Demo Records

Back when cavemen played discs known as records, somewhere floating out there were records labeled as “Demo Only”. Why did the record industry feel the need to label demos as “Demo Only”? Why bother to make the distinction at all?

In pure form, it meant for Demonstration only, also known as a sales pitch to an agent of some sort that could market it.

Later on, it was stamped on record labels that were given free to radio stations and other outlets for promotion. Later on still, the industry mostly adopted “promotional copy” for these freebies.

Edited to add: These copies are usually of interest to collectors and audiophiles. Demo and promo copies are from the earliest stampings; later records suffer from duplication degradation and/or editing because of airplay restrictions.

Demos weren’t not as finished and well produced as the final release.

Compare the release of The Cars My Best Friend’s Girl with the demo. (There’s another demo version I can’t find online that sounds even more drastically different.)

Producers/bands would make demos for a lot of reasons. Unsigned bands would be trying to get a recording deal and once signed they’d make a more pro version. Producers might send around a few copies of a demo to get some feedback from people* and use that to tweak the song. And on and on.

Sometimes a group will decide to redo a song and the old unreleased version gets stuck in a drawer labeled as “demo”.

  • Some of these people might be important radio DJs and those copies used to the ones that typically ended up available for collectors to buy. Selling demos and radio-station copies was one way to pad income.

A good 50% of my massive collection of LPs are promo copies. Benefits of working at a record store for a few years.

One famous demo was Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen. It was recorded in his home studio on a four track tape machine and originally intended for the album Nebraska. It was a sparse acoustical arrangement that was different than the arrangement he reworked with the E Street Band for the album of the same name. It went unreleased until its inclusion in the Tracks box set.

Demos are what artists use to let people hear them who need to hear something.

Promos are what the industry gives away for promotion, usually it would have a white label. AFAIK There are no royalties paid on promos and there can be a lot of chicanery with the books because of that.

Wow. That’s way better, IMHO.

Yup. Me too. :cool: