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]

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    

Pink Floyd Tour 75 Lp Promo Spro 8117 Vg++ Looks Unplayed5 Satins Sing Lp Ember Mono 50s Press Dg Doowop Vg Plays Well13th Floor Elevators Easter Everywhere Orig 1967 Vinyl 12" Promo Psych Lp ExThe Misfits Bullet 2nd Press Better Dead On Red Wax Punk Kbd 7 45 Ex/m- Rare Mfsl~very Rare Sealed Box Set~the Beatles Collection~1982 Usa Press~out Of PrintThe Beatles Let It Be Box Set Lp Apple 1970 Uk 1st Press!Slauter Xstroyes Winter Kill 1985 Lp Private Press Autographed W/lyrics + TicketNorthern Soul 45--earl Jackson~soul Self Satisfaction--ex Promo Abc 11142 Pink Floyd Lp Piper At The Gates Uk Mono Columbia 1st Press No File Under PopThe Beatles Please Please Me Black And Gold 1st Press Lp Dick James CreditsThe Clash White Riot German Promo (blitzinformation) Pink Floyd Lp Wish You Were Here Uk Harvest Press A1 & B3 In Shrink Near MintVan Morrison And Them Them Again Lp 1966 Uk 1st Press!!**uk 1968 Stereo 1st Press** John Lennon Yoko Two Virgins Apple Track BeatlesAc/dc~whole Lotta Rosie/dog Eat Dog Oz Albert "a" Label Promo Bon Scott Ex 45Pink Floyd Lp - Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (columbia, 1st Press Mono, Uk)Rare 45 Mike Pedicin Burnt Toast Black Coffee Federal Promo R&b Soul 45 Hear David Bowie Hunky Dory Lp Rca Victor 1971 Uk 1st Press!Pink Floyd The Division Bell Lp 1994 Uk 1st Press Stereo Emi 7243 8 28984 1 2Pink Floyd Lp Saucerful Of Secrets Uk Mono Columbia 1st Press George Harrison All Things Must Pass Uk Set 1st Press Mint Final Upgrade Copy–Oasis What's The Story Morning Glory 1996 Original First Press Gatefold Vinyl LpKing Crimson 1st Press Uk Lp In The Court Of The Crimson King Ex '69 Pink IslandRolling Stones Their Satanic Majesties Request Uk 1st Press Mono Lp +inner +3d David Bowie Ziggy Stardust Mint Unplayed 1st Original Uk Press Archive Audio~~~Pink Floyd Lp Saucerful Of Secrets Uk Mono Columbia 1st Press Cleanest Ive SeenGloria Jones "come Go With Me" Uptown 732, 45rpm Northern Soul White Label PromoElectric Sandwich Lp Brain 1972 Rare German 1st Press Killer Psych Kraut Jazz ™The Beatles - Please Please Me 1963 Uk 7" Vinyl - Red Parlophone 1st Press RareFlexi Pop Anti Nowhere League Defects Meteors One Sided Test Pressing Hard VinylOrig. Gianni Oddi "style" Lp 1974 Rca Sp 10048 Monster Funk Breaks Promo LibraryPink Floyd The Wall Uk Lp 100% 1st Press Genuine One Play Ever Final Upgrade!!Northern Soul 45 The Incredibles €Led Zeppelin ~ Led Zeppelin Ii White Label Promo Atlantic Sd 8236–Wayne Gibson Rare Uk 1966 Demo / Promo / Mod Anthem / Dancer / Rolling Stones !Freddie Houston If I Had Known Old Town Northern Soul 45 Promo HearMarie Knight That's No Way To Treat A Girl Wl Promo Northern Musicor Mp3David Bowie Deram 1967 Debut Lp Rare Original Mono Promo De 16003Jimmy Fraser 45 "of Hopes And Dreams And Tombstones" ~ Northern Soul~ PromoXhol Caravan Electrip Lp Hansa 1969 Top Rare 1st German Press Krautrock Grail ™The Invitations Skiing In The Snow Promo Labels Northern On Dynovoice Mp3Can Rare Tago Mago 1st Press A1 Matrix Lp Original Uk Crisp Ex To Ex+ !!!The Velvet Underground And Nico 1967 Uk 1st Press Vinyl Lp Verve Lou Reed Ex+ The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed Unboxed Mono Poster Red Decca Orig. Uk Press LpLove €Black Sabbath Master Of Reality 1972 -uk First Press -vertigo Swirl+ Poster -exAlice In Chains Facelift Lp Promo Nm W/insert Pearl Jam NirvanaRare Budgie,budgie.lp Uk Mca Original 2nd Press Laminated Sleeve Very Nice Copy.Strong! Ex-/vg Josefus Dead Man Texas Psych Acid Rock Monster Private Holy GrailFairfield Parlour Home From Home Swirl Vertigo Lp 1970 N/mint Prog First PressParliament €Shotgun Express Very Rare 1966 Uk 7" Demo/promo Freakbeat/mod/psych Rod StewartOasis Definitely Maybe 1994 Original First Press Gatefold Vinyl Lp Crelp169Alice In Chains Singles Soundtrack Lp Promo Nm Pearl Jam Pumpkins SoundgardemAc/dc Live From Atlantic Studios Lp--super Rare--promo With Letter & PostcardBlack Sabbath Uk Archive Vertigo Press Complete Mint Dunbar Top Audio Vinyl~~~~ Radiohead The Bends Original Uk First Press Lp Indie Classic 1995 Gloria Jones Tainted Love White Label Promo On Champion Mp3