I understand your point, DJ, but I think there are alternatives if the band/label does not want to give up a potential selling copy of the disc:
The per-unit manufacturing cost of a CD once you pass a certain minimum threshold (usually 500 or 1,000 depending on replicator) is minimal; at that point you're really talking about additional postage/packaging costs. For example, I do a data CD-ROM project annually that is done through DiscMakers, one of the more expensive replicators out there. For the specs on this project, a quantity of 500 discs costs $1,490. A quantity of 1,000 units is $1,590, only $100 additional for the extra 500 units. You're paying for all the setup and makeready charges in the first N units.
Of course, if we're talking international shipping, obviously you'd want to ship sans jewel cases to hold down shipping costs, so you'd have to unpackage the promo copies (although I've found that if you request the replicator to reserve a certain percentage unassembled and simply ship them as raw artwork and CDs along with the polywrapped retail copies, they're usually pretty accommodating).
Alternatively, if the band or label doesn't want to press promo copies, while I cannot speak for anyone else, for the purposes of my web site, a CD-R plus a URL to high-resolution artwork and band pictures works just fine.
I realize that for submission to traditional media outlets, a full polished, packaged product is most likely required for consideration, however I speculate that you'd find that most internet-based promo recipients would be fine with the stripped down approach.
I know that some will say "Why don't you just deal with mp3s online so there's no need to ship anything?" Again, this is a matter of personal preference, but I despise mp3s for truly evaluating music. Because of the variable nature of mp3 encoding, the final result may bear little resemblence to the actual release on CD. When it comes to production, mix, sonic characteristics, etc., mp3s simply do not suffice.
- Over 21,000 AOR, melodic, and 80s hard rock CDs... and STILL growing!