Record Collecting: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask….Part 4: White Labels/Test Pressings

One sure fire way to get the attention of any hardened record collector would be to mention the words ‘white label’ and ‘test pressing’, such is the allure of these plain and mysterious slices of vinyl or compact disc….but why? Firstly, although a white label and a test pressing can look similar they are very different beasts and can command wildly different values….

What Is A White Label?

Before a record gets an official release white label promotional copies are often distributed to radio stations, DJ’s and music industry employees either in the form of 7″ or 12″ vinyl or CDs. However, in 2015 this practice is not as common as it once was with many ‘promos’ now appearing as a file emailed to the industry recipient.

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Advance promotional white label vinyl 12 with handwritten labels

Whilst it’s possible to describe any ‘white label’ as rare, scarcity does not always equate to collect-ability, however, choose the right band/artist, and your white label can command some real value.

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….this Smiths white label promo for the Hatful Of Hollow compilation is a case in point, released early in their career, this is a very nice example of a white label that looks sure to only ever go up in value…

A Label Demos

In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s promotional vinyl took a slightly different form with what are known as ‘A Label Demos’, these tended to be released with company labels that featured a large ‘A’ (just to make it 100% certain which side the reviewer, DJ should listening to/playing!), they often featured the proposed release date as well.

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This is the ‘A Label Demo’ for Love Affair’s ‘One Road’ 7″, note the very large ‘A’ and also the ‘release date’ just above the centre hole.

Whilst an ‘A Label Demo’ is very often more collectable than its ‘stock copy’ counterpart that’s not always the case. In a strange twist, certain very collectable records from the ’60s are more common in ‘A Label Demo’ form than the official release! Why? If advance copies were sent out to reviewers/industry employees and the reaction was poor or just general indifference then by the time of the actual release very, very few copies would have made it to the shops.

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This ‘A label demo’ of Bowie’s first single under the name The Manish Boys is valued at £500, for the stock copy you are looking at £900! Indeed, it must be rare as I can’t find an image for the stock copy!

Test Pressings

‘Test Pressings’ are often grouped with white labels, as the name suggests these are used to test a record before manufacture and not for promotional purposes. Test Pressings can be very highly prized as they are made in even smaller quantities than promos and can sometimes feature different tracks, mixes to the finished product.

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Note the custom studio labels have ‘Factory Sample’ & ‘Made In England’ print & are hand annotated with the artist, title, catalogue & matrix details, it also states that the record must not be used for review purposes, its use is purely as a reference tool.

Why Do We Like Them?

For the record collector the chance to own an extremely limited release by their favourite artist/band with different artwork and, in some cases, different mixes or even tracks to the official release, not only make them highly desirable but, choose well, and you’ve bagged yourself an instant collector’s item too!

To see more white labels/test pressings be sure to check eil.com for an incredible range of hard-to-find items, for full list click here

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