Tiny Desk Contest Our search for the next great undiscovered artist to play a Tiny Desk concert.
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Tiny Desk Contest

Our search for the next great undiscovered artist to play a Tiny Desk concert

Want to play a Tiny Desk concert? The 2024 Contest is now open for entries

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This year's winner will perform in front of the famous Tiny Desk bookshelves. NPR hide caption

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This year's winner will perform in front of the famous Tiny Desk bookshelves.

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NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest is back. As of this morning, artists can submit an entry for the opportunity to play their own Tiny Desk concert, go on tour with NPR Music — and more. This isn't just another regular year of the Contest — it's the 10th anniversary, and it's going all out.

First, the panel of judges — the folks who will ultimately decide who the winner is — has doubled in size compared to previous years. Joining Tiny Desk producers Bobby Carter and Robin Hilton are Tiny Desk alums Bobby Wooten, Durand Bernarr, Julien Baker, MUNA, NEFFY and NIKI. Each of these artists knows firsthand what it takes to perform an impressive set behind the Desk. The panel also has a crew of industry experts who are eager to see what this year's crop of up-and-coming musicians has to share — that's publicist Loren Medina, manager Brendan O'Connell, record label president Nabil Ayers and writer (and former WBGO host) Keanna Faircloth. And there's a mighty team of NPR Member station hosts on the panel: Amelia Mason of WBUR, Novena Carmel of KCRW and Stas THEE Boss of KEXP. Learn more about all the judges on the Tiny Desk Contest website.

Also new this year: Not only will the 2024 winner play a Tiny Desk concert, be interviewed on All Things Considered and go on tour with NPR Music — they'll also be paired with a mentor in the industry who will help them navigate their music journey. Our judges are determined to give this year's winner the support they'll need to take their music to the next level.

And for the first time this year, the Contest is introducing a fan favorite vote. Later this spring, Contest judges will share their favorite entries as part of the annual Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf series on YouTube — and then artists and fans will be able to cast a vote for their favorite among those selections.

And that tour we mentioned? The Contest is going bigger there, too. This year the Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour will visit: Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Seattle; Petaluma, Calif.; Atlanta; Austin; Chicago; Brooklyn; New Orleans; and Philadelphia. In most of these cities, Contest artists local to the area will open the show. The winner will also be featured at two festivals this summer: Celebrate Brooklyn and, for the first time, the Millennium Park Summer Music series in Chicago.

Here's how to enter:

  1. Record a video of you playing one original song — behind a desk.
  2. Upload your video to YouTube.
  3. Submit the video on our Tiny Desk Contest website by Feb. 21 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Questions? Artists can take this quick quiz to make sure they're eligible to win, plus check out Contest FAQs and official rules.

And a final reminder: Entry videos don't need to be fancy. The Tiny Desk is where artists go to strip down their big productions. Contest judges are looking for artists to submit something that's true to them and brand new to the Tiny Desk.

"I don't think it's caught up to me yet — how much my life has changed," says Emma Hardyman, singer of the 2023 Tiny Desk Contest-winning band Little Moon. The Utah-based band recently wrapped up the Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour, headlining eight sold-out shows across the country. While on the road, Hardyman caught up with NPR to reflect on the life-changing win and also share the story behind Little Moon's winning song, "Wonder Eye."

Hardyman tells NPR the song was written during the time her mother-in-law was in hospice care. The melody came to Hardyman as she and her husband Nathan Hardyman, who is also part of Little Moon, drove from Utah to Idaho to visit his mother.

During this difficult time, Emma and Nathan Hardyman were also in the process of leaving the Mormon church in which they had grown up.

"And pretty quickly, just because of the circumstances, I realized that this song, this melody, was about death," says Emma Hardyman, who wrote the structure of the song before asking Nathan Hardyman to write the lyrics.

The couple were also observing the disintegration of many of the building blocks their Mormon belief systems were built on. "I've grieved past versions of myself throughout my whole life," Emma Hardyman shares.

"I really love where Mormonism brought me," Emma Hardyman says. "It introduced me to teachings that are supposed to love everybody, that are supposed to incorporate everybody. [But] it couldn't follow me to how much I wanted to take [those teachings] seriously," she adds, noting that many of the Little Moon band members are queer. She says Mormonism didn't align with how she wants to treat people 'without conditions.'

Emma Hardyman also shares that she had many self-doubts about herself as an artist when she and Nathan Hardyman met — but that he believed in her from their very first date. And in "Wonder Eye," the two even find peace in not having all the answers. Emma sings: "Is there a knowledge that is found not in knowing?" as she's met with the warm hums of the band.

Crystal Rose came 'Mad' close to winning the Tiny Desk Contest

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Nashville-based artist Crystal Rose displays a lot of emotion in her 2023 Tiny Desk Contest entry, "Mad Black Woman." It's one of the things about her performance that most impressed Tiny Desk Contest judge Sharon Van Etten, who featured Rose's entry in an episode of Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf.

Rose — one of a handful of Contest artists whose stories we're sharing on Weekend Edition this summer — hasn't always felt like she could share those feelings.

"Being the only Black person in the [white] spaces I grew up in was difficult," Rose shares. "I noticed that I was different and it made me feel like I had to do more to be accepted ... I was always going to be noticed for anything I did."

Rose moved around a lot and says she didn't know how to release the pain she was feeling.

"There was a time when I was a very, very angry person," she says. "They labeled me impulsive. Being angry all the time as a kid really got me in a lot of places I didn't want to be."

But then, at age 13, she won a music competition and had the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at a local university — and music helped her find her power.

"I think that was the moment I told myself 'this is cool — this is something I want to do,'" she says. "Applause felt like validation."

Rose says it was cathartic to perform "Mad Black Woman," which "tells the story of how many times people will perceive us to be smaller than we are — when in reality, we are all dynamic, complicated and quite extraordinary."

She tells Weekend Edition that she appreciated being able to submit a video so that she could express herself. "I didn't want to just sit down and sing the song — I really wanted to feel everything I was singing," she shares.

"Keep your head up / Eyes front / Fall in line / Always play nice / Stay poised and loyal / Maybe I've grown tired of keeping it together," she sings in the entry. "For me to be able to talk about my life experiences as a Black woman ... it feels powerful to me because there was a point in time where I couldn't say that I wanted to be angry," she says.

"It's not just anger," she eventually realized. "It's power. It feels like I'm taking back my power."

Watch Kina Zore's literal jam session for the Tiny Desk Contest

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Members of Kina Zore, a Boston-based band led by Helder Tsinine, play some pretty unusual instruments in their 2023 Tiny Desk Contest submission, "Covid 19." In addition to Tsinine on guitar and Galen Willett on bass, you see band members playing pots and pans, pouring water and employing jars of jam, pickles and even protein powder as drums. The band's unique approach to making its song is part of what made it stand out to this year's Contest judges (including Sharon Van Etten, who included the entry in an episode of Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf). It's one of a handful of impressive entries Weekend Edition is featuring this summer.

Tsinine says the idea for the entry came naturally to the band members, who have been playing music together since 2009. "We were in the kitchen talking about submitting to the Contest and thought, 'we should just record it right here!'," he shares.

Sung in Tsinine's native language of Ronga, the song "Covid 19" reflects upon the everyday struggles many faced during lockdown, and also acknowledges that some were facing much bigger challenges, like war. He says he had the idea for the song while listening to NPR one day — he heard a reporter talking about numerous major conflicts throughout the world and it put his own lockdown experience into perspective. Tsinine says the song's refrain, "Sekelekane Mu Nyhima" means "please stand up and salute the doctors, teachers and soldiers who put their life on the line to help everyone in need."

Tsinine also shed light on the experiences and musical influences that shape his art. He grew up in Mozambique during the civil war and says he named the group Kina Zore in an effort to revive a forgotten traditional Mozambique dance by the same name. He didn't grow up with any instruments — he improvised with whatever he could find, much like his Contest entry video — but was fascinated by traditional African instruments and American rock musicians. Eventually he began playing guitar, and describes his musical style as a blend of those influences.

Announcing the winner of the 2023 Tiny Desk Contest

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NPR Music received nearly 6,000 entries to this year's Tiny Desk Contest, the annual search for the next great undiscovered artist to play a Tiny Desk concert. But one Springville, Utah, band rose to the top as its entry surprised the judges, moved them to tears and filled them with hope.

Today, we're thrilled to announce Little Moon is the winner of the 2023 Tiny Desk Contest.

This is Little Moon's fourth year entering the Contest, a real testament to never giving up. Little Moon's entries have impressed Contest judges since 2020, but this year, the band leveled up — and the judges noticed. Albina Cabrera of NPR Member station KEXP shared the band's winning entry, "Wonder Eye," as one of her favorites on Top Shelf last month, noting its powerful message and applauding singer Emma Hardyman's exceptional voice and the togetherness of the entire band. A few weeks later, when all the judges came together to decide on a winner, the decision to crown Little Moon was unanimous. "Emma's deceptively strong voice, and the band's ability to take the music to places completely unexpected, catapulted 'Wonder Eye' to the top of the heap of wonderful entries," said Tiny Desk series producer Bobby Carter. Singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten said Hardyman's vocal range was "out of this world." Series creator Bob Boilen shared: "The song is a dynamic and explosive tune with a deeply emotional story."

Emma Hardyman told us the song was written under heavy circumstances: Her mother-in-law was in hospice care, while she and her husband, bassist Nathan Hardyman, were in the process of leaving the Mormon church. "Mormonism believes in life after death, resurrection and eternal families," she said. "There is beauty and comfort in our former beliefs of certainty, light and life; we honor and respect such teachings. But we also find deep beauty in uncertainty, darkness, chaos and death. Perhaps it's all one and the same."

She added: "Perhaps this song was written because we realized we have been mourning various deaths our whole lives. ... Perhaps it took a major, physical death of a loved one to see that death is happening all the time — that we are always grieving something, that accepting the mysterious, shadowy nature of death can deepen one's sense of humanity and soften the ways we see ourselves and each other." You can hear more from Hardyman this afternoon, when she'll do her first NPR interview as the Contest winner on All Things Considered.

Soon, Little Moon — Emma and Nathan Hardyman, plus keys player Bly Wallentine, harpist Bridget Jackson, drummer Chris Shemwell and electric guitarist Grace Johnson — will play a Tiny Desk concert at NPR's Washington, D.C., headquarters. And in June, the band will headline the annual Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour, playing alongside local Contest entrants (soon to be announced) across the country. You can get tickets for the tour at NPRPresents.org.

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We're getting very close to announcing this year's Tiny Desk Contest winner. Ahead of the big reveal, Contest judge and Tiny Desk alum Sharon Van Etten joined series creator Bob Boilen on the fourth episode of Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf to share her favorite entries — and some advice for this year's winner.

Van Etten's selections feature artists whose music both moved her to tears and filled her with joy. She applauded the entrants for owning their vulnerability and spoke to the healing power of songwriting. She also appreciated the stripped-down nature of these entries — which is what Tiny Desk is all about.

Entries featured in the fourth episode of Top Shelf include:

You can watch previous Top Shelf episodes in this YouTube playlist. Boilen will host one final episode for the season with our Tiny Desk Contest winner soon. Subscribe to the Tiny Desk Contest newsletter for updates.

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On the latest episode of Top Shelf — a series on NPR Music's YouTube channel highlighting the best entries from the Tiny Desk Contest — Contest judges Sudan Archives and Baby Rose shared their top picks. Having both performed Tiny Desk concerts in early 2020, these Tiny Desk alums know exactly what it takes to make a performance shine. Their Top Shelf selections included artists with impressive musicality, direction and breath control — plus songs about mental health challenges and songs "entrants poured their souls into."

Brimming with enthusiasm for these up-and-coming artists, the judges highlighted the following entries in episode 3:

Next week, singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten will share her favorite entries with Tiny Desk series creator Bob Boilen. You can set a reminder for the fourth episode of Top Shelf here.

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This year's Tiny Desk Contest judges will select a winner soon from the nearly 6,000 entries we received — but before they do, they're each sharing their favorites live on YouTube as part of our annual Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf series. In the second episode, Albina Cabrera – Latin American Content producer & host of El Sonido at NPR Member station KEXP – shared her top picks with Tiny Desk series producer Bobby Carter.

Albina shared eight genre-defying entries that included artists singing in multiple languages and often about various forms of liberation, and applauded them for having the courage to enter the Contest. "It's very hard for independent artists to put together a session, to apply and submit their music — it's a very complex process," Albina said.

"I love Top Shelf so much because it's exposure," Bobby added. "The difference between succeeding and no one hearing it is exposure. And this gets those artists that much closer to having a career, to be doing what they love."

Entries featured in the second episode of Top Shelf include:

You can subscribe to the Tiny Desk Contest newsletter to be reminded before the next episode of Top Shelf, in which Tiny Desk alums Baby Rose and Sudan Archives will share their favorite entries with Carter.

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There's a lot we could say about how vast, creative and talented the 2023 Tiny Desk Contest community is — but today, we thought we'd show you instead. With entries filmed in deserts and on mountains, in basements and bedrooms, alongside four-legged friends and more, this supercut video features many of the nearly 6,000 entries we received this year. It's soundtracked by standout artists Buggy Jive, Jovan Landry and Mr. Reed.

To watch all these entries in their entirety, check out the Tiny Desk Contest website. And to be among the first to know when we reveal this year's Contest winner – the lucky entrant who will get to play their own Tiny Desk concert and go on tour with NPR Music – subscribe to the Contest newsletter.

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Our ninth annual Tiny Desk Contest brought us nearly 6,000 new artists to discover. (The deadline was March 13, so if you missed it, there's always next year.) Before we reveal this year's winner — a lucky musician or band that will get to play their very own Tiny Desk concert and go on tour with NPR Music this summer — Tiny Desk Contest judges are sharing their favorite entries as part of a livestream YouTube series called Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf.

Tiny Desk series creator Bob Boilen and series producer Bobby Carter kicked things off today, sharing an impressive, eclectic selection of entries from a ton of new artists across the country. "We need more energy at the Tiny Desk," Carter said during the episode. "And I'm feeling that energy 100% [with these entries]."

Featured entries included:

Top Shelf episodes stream on Thursdays at 3 p.m. ET on NPR Music's YouTube channel. You can set your reminder here for future episodes with Tiny Desk alums Baby Rose, Sudan Archives and Sharon Van Etten, plus KEXP's Albina Cabrera. Join us to discover great new artists, support one another in the live chat, and find out which entries are rising to the top.

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Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.

Pairs well with: Rocking chairs, western wear

It's hard not to root for someone wearing a light-up cowboy hat. Thankfully Madeleine Kelson and Evan Phillips easily justify this impulse with a moving country ballad about the beauty and mundanity of queer love. Kelson's voice is rich and warm as she croons: "Call me a sinner, and I'll call you a fool / Damn me to hell and I'll break you the news / If I don't get to heaven for loving her true, / God has never loved a woman the way I do." Trading boomboxes under windows for grocery store flowers, "The Way I Do" stands out as a testament to a steadier love that grows stronger year after year, and to that, I say yeehaw and amen.

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Hometown: New York, N.Y.

Pairs well with: Penning a love letter to your flirty Trader Joe's cashier; Perfume Genius' Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

Sometimes a song pulls you in with an incredible title, an intriguing first line or an artist's potent emotion. This Tiny Desk Contest entry, "I had gay sex with god (it could've gone better)" by New York artist Juno Lev, does all three. "I saw god in a Trader Joe's / buying organic blueberries / prettiest man I'd ever seen," they begin. Throughout the song, Lev chronicles their love affair with a god who once kissed them in a grocery store parking lot but no longer returns their calls. The desperation in their voice builds over a gentle piano, but their faith doesn't waiver as they beg, "Mom, please don't get upset / cause now I'll be immortalized."

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Hometown: Bellevue, Wash.

Pairs well with: A cabin trip with a fire pit for roasting marshmallows and deep talks; healing

Washington singer-songwriter Dalaine's 2023 Contest entry is an ode to the power of healing. Dalaine warms the room with her gentle but striking voice: " 'Cause I've done the battle and the warring with myself / When I'm back in the saddle you know I'll be gunning for more," she sings. The song itself is going through an uphill battle as it starts off slow and melodic but rises in volume and power halfway through as the strings get louder, the drums beat harder and Dalaine dominates the room with her passionate vocals.

Alisa Amador performs on the Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour Farah Sosa/NPR hide caption

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Alisa Amador performs on the Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour

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We recently reached out to our 2022 Contest winner, Alisa Amador, about writing for the Tiny Desk Contest newsletter. She wrote about how the Contest changed her life and her advice to the Tiny Desk Contest community:

Hi. I'm Alisa (ah-LEE-sah). I won the Contest last year, and I never, ever imagined I would. Not because I don't believe in my art (although I'm sure I'm not alone when I say, sometimes it's freakin' hard to believe in yourself!), but because I never entered the Contest for the purpose of winning. I entered every year for five years because it always introduced me to fantastic artists. It reminded me that I actually wasn't alone — as much as it can seem so when you're an independent musician. There were thousands of other independent artists all over the country, sending in their original music, too.

Since winning the Contest in May 2022, I have toured all over the country, sharing the stage with some of the people I admire most, like Lake Street Dive, Madison Cunningham and Sammy Rae & the Friends; felt overwhelming joy as one of my biggest inspirations, Puerto Rican songwriter iLe, talked about my music on NPR; and played my first tour in the U.K. and Europe. (Also, I just found out that my next show in London is sold out, so I've had to add another show!)

All of this sounds very impressive but, what means the most to me in this new chapter of being a working musician is the community — is how not alone I feel. I really want people to know that the Tiny Desk Contest is a window into a whole community, and that it's the people who make the real difference. I want you to participate in this Contest because it will change your life, even if only in a small, but still significant way. Believing in your art enough to press "send" on the application: That changes your life. When you meet a new friend and source of inspiration through the Contest: That changes your life. When you realize you're not alone in this isolating industry: That changes your life.

I am so deeply grateful for the gifts the Contest has given me — before and after I won. I am about to go on tour throughout the U.S. with Emily Scott Robinson and Violet Bell. I have an amazing team that I trust. I am learning how to take care of myself, believe in myself and fight for a healthier music industry culture.

I've never liked the word "Contest." So, instead of calling it "entering the Contest," let's call it "entering the community." I invite you to enter the Tiny Desk community. Discover artists who inspire you. They might become some of your best friends (that's what happened to me with Cricket Blue, Hayley Sabella and Kaiti Jones). And remember that you are not alone. You are not alone.

Also, music is fun! I'd forgotten that for a while. I'm so grateful to be remembering it now.

The Tiny Desk Contest helped take Amador's music and career to the next level. Could you be next? Enter the Contest at npr.org/tinydeskcontest by March 13 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

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Hometown: San Diego, Calif.

Pairs well with: Watching a pastel-colored sunset through an airplane window; new life

I didn't think the music of four-time Contest entrant Jesus Gonzalez could sound even more heavenly — but I was glad to be proven wrong by his 2023 entry, "Forever." Gonzalez's falsetto seems to float over the waltzing harp played by Kalendula Rose and violin played by Jamie Shadowlight. The result sounds like Bon Iver meets Tchaikovsky. And the San Diego-based artist's entry video looks as gorgeous as it sounds: Warm sunlight sprinkles across the room, creating shimmering rainbows on the harp; the instrumentalists' flowing dresses match the room's lace curtains. Gonzalez serves as a pillar in the center of it all, singing, "Let me be the one who delivers the heavens at your door."

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Hometown: Springville, Utah

Pairs well with: Staring at a fire and pondering existential questions

"This song is about death :P" Little Moon describes its entry with a playful dissonance that immediately pulls you in. Submitted on opening day, "Wonder Eye" marks the group's confident return to the Tiny Desk Contest, and it's thrilling to see such an assured entry right out of the gate. Staged in a dark red room sprinkled with lit candles, lead singer Emma Hardyman sits on the floor while the rest of the group surrounds her in opposing colors. "Wonder Eye" starts with Hardyman's angelic voice floating above a delicately plucked guitar, but just as you're starting to get comfortable, a sudden shift introduces a heavy guitar, drum and bassline, juxtaposed with dreamy harp and synth keyboard. "Is it a tale that we make true in the telling? / Is there a knowledge that is found not in knowing?" Nathan Hardyman sings, in lyrics that capture the musical contrast. Little Moon explores these clashing questions with harmony and intention. For a song about death, "Wonder Eye" is full of life.

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The 2023 Tiny Desk Contest, our annual search for the next great undiscovered artist to play a Tiny Desk concert, opened for entries at 10 a.m. ET today — and musician Karen Bridges submitted her entry at a cool 10:01. The Bloomington, Ill., singer-songwriter performs her ballad "Break Me Down" while playing a piano (beside a desk) in a dimly lit studio.

"I'm not gonna let you break me / I'm not gonna let you break me down," Bridges repeats, her stunning voice radiating throughout the space with each repetition. She told us the song "was born out of the struggles of being a woman making music in a small midwestern town."

