The Tiny Desk Contest Is Back!

· Dec. 13, 2016, 4:06 pm

Sometimes small ideas can have a big impact, and our Tiny Desk Contesthas had a major impact on unknown artists. The first year we ran the Contest, we thought we’d watch a few fun videos of bands playing original songs and call it a day. That small idea turned into thousands of videos from musicians in every state in the country, a national tour, two winning artists and two years of pure music-discovery joy.

I’m asking you to join me once again. Let’s have another Tiny Desk Contest to find that one magic musical act to play their very own Tiny Desk concert — and, in the process, to discover a host of talent around this wonderful country.

Here’s how you enter:

  • Make a video of yourself performing an original song behind a desk of your choosing. Gather your friends and grab a smartphone (if you think like last year’s winner, Gaelynn Lea) or an iPad (if you’re like our inaugural winner, the now-Grammy-nominated Fantastic Negrito) or a full-on camera rig (if you’re, oh, say, Cactus Tractor). Shoot it however you like. What matters is the music, and that you have as much fun as possible bringing this together.
  • We’ll take submissions between Jan. 13 and Jan. 29, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. ET! We’re giving you a whole month to get started on your entry video. You can use the time however you like — make an elaborate set for your video, write a new song, start a new band, learn a new instrument or learn how to play several instruments all at once.

The winner of the Contest will come play a Tiny Desk concert behind my desk here at NPR (watch Gaelynn Lea‘s and Fantastic Negrito‘s if you want proof). Then, they’ll go on a fully-funded tour of the United States with NPR Music and our sponsor, Lagunitas Brewing Company.

We have a wonderful line-up of judges this year. Pop singer BANKS, R&B and gospel singer Anthony Hamilton, R&B crooner Miguel, jam-band legend Trey Anastasio of Phish and guitar-shredder (and glitter-wearer) Ben Hopkins of glam-punk band PWR BTTM have all played their own Tiny Desk concerts, so they’re ready to watch your videos to find that winner. We’re rounding out the judging panel with Talia Schlanger of WXPN‘s World Cafe; Rita Houston of WFUV; Stas THEE Boss of KEXP; Robin Hilton, my co-host on All Songs Considered; and me, Bob Boilen. As we watch the videos (and believe me, our team watches every single one), they’ll appear on our website for fans to see.

There’s only one winner in the Contest, but we’ve discovered that so much happens to the artists making these videos. We post the thrilling ones and the interesting ones on our Tumblr; we call them out in our weekly newsletter; we feature some of them on All Songs Considered; we have them play at local shows on our tour. Several Tiny Desk Contest entrants have even played their own Tiny Desk concerts even though they didn’t win (looking at you, River WhylessValley Queen and Deqn Sue). This is a chance for the national music community to come together and lift one another up.

So, here we are again. Let’s make music together.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

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