DJs and Radio demos

Hey Mr DJ

Mona Lisa: Conway Twitty, MGM, Special Disc Jockey Record, USA. 1959
Indian Summer: Audience, Elektra, 1971, US copy 1971 “for radio station use only”

See also The A side and the B Side article.

The need for the large A is discussed in the A & B side article. I think it means A side, rather than ADVANCED COPY or AUDITION COPY. Is it necessary? In the mid-80s I did several radio interviews. Local radio is relaxed. I’m sure the BBC had an engineer place and cue the discs, but in local radio stations in those days there was a deck and DJs put the records on by hand themselves. It was the lunchtime segment.

She had a stack of discs (not sleeved I noted) to put on and play in order. They weren’t promo copies to my surprise, but standard sell-through 45s. I won’t name my interviewer but she went onto far greater things when she switched to the BBC. We got on well … she was really good at interviewing. I was promoting our ELT theatre shows. I’d expected to be there ten minutes, but she liked my tall tales of ELT teaching and theatrical disasters, prompted me to tell more, and I ended up there for an hour, chatting between records. After about fifteen minutes she announced a record as currently top of the charts and put it on. I waited for the light signal to show our mics were off and said, ‘That’s the B-side.’ ‘Oh, shit!’ she exclaimed, ‘I can’t stand music. I got the pile mixed up. I dropped it.’ That explained the crackly sound then. Then she had an idea, ‘Do you know which side to play?’ I nodded, and got to stay and promote.

Your Love: Speedy Keen, Island, 1976, marked DJ Copy Only, UK

Demos and promos were made both for DJs and reviewers. By the 70s, we find discs labelled as DJ copies, though MGM had started doing that as far back as 1959. Columbia (USA, i.e. CBS) labelled theirs as Radio Station Copy. These were never sent out to print reviewers. The USA had always had vast numbers of radio stations making printing RADIO ONLY / DJ COPY labels worth printing. By the 1970s, Britain was getting the proliferation of local radio stations, making it worthwhile in the UK too.

Don’t Do It: The Band, Capitol demo 1972

The anxiety to get singles to radio DJs is shown by the Capitol demo for The Band’s Don’t Do It in 1972. The record in a UK sleeve is an American pressing (#3433) hence the large centre hole, but the promo sticker lists the British catalogue number (CL 15737) of the forthcoming release. They haven’t pressed any discs at that point, so are using the US copy to gain interest. It has a handwritten A and a sticker applied with length and fade information.

Radio Station or DJ copies replace demos and promos, and there is a difference (though there are exceptions). A DJ copy is designed for radio play, or by the all-night soul era, for club DJs.

A radio promo disc will have the same track repeated on both sides. This may be a radio edit and a full version from the album, or it may be a mono and stereo version.

The USA had stereo FM radio earlier than the UK. The mono / stereo divide starts in the USA and reflects the differing formats of AM pop radio and FM album oriented or adult oriented programming. The AM DJ wanted the loud mono version, the FM jock wanted stereo. It had spread to the UK by 1972.

White Bird: It’s A Beautiful Day, Columbia USA radio 45, 1968, mono and stereo

More US radio promos

The issue was getting a large A on a large hole single. Ode managed:

The Times They Are A-Changing: The Brothers & Sisters of Los Angeles (from Dylan’s Gospel)

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight: Emmy Lou Harris, Jubilee 45 “Advanced Release Disc Jockey Record Not For Sale.”
One More Night: Ronnie Hawkins: Cotillion 45, “Plug side”

Back to the UK:

The 1973 copy of Johnny Nash’s My Merry Go-Round (CBS, UK) is typical in having a mono edit (2m 54s) on the A-side (Special DJ Copy) and the LP stereo cut (4m 15s) on the other side.

My Merry Go Round: Johnny Nash, CBS DJ copy, 1973. A side is mo o, B-side is same song in stereo

This mono / stereo divide wouldn’t have helped my DJ, but the RELEASE DATE sticker on Rain is on the Mono side:

Rain: Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge, Monument, 1975 Mono Side A, 3m 40s
Rain: Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge, Monument, Stereo, side B, still 3m 40s,
both sides marked A

The  January 1975 Monument UK demo for Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge’s Rain is British, but an American style demo, containing mono on one side, stereo on the other. Both sides are marked A, In the USA, it would have been mono for AM radio DJs and stereo for FM radio DJs.  In this British case, the mono side is marked DJ Version. The changed release date has been pasted on the mono side only. The repeated A side also stopped DJs flipping the single to the B-side (Wha Cha Gonna Do It on the copies in the shops), so focused promotional effort. 

Dreamer: Supertramp, A&M, US copy, 1974, mono side has black lettering
Dreamer: Supertramp, 1974. Stereo side has red lettering.

1974’s A&M demo of Dreamer by Supertramp is American, and both sides carry the same track. The colour code is black for mono (for AM radio), red for stereo (for FM radio). 

Back in 57: American Flyer, United Artists, 1976, mono side is white
Back in 57: American Flyer. Stereo side is yellow.

United Artists went further in the USA. The yellow side of the Back in ’57 demo by American Flyer was stereo, the white side was mono. Everyone knew the colour codes (black & white for mono, a colour for stereo).

The Best Part of My Days: David Wills, United Artists 1977, US mono copy in sleeve
The Best Part of My Days. Stereo side in yellow

American promos usually show the release date. That’s odd in that while British singles always show the year of production (NOT manufacture!), American singles usually hide that information.

Crutches: Zager & Evans, RCA, US Radio copy

The RCA Victor promo of Crutches, a Zager & Evans follow-up to In the Year 2525, is labelled PLUG rather than A-side. i.e. This is the side we’re plugging. The time is given as 2:40, but it adds:
Intro  :02
End:  Fade

which is useful for the DJ. The B-side has Intro :28 which seems very long indeed to keep chatting.

All American singles, demos or official releases, show the length. Most British ones don’t. So the Radio One DJ knows in which year it was recorded but not how long it is. The American DJ lacks this historical information but knows when to switch on the microphone.In the USA, promotion copies were produced in their their thousands for radio stations.

Audition record

Underwater: The T-Bones, Liberty ‘Audition Record’
Think: Jimmy McCracklin, 1965 US radio “Audition Record”

This a 1965 Imperial Records demo for Jimmy McCracklin’s Think. It’s called Audition Record not promo or demo. It’s rubber-stamped with the date, 25 Sep. 1965, and has a rubber stamped “O” on the A side. Radio stations often stamp the date of issue or receipt on demos, but so do song pluggers. Both Imperial and its parent company Liberty preferred ‘Audition record’, a name that hasn’t caught on with record collectors.


With the growth of FM radio, there were Radio station copies of US LPs, but they tended to over-sticker existing stock. Not so with Simon & Garfunkel’s Wednesday Morning 3 am in late 1964, though it only sold 1000 copies in its first year.

They didn’t want DJs to have to read the tiny print on the sleeve nor go to the effort of turning it over, so affixed a track list to the front.

Loaned for promotion?

Don’t Ease Me In: Grateful Dead, Arista 1980 radio copy

Look at the 1980 Grateful Dead promo in its sleeve. However you turn the disc, you can’t see that it’s a promo copy. it doesn’t have a Side A marking at all. It’s marked “Loaned for promotion only not for sale” in tiny lettering. You have to remove it from the sleeve to detect the promo information at the top. This was not uncommon. Rationally, even Clive Davis at Arista can’t have expected to propel the Grateful Dead into the 1980 chart (though Arista succeeded in 1987 with Touch of Grey). The purpose was radio play so as to shift albums and tour tickets. They recycled the B-side of their previous single to fill the back. 

Promotional copy is marked so the manufacturing cost can be tax-deducted without having to explain that the copies were not sold. The Grateful Dead’s official discography lists it as “DJ Single”.n the USA, promotion copies were produced in their their thousands for radio stations. 

The Late Great Johnny Ace: Paul Simon: Radio 45 only

The Late Great Johnny Ace, by Paul Simon was only ever an LP track, on Hearts and Bones (Warner Bros) in 1983. This promo 7” single was produced and issued to radio stations to promote the album. No 45 was released commercially.

The Magician / Magic Drums: Secession, Virgin / Siren 12″ single 1987

Twelve inch singles were designed for DJs – this  Virgin Dance one has PRE-RELEASE rather than PROMO, and the catalogue number has DJ added too.