Picks Tunes For You Using a questionnaire, a musical consulting company assembles a mix of songs from artists it predicts clients will like. Jennifer Ludden tried it out and received a CD with 16 songs. She talks to co-founder Jeremy Abrams about how the choices are made.
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On this program we regularly feature music that you, our listeners, tell us you like. Today, something a bit different. We're going to find out what I should be listening to, at least what a new music consulting company thinks I will like, like this song.

(Soundbite of "J'ai Deux Amours")

Ms. MADELEINE PEYROUX: (Singing in French)

LUDDEN: asks you to fill out a musical questionnaire. Among other items, you're asked to list your ultimate desert island albums and artists you already know you like or don't like. Then the audiostilers fill your iPod or burn a mixed CD based on your answers. Jeremy Abrams is one of the co-founders of the service and helped put together my mix, and he joins us from our New York bureau.


Mr. JEREMY ABRAMS (Co-founder, Hi there.

LUDDEN: Well, OK, some of the things I did list were Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet. I bet the one we just heard is one of the tracks you chose based on that, but tell me some of the others.

Mr. ABRAMS: Yeah. We put--we had Madeleine Peyroux as one of them. We had Philippe Saisse, who's also a French artist, kind of a little more contemporary.

LUDDEN: I did try to give you one curve ball. Had you ever heard of Daniel Belanger.

Mr. ABRAMS: I'm from Montreal, so...

LUDDEN: Ah! Why didn't you put him on my mix?

Mr. ABRAMS: I--because you said you liked him, so I assumed you had enough. But--yeah.

LUDDEN: Well, you know, he had a big--his first album was out when I was living there, so it's kind of a sentimental thing. But I loved it.

Mr. ABRAMS: OK. There you go. So, yeah, I am lucky with that 'cause I probably would not have gotten that otherwise. I'll be honest.

LUDDEN: OK. So have you, though, in other cases been stumped?

Mr. ABRAMS: Definitely. I mean, you know, we're all pretty much music experts and music junkies. But, you know, there's inevitably going to be certain genres or certain types of music that we don't know about. But now our whole thing is that if we don't know about something, we'll take the time to learn about it. People in their everyday lives might not have the time to really research or look into it, or they might not want to spend hours on the Web looking for an artist that sounds like whoever or a type of artist. So, you know, we'll take the time to do it.

LUDDEN: So is part of the point here to introduce new artists?

Mr. ABRAMS: Yeah. I mean, really, at the end of the day, it's what the customer wants, you know, because people come to us with all different types of requests. Some are, `Just make me a mix of a certain genre. I'm just too lazy to do it myself.' And some people, you know, are looking to expand their horizons and kind of learn about new music. And that's one of the questions we ask.

LUDDEN: Tell me, is there a new artist that you put on my mix?

Mr. ABRAMS: Ana Laan. I don't know if you've heard of her, but you mentioned that you had liked Jorge Drexler. And recently he came out with his own album, and you mentioned that it was one of your favorite albums. She actually recorded with him on "The Motorcycle Diaries" soundtrack, so I thought it was kind of in the same vein.

(Soundbite of "Para el Dolor")

Ms. ANA LAAN: (Singing in Spanish)

LUDDEN: Do you learn things when you are doing this research?

Mr. ABRAMS: Yeah, definitely. You know, we've had requests to really extensively research, you know, different types of music that I myself might not know about. I mean, someone--everyone in our office kind of has different expertises in different areas, but I've definitely learned a lot. I've just kind of--playing around for hours online or just researching things, I've definitely learned a lot about music.

LUDDEN: You ask on the questionnaire what people want the music for. I think I told you I wanted it for entertaining.

Mr. ABRAMS: Mm-hmm.

LUDDEN: So did that influence the order that you put these songs down?

Mr. ABRAMS: Well, definitely. That's, like, one of the most important questions 'cause it really determines what type of mix we're going to put together, whether it's, like, working out, entertaining, just, like, cruising in your car, relaxing, whatever it is.

LUDDEN: So if I said, `Singing in the shower,' I would have had a whole different list of songs here.

Mr. ABRAMS: Yeah, probably a lot of show tunes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: What about "Kanou"? It's a song you put on here by Rokia (pronounced roke-ee-ah)--Or is it Rokia (pronounced roh-key-ah)?--Traore.

(Soundbite of "Kanou")

Ms. ROKIA TRAORE: (Singing in foreign language)

LUDDEN: I'm assuming she's Malian, from West Africa.

Mr. ABRAMS: She is Malian, but she's also--you said Anjelique Kidjo, who's, you know, for those people who don't know, a contemporary African artist. It mixes the contemporary and the traditional African elements and just something kind of cool that I'd thought you'd like. And did you like it?

LUDDEN: I did. I mean, Anjelique Kidjo's a woman. I know a lot of male Malian artists. I didn't know a lot of female ones.

Mr. ABRAMS: Mm-hmm. A lot of the music coming out of Africa is coming from Mali specifically, and that's just something I kind of noticed when putting this together.

(Soundbite of "Kanou")

LUDDEN: Now if you go online these days, you've got Amazon or iTunes. They'll also recommend music--I mean, like they do with books. If you like this, other people like that and you might--you know, they list other suggestions. How is audiostiles different than that?

Mr. ABRAMS: You know, that's just based on facts of what you've bought in the past, and it's kind of all data in the computer system. Not everyone falls into straightforward categories, so sometimes people need a little help to kind of weed through all the music out there. And they might not have time to look through every album that suggests, so we kind of do that work for you.

LUDDEN: Or to go to the store and put the headphones on and listen to.

Mr. ABRAMS: Exactly. I mean, music stores are kind of--a lot of people find them really overwhelming. And even when they do have the headphones on, there's usually a lineup and it's a full effort. So we kind of take that away.

LUDDEN: Is this a service that maybe is more useful as radio stations may be playing less and less variety?

Mr. ABRAMS: Yeah, definitely. IPods and iTunes and all that--it's kind of like a new millennium for the whole music industry. So there's all these different ways that people are accessing their music, so this is definitely a good way to do it.

LUDDEN: Jeremy Abrams is a co-founder of, a music consulting company.

Thank you.

Mr. ABRAMS: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing in foreign language)

LUDDEN: You can hear some of the songs audiostiles suggested, read the full list of recommendations and explore NPR's coverage of the artists on my World Lounge Today CD all at our Web site,

That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jennifer Ludden.

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