Bridges has now entered the Contest three times, so she certainly knows what she's doing on the video production side — but newcomers, don't let her sharp multi-camera setup discourage you from entering. Our judges, a mix of Tiny Desk producers and artists who have already played the Tiny Desk, will be selecting a winner based on who has the best song. Recording an entry on your iPhone, at your kitchen table, is perfectly fine.

The Contest will be open until March 13 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Unsigned artists who are 18 years or older and living in the 50 United States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico or U.S.V.I. can submit their entries at npr.org/tinydeskcontest. And we'll be featuring more standout entries over the next few months here on the Contest blog, so stay tuned.

Want to play your own Tiny Desk concert? The 2023 Contest is now open for entries

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The bric-a-brac-stacked shelves of the Tiny Desk. NPR hide caption

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The bric-a-brac-stacked shelves of the Tiny Desk.

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The Tiny Desk Contest, NPR Music's annual search for the next great undiscovered artist, is back!

First, let's meet this year's esteemed panel. Returning judges Bob Boilen (Tiny Desk series creator and All Songs Considered host) and Bobby Carter (Tiny Desk series producer) will be joined by five new experts: The inimitable Sharon Van Etten, who performed behind the original Tiny Desk in 2010 and then played again at today's Tiny Desk; Baby Rose, who graced the Desk with her incredible voice in early 2020; fellow Tiny Desk alum Sudan Archives, a gifted singer and violinist whose sound pulls from R&B, hip-hop and experimental electronic music and, last but not least, Albina Cabrera of KEXP, a champion of independent musicians and Latin American music. Each of these judges has an ear for exceptional talent, is passionate about up-and-coming artists and knows exactly what it takes to perform behind the Tiny Desk.

Are you an unsigned artist 18 years or older? Here's how to enter:

  1. Record a video of you playing one original song behind a desk.
  2. Upload your video to YouTube.
  3. Submit your video at npr.org/tinydeskcontest before the Contest closes on March 13 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

The winner will play a Tiny Desk concert, be interviewed on All Things Considered and headline our Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour. But even if you don't win, there are tons of ways you might benefit from entering – first, you join a supportive community of creatives from across the country. You also have a ton of opportunities to be featured by NPR Music over the next few months – we'll be sharing standout entries on the Contest blog, on NPR Music's social channels, on YouTube as part of our annual Top Shelf series and more.

We're also expanding our Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour this summer. After this year's winner plays their Tiny Desk concert, they'll hit the road to play shows alongside other entrants in Los Angeles, Oakland, Houston, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

Questions? We recommend first completing this quick checklist to make sure your video is eligible to win. You could also check out our FAQs, or if you're feeling ambitious, the official Contest rules.

One last, important thing to keep in mind: Your video doesn't need to be fancy. The Tiny Desk was born as a DIY project and is a space where artists perform stripped-down sets. While some of our winners had ambitious entry videos, most filmed theirs while simply sitting at their regular old desks in their bedrooms and basements. Our judges are looking for artists with a story to tell, a new perspective to share and a singular talent. Show us what you've got.

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Xavier Dphrepaulezz, who performs as Fantastic Negrito, has always wanted to "tell the stories that will make us think; the ones that will make us grow." He entered the first-ever Tiny Desk Contest in 2015 with that dream and a video he shot in one take. And after winning, Dphrepaulezz slowly began to realize how it would change his life — that there would "be a huge spotlight put on" what he was doing, he says. "It was going to be like busking on the streets — on steroids," he laughs.

Since winning the inaugural Contest, Dphrepaulezz has gone on to headline world tours, win three Grammy Awards, release a handful of albums and become a catalyst for creativity in his local Oakland community. NPR Music recently caught up with him while on tour for his latest studio album, White Jesus Black Problems.

Dphrepaulezz says the album was inspired by his desire to tell the story of his seventh-generation grandparents, an interracial couple who lived in Virginia in the 1950s. "It was a story of courage, a story of perseverance, a story of inspiration and a story of good old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-something-done," he shares.

One thing that has remained the same since winning the Contest all those years ago: his humility. "I have an attitude of gratitude," says the multi-Grammy Award winner. "I don't expect anything."

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"This feels like a moment where I'm restarting, in a way ... a career that I've worked so hard at for so long," says 2022 Tiny Desk Contest winner Alisa Amador, reflecting on what was likely one of the craziest months of her life.

