Elizabeth Platt ([email protected])
Sun, 23 Aug 1998 00:21:52 -0700 (PDT)

Another older post, but I don't recall anyone responding on-list to this

On Sun, 5 Jul 1998, J <[email protected]> wrote:

> Please enlighten me on this. I've seen tons of websites that offer
> "promo" Cds for sale. The thing is that most of these promos have
> exactly the same tracks as the regular singles or if not, they have
> less. They are also priced so high. There even is one website that
> auctions these promo CDs (E-bay). I just don't get it. It's
> something like "let me charge 50% more while you listen to 50% less
> music (coz promos have less songs)".
> What exactly does "promo" mean?

As in "promotional", e.g., not intended for retail sale to the public.

> From my understanding, "promo" would
> mean that they are advaced releases to the radio stations so that the
> songs can be played.

Yes, but I've seen promo CDs, vinyl, and merchandise that obviously wasn't
meant for airplay only. Some of these promo items go to retailers, the
media, TV (you can bet MTV gets some goodies!) and so on. While most of
it is done to push exposure and airplay, sometimes it's just looked upon
as "good politics" by the record companies, in that they give out the
goodies to keep their friends happy. Remember when "Melon" was released,
Island actually sent promo copies (!!) of the CD to radio stations around
the US--even though it was a CD that wouldn't be available in the stores!

Also, a lot of major stations are now getting their "advances" by computer
these days--they're just as likely (more likely?) to download a new song
by a proprietary ISDN network as get a new 7" or CD in the mail. The hard
copy will come later.

And, again, retail gets a certain amount of promo items, such as displays,
in-store videos (such as was done for "The Joshua Tree" in Europe), and so

> If that is so, I would have had expected promos
> to be scarce (unless all the radio stations decide to sell these CDs
> which is unlikely coz Island would never sned them promos again if
> they find out that they sell it).

Actually, any record company rep who thinks stations, store buyers, etc.,
_don't_ sell off extra promo CDs...needs a serious reality check! On the
other hand, if a station or individual was obviously only scamming promo
items for resale, I'd imagine they'd be cut off (or bitched about to their
higher-ups) sooner or later. I recall when the Wherehouse chain began to
sell used CDs a few years ago--the first time a major chain moved into the
used-CD market--and the record industry (and some artists) went ballistic.
Their main concern (or so they said...take it at face value if you want)
was that they didn't want a major chain selling promo items! After much
wrangling, the Wherehouse agreed to not purchase and re-sell any promo
items. Now, obviously, the industry didn't want them selling any used
CDs, period. But they managed to get the "no promo items" compromise as a
means of saving face--despite the fact they they know full well that there
are countless indie record stores out there who openly buy and sell
promotional CDs and vinyl.

Promo items are, as a rule, more scarce than regular commercial releases,
since they're usually one-shots, e.g., once they're handed out, they're
gone. They're not going to get the factory to pump out another 100,000
copies, like they'd do for a best-selling CD.

> But there seems to be an over
> abundance of promos, thus, begging me to ask: is there another
> definition of what a promo CD is aside from that I mentioned about t
> being an advance copy for radio stations?

Only the examples I cited above.
> Why are they proced so high? Are there actually peple hwo buy these
> things?

(1) Because some dealers are greedy bastards, and (2) yep!

I *do* think a lot of dealers overcharge for anything marked "promo",
because they're one-shots, or have different packaging from the commercial
release, etc. In most cases--say, 99% of the time--the promo CDs or CD
singles are no different from the commercial releases, save for the
catalog number. If there is a difference, it will usually just be that
the song is a "radio edit", e.g., a bit shorter than the album/single

However...some promo CDs/vinyl will have different packaging from the
commercial releases, and...of course...some rare promo items have songs
and/or remixes that aren't commercially available at all. Go ahead and
say it: Bastards! ;-D And then there are songs like "Zooropa", which
was never released as a commercial single, but can be found on a "radio
edit" promo CD (one track), and "Numb" which was only available
commercially on video, but can be found on 12" vinyl and CD as promos.

These are the sort of promo items that fetch big bucks with collectors,
but, I'm sorry to say, this has served to over-inflate the prices of
_all_ promo items, even when they're nothing terribly interesting.


Elizabeth Platt
[email protected]

P.S. Yet another thing for collectors to be aware of: I've seen
bootlegged "promo" items! No kidding. A few months ago, at a record fair
here in San Francisco, a dealer tried to convince me that a 12" EP was an
"in-store promo" from Island Records. It was a "PopMart" sampler, six
differnet remixes/non-album tracks. Never mind that it had no Island
label or logo, and the whole thing was poorly produced (e.g., the
lettering on the label was crooked!) The dealer all but swore on his
mother's grave that it was the real deal--and he wanted $35 for it. Just
around the corner, another dealer was selling the _real_ "PopMart"
sampler, a double 12" with _8_ remixes, for...$20. Yep, nice slick sleeve
and lots of record company markings, etc. Seems that the first dealer
(with the $35 fake promo EP) has a habit of palming off bootlegs and
pirated discs as "promo items" of one sort or another--and he's getting
supplied by manufacturers who specialise in this sort of thing.

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