Want To Play A Tiny Desk Concert? Enter The 2019 Tiny Desk Contest!

Mar 12, 2019
Originally published on March 12, 2019 8:51 pm

In 2014, we started the Tiny Desk Contest with the humble goal of discovering new music. Since then, your entries have blown us away. Your music has made us laugh, made us cry and filled us with insurmountable joy. It's been incredible to watch artists in this community grow.

So, the moment you've all been waiting for has finally arrived: The Tiny Desk Contest is back for 2019! And for the first time ever, our Contest will be open to artists 18 years and older.

Get to work on your video, because you can enter starting today.

Here's how to enter:

  1. Film a video of you or your band performing an original song at a desk. Any desk will do.
  2. Upload your video to YouTube.
  3. Submit your video via the entry form on our website.

That's it! We'll be accepting entries now through April 14 at 11:59 p.m. EST. If you've got questions, feel free read the official rules or check out our FAQs.

The Contest winner will come to NPR headquarters to play their very own Tiny Desk concert, and then come on tour with NPR Music with support from our sponsor, Blue Microphones.

I'm so excited about our judging panel this year. I'll be joined by some friends from public radio: Rodney Carmichael of NPR Music, Raul Campos of KCRW and Abbie Gobeli of KEXP — dedicated seekers of new music from all genres and styles — plus, some of our favorite Tiny Desk alums: Jason Isbell, Ledisi and Lucy Dacus.

Winning the Contest can really change an artist's life. Just ask Naia Izumi. After he won last year, Izumi went from busking on the street to opening on the national tour for The Lone Bellow and signing a contract with Sony Masterworks. Other winners have gone on to play world tours and festivals like Coachella and South By Southwest (See you there, Gaelynn Lea.) They've released amazing albums. (We can't wait to hear the new record from Tank and The Bangas.) One winner has even gone on to win two Grammys. (Congrats, Fantastic Negrito!)

Our winners aren't the only artists who entered the Contest who I've invited to play behind my Tiny Desk. Just last week, the Philadelphia band &More, who caught our eye with its Contest entry last year, came and performed a Tiny Desk concert. We love to feature entries in other ways, too. When we go on tour with the winner, we ask local artists who entered the Contest to join the bill and we write about entries we love on this blog. We're proud of the community you've built with us and we can't wait to see what's in store this year.

Got a song you want the world to hear? We want to hear it, too.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Musicians, prepare your YouTube channels. The Tiny Desk Contest is back. This is its fifth year. And in that time, they've received tens of thousands of entries from across the country and from every genre you can imagine, all of them auditioning for a chance at fame, a bit of fortune and a show at the desk that belongs to NPR Music's Bob Boilen, who joins me in the studio now. Welcome back, Bob.


CORNISH: All right. So a Tiny Desk Concert, for those of you who don't know, is when a musician comes to NPR's offices, and they play a show at your desk, and we put it up online. Now, what makes a good Tiny Desk Contest entry?

BOILEN: So we go through 6,000 or 7,000 videos, more maybe, and singularity is a thing, like, you see an artist and only that person can do that thing. That's when you know you have something special. So Gaelynn Lea was our winner in our second year of our contest.


GAELYNN LEA: (Singing) Our love's a complex vintage wine, all rotted leaves and lemon rind. I'd spit you out, but now you're mine.

BOILEN: When you listen to her voice and you listen to her violin playing, I've never heard anybody sing or play like that.

CORNISH: So it's not about where you perform. I've seen some of these videos, and sometimes people try and get gimmicky about doing the performance in a quirky place or doing something unusual.

BOILEN: Oh, (laughter) and I love those.

CORNISH: OK. You still like those.

BOILEN: But that's not the winner. We could well put a video of someone playing on a raft in an ocean playing a song. We might put it up online, but that doesn't make the winner, as does the quality of the video, or the quality of the sound doesn't matter. The talent shines through, and that's the most important thing.

CORNISH: So anything new this year?

BOILEN: Oh, the cool thing is that I'm really thrilled about is that we can open the contest to 18-year-olds. It used to be you had to be 21, so now 18, which makes me so happy because I go to shows all the time, meet really young people who say I want to enter, and this year, we're allowed to do that, so that's pretty cool.

CORNISH: Now, the winner gets a free trip to D.C. - right? - an appearance here at your desk where they will have their performance. What else do they get?

BOILEN: Their life changed (laughter) absolutely. You talk to every one of those winners, Fantastic Negrito, who won our first year, has won two Grammys.


FANTASTIC NEGRITO: (Singing) Good Lord, we travel and we travel trying to find it. We're just people, lonely people, you and I.

BOILEN: Tank and the Bangas are putting out an album on a major label this year - in fact, coming in May, just announced. It's a platform for these talents, and it completely rearranges their life. It's wonderful.

CORNISH: So you mentioned 18-year-olds can apply this year - right? - 18 and up. How do folks send their submissions?

BOILEN: First of all, you have to make a video of one song, an original song, behind a desk of your choosing. We're looking for artists that are unsigned, so the unknowns and the unsigns of the world. And they send their video to npr.org/tinydeskcontest. And you have till April 14 to figure out something great to send us. And, of course, most people will wait till April 14.


CORNISH: That's NPR Music's Bob Boilen. Bob, thanks for coming in.

BOILEN: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.