Just a few days after finding out she won this year's Contest, Amador flew from her Boston home to Washington, D.C. for her Tiny Desk concert – the first show at my Desk with an audience in over 2 years. The day after that performance Amador hit the road, headlining our month-long, cross-country Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour.

NPR's video team recently caught up with Amador in Brooklyn at our final tour stop to hear how her life has changed – from the first time she entered the Contest, 6 years ago, to finding out her 2022 entry, "Milonga accidental," rose to the top of the thousands we received. This is her journey.

Retro soul shines in Micah Edwards' Tiny Desk Contest entry 'Jean Leon'

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A Houston store decorated with an old Pac-Man arcade game and a vintage typewriter sets the scene for Micah Edwards' Tiny Desk Contest entry, "Jean Leon" — and Edwards and his eight band members fill the space with a retro Texas soul sound to match. His upbeat sound and sentimental lyrics are part of what made his entry stand out to this year's Tiny Desk Contest judges (including Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner, who highlighted the entry in the Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf series) – it's one of a handful of impressive entries Weekend Edition is featuring this month.

Edwards says he wrote the song, which is the title track of his debut record, about weighing some heavy relationship decisions. "On the surface, it sounds like a summer bop," he tells Weekend Edition's Ayesha Rascoe. "But when you look into the lyrics a little bit," he adds with a laugh, "you're like, 'Ooh man, maybe I should be crying!' " When he wrote the song, his parents were going through a divorce. "It's really me singing to my parents' marriage and the expectations I had for myself as a husband and a father," he says.

Edwards takes influence from 1970s Texas soul artists, but also drew on many different sounds in crafting his album. "What I'm trying to create is a blend of that retro vibe with country and Americana," he explains — to "create that's uniquely my own and I could really be proud of," he says.

Family and faith are two major themes in his music, and Edwards says spirituality plays an important role in his creative process. "I was able to use songwriting as a way to process pain and frustration and confusion and grief and loss," he explains. "Spirituality and my faith was the only way I got through the past few years." He says he uses music to process baggage from the family he grew up with and to guide the family he's building now. "I took it to Jesus and he just so happened to give me melodies back," says Edwards. "I know this [album] is gonna be a time capsule because the Lord has more for us, more for my family, more for me. We're gonna grow through this," he adds.

He knows everyone who listens to the album won't have the same experiences with faith that he has, but there's a message he wants all listeners to know: "The lies we hear about ourselves are so wrong – whether it's family or your boss or society telling you who you are or this is where you're gonna be. All of that's just noise. The only person that can define where you're headed is you."


Web adaptation by Elle Mannion. You can head here to read, listen and watch more from the 2022 Tiny Desk Contest.

A rock climber takes the Tiny Desk Contest to new heights

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Lillian Frances' Tiny Desk Contest entry is off the wall – literally. The Sacramento-based artist, who describes herself as a "sonic collager" with an "alt-pop style," filmed her entry video from a portaledge on the side of a cliff in Lake Tahoe. Her striking video – which shows her climbing up the mountain, setting up on the cliff and sporting tiny-desk jewelry – stood out among (or above, you might say) the thousands of entries NPR Music received for this year's Contest.

Rock climbing and music are Frances' two passions, so she decided to do both at the same time. "It just hit me one day!" she tells Weekend Edition's Scott Simon. "Like, oh duh, portaledge concert, obviously." Frances' idea was ambitious, but she was up for the challenge. "After a lot of planning (finding someone with a portaledge, tracking down climbing videographers, finding the right crag, setting up a totally portable music set) and a whole lot of optimism, we finally set out to accomplish this goal," she shares.

Her song "Gravestone Feel," took on a new meaning when she performed it for her Contest entry. It's about "trying to live life to the absolute fullest, take on adventure and do things you've never done before," she says. "So in a lot of ways, this was the perfect song to sing hanging off a cliff."

Frances says she's not drawn to a particular genre, but makes her creative decisions "based on experimenting, and then just selecting the little pieces that stoke me out," like the electronic beats that elegantly contrast the natural world surrounding her in the video. "I love the synthesis of natural and organic and synthesized," she says. "That's kind of what music is to me and what life is to me."


Web adaptation by Elle Mannion. You can head here to read, listen and watch more from the 2022 Tiny Desk Contest.