NPR's 2019 Tiny Desk Contest Kicks Off

Fantastic Negrito NPR Tiny Desk 2015 Winner [photo courtesy: NPR]
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NPR's Tiny Desk concert series has more than 500 million views online a decade after its debut.

Starting today, anyone can submit his or her own music video for the annual Tiny Desk Contest. The winner will travel to NPR studios to record a Tiny Desk show.

NPR Music's Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson created the series back in 2008.

The idea hatched after the two attended a show at a loud, crowded bar in Austin, Texas, during the annual South by Southwest music conference.

NPR Music's Bob Boilen at his desk where the Tiny Desk concerts take place [photo: Meg Vogel/NPR]

"Bob and I were trying to see a singer named Laura Gibson, a very quiet singer-songwriter.  I leaned over to Bob and said, 'This is ridiculous. The next time she's in [Washington,] D.C. we should just have her perform at your desk,'" Thompson said.

The next time Gibson was in town she visited the NPR studios and the Tiny Desk concert series was born.

 Laura Gibson kicked off the Tiny Desk concert series in 2008. [Photo: Will Marsh/NPR]

Boilen soon realized that what makes a Tiny Desk concert special is what it's not.

"The lack of everything else that often gets in the way of music- the production, the lighting - it was just honest," Boilen said.

At first the series was intended for singer-songwriters who perform quieter music without big, light shows or stage fireworks.

But then, legendary Welsh singer and showbiz icon Tom Jones agreed to perform at the Tiny Desk.

Tom Jones performs for NPR's Tiny Desk concert series in 2009 [photo courtesy: NPR]

"That was when my mind started to shift to this as a performance space that was versatile. [Before that] I didn't think of it as a versatile space at all," Thompson said.

It didn't take long for Tiny Desk to gain a reputation as a place for major acts to perform. 

NPR Music's Stephen Thompson [photo: Allison Shelley/NPR]

Thompson said he knew the series was taking off in the right direction after one singer in particular performed.

"We had Adele come about a week before [her album] '21' came out," Thompson said.

Adele performs for NPR's Tiny Desk concert series in 2011 [photo courtesy: NPR]

Since 2014 NPR Music has hosted the annual Tiny Desk contest, which invites musicians that are unsigned to a major label to submit their own homemade music videos from a desk of their choosing.

Tank And The Bangas NPR Tiny Desk 2017 Winner [photo courtesy: NPR]

"The Tiny Desk is this perfect little platform for someone who is unknown.  To me one of the things that I try to do all the time is bring unknowns to the table," Boilen said.

The 2019 Tiny Desk Contest is open for entries

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