promo Mint !Rolling Stones Lp Beggars Banquet Uk Decca Mono 1st Press Plays SuperbJohn Coltrane ~ Soutrane ~ Prestige ~ 1st Press ~ M- !!Rare Bird As Your Mind Flies By 1970-first Uk Press -charisma Pink Scroll-ex++Slapp Happy Casablanca Moon Art Prog Reissue Of 2nd Lp Japanese Press