The Tiny Desk Contest Is Back For 2020

Feb 4, 2020
Originally published on February 4, 2020 6:04 pm
YouTube

In the past year, we've had some pretty big names come perform at the Tiny Desk: Lizzo, Jimmy Eat World and Taylor Swift, to name a few.

While seeing these artists' stripped-down sets is impressive, that's not all the Tiny Desk is about. For me, what's really magical and memorable about Tiny Desk concerts is discovering and connecting with musicians our audience likely doesn't know and then getting to share them with our listeners.

We started the Tiny Desk Contest in 2014 in an effort to do even more of that: discover and share great unknown artists. Since the Contest's launch, we've had five outstanding winners, invited even more Contest artists to play at the Desk and heard from countless artists we love along the way. We're excited today to announce that the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest is here.

Here's what you need to know:

  • We'll start accepting Contest entries next Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 10 a.m. ET. Entries close at midnight ET on Monday, March 30.
  • To be eligible to win, you must be an unsigned musician and at least 18 years old.
  • To enter, record a video of yourself playing one original song at a desk (any desk will do!) and upload it to YouTube.
  • Send us your song by submitting your video at npr.org/tinydeskcontest.
  • The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges. I'll be joined by some great Tiny Desk alums: Brittany Howard, Gina Chavez and last year's winner, Quinn Christopherson. Bobby Carter, Tiny Desk concert producer extraordinaire, will be part of the team, plus Raina Douris of WXPN's World Cafe and Tarik Moody of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.

If you want to make sure your video is eligible to win, you can take this easy quiz or read the official rules.

If you win, you'll play a Tiny Desk concert and then go on tour across the U.S. with NPR Music. And even though we only choose one winner, we feature artists from the Contest community in plenty of other ways: on our blog, in a Contest supercut video, on NPR's newsmagazines and at the Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour stops.

Speaking of tour stops, this year, we're expanding our tour to 10 cities! We'll be visiting Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Seattle. We hope to see you there.

We can't wait to discover even more great music this year and are looking forward to meeting our winner. Could it be you?

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Lizzo, Taylor Swift, "Sesame Street" - these are just some of the superstars who have performed their music behind a desk in the last year as part of NPR Music's stripped-down concert series. We call them Tiny Desk concerts. And now, for the sixth year in a row, NPR Music is looking for the next great undiscovered artist to play at that desk. Could it be you? Bob Boilen, the creator of the Tiny Desk concert series and host of the podcast All Songs Considered, is here to share all.

Hey, Bob.

BOB BOILEN, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: I should start by just noting some of the people have gone on from winning Tiny Desk to really big things. The 2017 winner, Tank and the Bangas, people may know they were nominated for a Grammy this year.

BOILEN: They were. And so Fantastic Negrito, our first Tiny Desk contest winner, has won two Grammy Awards.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLASTIC HAMBURGERS")

FANTASTIC NEGRITO: (Singing) Let's break out these chains. Let's burn it down.

BOILEN: So it's a great platform.

KELLY: Do all the previous winners have something in common? What are you looking for?

BOILEN: Singularity - I want to hear music that only you can make, that is unique to you. And you listen to any of the Tiny Desk contest winners from Fantastic Negrito, Gaelynn Lea, Naia Izumi, Tank and the Bangas...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "QUICK")

TANK AND THE BANGAS: (Singing) I see him looking a mile away. He like my body, don't see my face.

BOILEN: ...And Quinn Christopherson. There's no one I can think of like any of these artists. And that's beautiful.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ERASE ME")

QUINN CHRISTOPHERSON: (Singing) I got a voice now, and I got power. But I can't stand it.

KELLY: To enter, you have to be 18. You have to live in the U.S. You can't be signed to any record label. You have to be unsigned.

BOILEN: That's right.

KELLY: OK. What do you do to enter? And then what happens? What do you win?

BOILEN: Send us a video of you playing an original song behind a desk of your choosing - and imaginations run wild with that, and that's fun. But the main thing we want is the great art, the great music. That's the important thing. The quality of the video, the quality of the recording - not so important. The expression is the most important part.

KELLY: Craziest desk that someone has entered - there has to be a desk?

BOILEN: Think mountaintops. Think underwater. Yes is the answer.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: Which would impact the music, I'm imagining this.

BOILEN: Yeah.

KELLY: OK. And then to the - what do they win? They get to go on tour with NPR Music.

BOILEN: They get to play a Tiny Desk concert here in Washington, D.C., and then go to nine other cities on tour with us.

KELLY: Thank you, Bob.

BOILEN: Thanks, Mary Louise.

KELLY: That is Bob Boilen announcing this year's Tiny Desk Contest. It is his desk, by the way, where you will perform if you are the winner. You can send your entries starting February 11. Good luck, everybody.

(SOUNDBITE OF NAIA IZUMI SONG, "SOFT SPOKEN")

NAIA IZUMI: (Vocalizing). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.