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A music promo, usually just called a promo, is shorthand for "promotional copy" - it is a copy of an album that is used for promotional purposes. They are often sent to press and radio in advance of the release of an album to get reviews or radio play, and they are also often sent to promoters and agents when booking shows. In short, a music promo is the main ingredient in a promo package that is then used to drum up press coverage, attract record label attention and more.

Promos take a few different forms:

  • Some are simply complete copies of an album, artwork and all, that are used for promotional purposes. Sometimes a label will scribble out the barcode to try and discourage people from heading out to the record store and selling the promos.
  • Some promos are complete albums with artwork, but with CDs printed with "promo use only - not for sale" or some other message to again discourage resale.
  • Still other promos contain the CD only in a plastic wallet - no artwork. (Or in the case of vinyl promos, they can be "white labels" - generic pressings of the album without artwork with a white label and white sleeve).
  • Lastly, promos can be self-burned CD-Rs.
There are no hard and fast rules as to which kind of promo is best. One technique is to start with the generic promos - they're the cheapest - and then "upgrade" certain people who have been supportive of the band to complete promos with artwork down the line.

Be careful not to confuse promos with demos. There are certain cases where a demo is used like a promo - but to keep it simple, consider a promo to be a finished product - it's the final version of a release - while a demo is a rough recording of music that may some day end up on an album, but may also end up being changed before they final version is decided upon.

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