I’ve heard some daffy things this week.

I’ve heard we should play less of a certain sound because it is too popular. Real answer—popular is good, not bad. Don’t run from things that aren’t chasing you.

I’ve heard we should take note of the styles of music our competitors play (like country and AC) when we choose which new songs to play. Real answer-listeners come to different formats for different reasons.

I’ve heard we should play twice as many unfamiliar songs every hour. Real answer – everyone’s favorite radio station is the station that plays their favorite music. Treat unfamiliar music like a sharp knife—vital to the operation when used properly; a bloody mess when treated recklessly.

I’ve heard we play too much of a popular artist. Real answer – we don’t have a format without popular artists. Celebrate it! Warning alarms should go off when we worry more about playing popular artists than the ones that aren’t as popular.

In the day to day we can lose sight of the fact that we are here to serve the listeners. Ask them what they want and then do those things. (There are good ways and bad ways to ask these things, I’m told).

The core principles of programming can be boiled down to three elements:

Play music your listeners love
Talk about things your listeners are interested in
Don’t waste their time

No one understands this discipline more than my long-time pal Dean O’Neal, whose radio station happens to be the most listened to radio station in his market, a rare accomplishment for a Christian radio station.

His advice: “If a station wants to have a lasting impact you need to park your own agendas at the door. Find out what your core listener truly loves, wants, needs and desires, building those things into the station’s DNA. Once a station becomes a relevant, irreplaceable part of her world, she will keep coming back for more. If you remain or become irrelevant, she will purpose her valuable time elsewhere.”