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Why Do Some Vinyl Albums have a Hole in the Cover?

The BB hole, also known as a drill hole, is a small hole punched or drilled through the cover of a vinyl album.

bb hole in album cover
Gato Barbieri album – example of large BB Hole in cover (and inner sleeve)

Some of the BB holes you may come across will be large, like the diameter of a magic marker, while others will be very small like the diameter of a straw. You could even find some BB holes smaller, where the paper of the album cover will seem to re-fill the hole. The BB hole would also go through the album inner sleeve, in the corner area of the album.

Why is There a Hole in the Cover of Some Record Albums?

The purpose of creating a BB hole is to mark the album as a promotional or surplus/ overstock copy, indicating that it should not be sold at full price. The BB hole also helps to mark the records sold to record shops at a reduced price.

small bb hole in album
BB Hole through the cover, and also through the inner sleeve. Ragged hole

BB holes were often used by record labels to prevent the unauthorized return or sale of promotional copies of albums at full price. These promotional copies were also sent to radio stations, music reviewers, or industry insiders for promotional purposes. By creating a visible BB hole on the album cover, it was clear that the copy was not intended for resale and had a different value than a regular album. As a vinyl record collector you may even come across albums that have a BB hole AND a promo stamp on the cover.

promo disco record stamped
Musique – Keep on Jumpin’ Disco record with BB Hole and stamped with date. Oct 19, 1978
Could be collectible since it has the actual date the record was received. Could be before the record was available for sale to the public.

BB holes can be found in different areas on the album cover. Most times the BB hole is placed in the top right corner. In addition to a BB hole, an album could also have a ‘cut corner’ which was another way record companies marked albums as overstock or promotional. The promo stamp will often include language that says the album should not be sold, but should be returned to the record company instead.

For vinyl record collectors, the a BB hole can affect the value of an album.

Some collectors prefer their albums to be in like-new or mint condition, without any modifications, and may consider a record with a BB hole to be less desirable, even if the record is still sealed/unplayed. Some record collectors could see the BB hole as unique and limited, compared to the regular issue of the album. Some collectors may look for a sealed BB hole album just for the new condition of actual vinyl record, since used versions of the record may be hard to find in mint condition.

record with smaller BB hole
Moev LP – a smaller BB hole where the paper of the album cover ‘fills’ in the bb hole, with the shrink wrap intact.

The BB hole in an album cover does not always mean the record was the first pressed version, since the hole can also indicate unsold overstock. However, a promo stamp on an album would indicate the album was distributed to radio stations before the album was made for sale to the general public. Even if the record is in fair condition, the promo record has somewhat of a nostalgic element to collectors since they know the record was most likely played on air shortly after the album was released. Even better if the album has the radio station call letters written on the record. Something like the difference between a brand new baseball, and a game used dirty baseball. The DJ Promo record would be more collectible for nostalgic reasons, knowing that the record has a unique history attached to the vinyl.

promo label on vinyl record
David Rostamo 12″ single with promo label – pressed with PROMOTIONAL COPY – NOT FOR SALE

Besides the BB hole in an album cover, the record companies had other ways of marking the record as promotional or overstock:

Three Ways an Album Is Marked as Promotional or Overstock

Marked Album Covers

Saw Mark: This is a visible cut or notch made on the edge of an album cover. The saw mark was mostly used to indicate overstock and not as much for pre-release promotions.

BB Hole: This is the way record companies marked albums as promotional or overstock. An actual hole in the cover. If you’ve collected records you would have come across this many times.

Promo Stamp: The stamp, on the front or back of the album which would typically say “promotional copy,” or “not for sale” Records could also have the stamp or label pressing that also has this message. You may also hear this referred to as a white label promo copy.

The bb hole or other markings on an album to indicate promotional or overstock will be less valuable to collectors. In some cases the promotional record will be unique in that the official release could have something different on the label compared to the promo issue. This, as we said before, can be desired by some record collectors. You would have to imagine a radio station playing the Beatles for the first time from a promo record.

Radio Station DJ: “Here’s a new song by a new and unknown band named The Beatles“.

disco DJ Promo Record
Regine disco record pressed with D.J. Copy Not For Sale

 

Gato Promo Album
Gato Barbieri – Caliente! album with sticker Promotional Record for Broadcast & Review NOT FOR SALE
Note this record also has the larger BB hole on the cover top corner.

Record collectors may think of the BB hole in an album as rare. Avid collectors will seek out the BB hole record to add to the other versions of the same album in their collection.


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