May 4, 2021, Washington, D.C. — The opportunity to make your dream to perform at the iconic Tiny Desk come true is here: NPR wants to hear from you! The Tiny Desk Contest is back and it will be more fun than ever before with brand-new virtual events including the Tiny Desk Contest Family Hour, a Tiny Desk Trivia Night and the return of the Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf video series.
“If you’re a musician, you want to be heard; this is a unique chance to make that happen,” said Bob Boilen, creator of the Tiny Desk series. “We watch every entry and share the winner and also the many amazing talents in bedrooms, basements, and clubs all across this creative culture. It’s a perfect time to gather friends and share one song that you’re proud of.”
Over the past six years, nearly 30,000 musicians from across all 50 states have submitted their videos to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in the hopes of being chosen to perform as part of NPR Music’s signature music discovery series. Now, NPR is once again calling for unsigned bands and musicians to submit their entries at NPR.org/tinydeskcontest, starting May 11 at 10 a.m. ET and closing at midnight ET on Monday, June 7.
This year’s panel of judges includes 2020 Contest Winner Linda Diaz, along with NPR Music’s Bob Boilen and Bobby Carter; rising stars and Tiny Desk concert performers Tobe Nwigwe and Phoebe Bridgers, 2021 Grammy nominee for Best New Artist ; NPR Music contributor and Editorial Director at WNXP in Nashville Jewly Hight and John Morrison, host of Culture Cypher Radio at WXPN in Philadelphia.
The 2021 Tiny Desk Contest winner will be invited to perform a Tiny Desk concert and will appear on NPR’s All Things Considered. The Tiny Desk has been vacant throughout the pandemic, but the winner will have the opportunity to perform at Bob Boilen’s desk once it is safe to do so. Though there can only be one yearly grand prize winner, submitting artists benefit from joining the Tiny Desk Contest community — whether they’re featured on NPR Music’s All Songs Considered blog, in a Tiny Desk supercut video, on NPR’s news magazines, or in the Tiny Desk Contest newsletter.
“Winning the Tiny Desk Contest last year was such an honor as a songwriter and as a performer. Looking back on the year, the best part has been the connections I’ve made – with fans, peers, with my growing team. With the Contest win came an NPR Music-sized audience, which was a big change for me. It was also a welcome reminder that there are so many people out there who will love your music if only they get a chance to listen,” said Linda Diaz. “If you’re thinking about applying this year, you should! I definitely hit a few bumps in the road putting together my submission, but I’m glad I didn’t let the process get the better of me. Focus on the music/the message and do what you can with what you’ve got. Even if you don’t win, submitting is a really great opportunity to give people a chance to listen.”
To enter NPR Music’s 2021 Tiny Desk Contest, unsigned musicians must play one original song at a desk (any desk — free range to be creative here!), upload a video of the performance to YouTube and submit with a completed entry form at NPR.org/tinydeskcontest. NPR Music welcomes music from all genres and entrants from previous years with new material. Artists must be at least 18 years old and live in the 50 United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands or the District of Columbia to enter. Please see complete rules for entry.
On Tuesday, May 11, to kick off this year’s Contest, NPR Music is bringing together, for the first time ever, all six previous Tiny Desk Contest winners for a special Tiny Desk Contest Family Hour, including three-time Grammy winner Fantastic Negrito and 2019 Best New Artist Grammy nominee Tank and the Bangas. NPR Music’s Bob Boilen and Bobby Carter will co-host a live virtual event that features performances from each winner and conversation with past winners, getting the public excited for and asking questions about the seventh year of the Contest.
NPR Music will also host their first-ever Tiny Desk Trivia Night, a fun game night event for Tiny Desk superfans and music lovers of all genres.
Returning for a second year is the popular Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf weekly livestream video series, highlighting some of the best entries to this year’s Contest. Part interview and part listening party, the series will put a spotlight on the many Contest entries that stood out to Bob Boilen and the other 2021 Contest judges. The second season of Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf will premiere later this summer.
We’re proud to announce State Farm® is the exclusive sponsor of this year’s NPR Music Tiny Desk Contest and Top Shelf.
Since the launch of the Tiny Desk concert series in 2008, more than 1000 performances have been recorded at the Tiny Desk — Bob Boilen’s festive workspace at NPR headquarters — which is adorned with years of music mementos and memorabilia. Tiny Desk concerts attract 16.5 million viewers each month and unify a passionate community around the love of music discovery. The series has provided a unique stage for artists from across the genre spectrum and at every phase of their careers, including performances by Megan Thee Stallion, Taylor Swift, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Freddie Gibbs, iLe, Toro y Moi, Sesame Street and more. This year NPR Music has been producing Tiny Desk (home) concerts; the latest iteration of Tiny Desk concerts in response to ongoing social-distancing measures. The series curates performances from around the world, with the same Tiny Desk spirit — stripped-down sets in an intimate setting — just in a different space. The series has provided a unique insight into the creative space of artists across genres, including recent performances by Lenny Kravitz, Roddy Ricch, Dirty Projectors, BEAM, Little Dragon, Soccer Mommy, Lianne La Havas, Baby Rose and more.
About NPR Music: For more than a decade, NPR Music’s robust music journalism has engaged millions of music fans from all genres with feature stories, live performances, cultural analysis and interviews. Projects include the Tiny Desk concert series, Turning the Tables, the podcasts All Songs Considered, Alt Latino, and Louder Than a Riot; and Jazz Night in America. NPR Music collaborates with NPR’s news magazines, public radio Member stations and the passionate listener community to celebrate exceptional music and discover emerging artists. VisitNPRMusic.org and connect with NPR Music on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Isabel Lara, NPR Media Relations