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In radio programming, a deep cut or deep track is a song which commercial radio stations rarely broadcast. It is taken from the fact that on vinyl albums, the hit singles promoted by record companies are usually found early on in the record, with the other, lesser-known songs buried "deep" into the record.

Reasons for songs being relegated to "deep cut" status include:

  • The song was only released on an album and never as a single, or it was released as a B-side.
  • The song is a single that never became a Top 40 hit.
  • The song is objectionable to mainstream sensibilities, or perhaps violates regulatory rules.
  • The song is long. Most radio stations air songs between 3 and 4 minutes in length.
  • The song was a hit in its time, but has largely been left out of recurrent rotation (often because it does not fit a mainstream radio format) as years have gone on. This type of song is often known as a "forgotten 45."

Most radio stations prefer to play either classical music or popular music that is familiar to mainstream listeners.

Most deep cuts earned play through freeform radio stations, which were less structured and regulated than their formatted counterparts. While most radio stations had strict playlists often dictated by corporate edict, freeform stations were allowed to air any music the disc jockey desired, provided it did not violate federal broadcast regulations (e.g. vulgarities). Later, more stringent evolutions of the format, progressive and album-oriented rock, also continued the tradition of airing deep cuts. By the 1980s, however, as radio became more commercialized, freeform and related formats began to fade, and the radio single (usually now provided to a radio station for free) became more dominant. Today, the airing of "deep cuts" on albums are rare.

XM Satellite Radio features an entire channel devoted to this type of format, entitled Deep Tracks. In addition, there are a handful of syndicated radio programs devoted to it as well, including The Deep End with Nick Michaels and Dr. Demento, who frequently plays rare songs alongside more mainstream comedy and novelty hits.



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