Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Identification and Pricing of Rare Records: Promotional Records

How do you know if you have a promotional record? What's a test pressing? Is a white label an official pressing made by the record label, or is it an unofficial bootleg pressing? Is a promo worth more than a regular copy? These questions often arise from the record collectors and crate diggers, and they come up often here at Metrowax as well.

Shakira - Hips Don't Lie Wyclef Mix (Promo) - 2006 Epic

Let's talk a little bit about promotional records. Promotional records are issued by record labels to promote an upcoming release. Promos are normally sent only to full-time DJ's, radio stations, music journalists, and producers, in search of airplay, hype, and positive reviews. A promo may be marked "not for sale", but it is not illegal to sell promos. A promo record is the property of the record label and subject to recall, but this rarely happens. Promos usually come out slightly earlier than the regular release, but sometimes a remixed version will be released as a promo after the initial release.

Promo records can also be "promo only", which means that the track was ONLY released as a promo, thus the media was unavailable to the public in any format. If you happen to get a sought after mix on a promo only item, you have the makings of an expensive record. One such item is the Devil's Son promo 12" by Big L. This has been repressed (another topic for another time), but prior to the repress, the only was you could get this track was to obtain this promo single.

Big L - Devil's Son (Promo) - 1993 Columbia

There are many ways in which a promotional record can be identified. Promos can be compared to the regular release to get an idea of the demand for the record and the value:

  • The promo has a different catalog number and printing on the label.
  • The label and/or cover states DJ ONLY, DEMONSTRATION, NOT FOR SALE, PROMOTIONAL, etc..
  • The record label is stamped in ink as a promo by the manufacturer.
  • The cover has a notch cutout or a corner cut off, to discourage retail sale. Most often the vinyl for these type of promos is identical to the retail copy.
  • The cover is stamped as a promo, usually on the back cover and often in gold ink. (We describe this as GOLD PS, for 'gold promo stamp').
  • The record label is identical to the regular release, but it is a different color. Usually, the promo label will be black ink on a white label. The regular release may have more color.
  • The promo may have contact information on it such as a phone number or e-mail address. This type of information is not on the regular release.

A white label or test pressing can also be known as a promo, but these copies are not officially distributed as promotional items (to promote the track). Sometimes they can't even be identified, so it wouldn't make a lot of sense to promote the music this way! If they were good sounding copies, they were not destroyed, rather they found their way into a collection somewhere.

Sprung Monkey - Get 'Em Outta Here (Promo) - 1998 Surfdog

Is a promo worth more than a retail release? It's a valid question, and promos can be difficult to value. Here are some points that we consider when pricing our promotional records:
  • If the music isn't any good, promos aren't worth jack. This holds true for all releases.
  • For any tracks that made it big, the promo is worth more, just due to the fact that it's far more rare than the retail release. The promo might be 2x to 4x the price of the normal copy, sometimes much more.
  • For tracks that are easy to obtain as a promo or retail version and have low demand, the price is the same for both versions. And it's not much money at all, maybe $1 to $3.
  • If the item is promo only, it's worth more money. If a certain track or remix is 'promo only', or ONLY available as promotional record, that promo is going to be worth a lot more than the normal release, since collectors will pine for it. It may fetch $100 or more depending on the quality of the track and how rare it is.
  • If a particular track is stated as 'unavailable on LP', meaning it's not part of the full album released publicly, it could be worth a good chunk of change. Especially if the track is good.
  • If the promo has sheets of information, like track reaction sheets and DJ feedback forms, color postcards, stickers, autographed pictures, or anything else of interest that's not available in the normal release, the price goes up. It goes much higher if the artist is talented and/or well known.
Promotional records can be a lot of fun, and since most major record labels ceased production of promos in 2008, they should rise in value over time (for in-demand items). When you get a promo that's special to you, you can cherish it knowing there are far less of them produced, which makes them highly collectible! Have fun collecting your promos!

The White Legend - Let The Music Play Remix (Promo) - 2000 Universal Canada

At Metrowax we have finally starting listing hordes of thousands of promos, white labels, test pressings, and other items that are not easily found for sale. We've been hording these for years and they represent every collection we have ever purchased. Now we are listing them on our website with full descriptions and pictures! I even found some Canadian promos recently, they are tough to find for sure, as are many of these rare records we are listing lately. Check out our new listings - you may find something you've been looking for for years! It happens quite often and we always appreciate hearing that WE had the record searched for so long.

Look for another installment down the road in regards to test pressings, white labels, and unofficial pressings. Until then, happy digging!