“How many different items are on the menu?”  It’s a question no one at a restaurant has ever asked.

And yet… “how many songs are on your playlist?” is routinely asked as though the answer might actually be significant.

The familiar and the unfamiliar; the all-time-favorites and the never-heard-of; each viewed simply as a quota, no one more important than another.  But, alas…

Everyone’s favorite music station is the one that plays their favorite music.

And that, my friends, is the fundamental challenge in growing Christian music stations to be market leaders.

A well-known researcher recently told me that he had never seen a format where so much of the music was unfamiliar – even to its fans.

So, what’s the better idea?

In a world of unfamiliar, successful program directors design familiarity into the brand.


That’s how six unknowns can get the loudest ovation of the night at the ballpark – the common ground of love of country connects six thousand fans in the stands to the six returning airmen on the field.  It’s how strangers become friends because they are both parents of kids on the same team.  It’s how neighbor meets neighbor as everyone pulls together to clean up after a storm.

“To move an audience, especially a diverse audience, from where they are to where you want them to be requires common ground…  Where you consistently begin and what you consistently assume determine who consistently shows up.  Why?  Because your assumptions create the common ground for the journey.”
~Andy Stanley, “Deep and Wide”

Familiarity is the fruit of common ground.  Common ground is the fruit of knowing your listener.

Knowing your listener is the fruit of putting your listeners’ perspective ahead of your own agenda.

The question isn’t “How many different items are on the menu?”

…the question is, “What do people love here?”