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The 2024 Tiny Desk Contest is here

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

NPR's Tiny Desk has become synonymous with viral performances by the likes of Usher and Juvenile. But at the core of the popular concert series recorded right here at NPR headquarters is a passion for discovering new artists, the next big household name. In that spirit, today NPR music launched the 10th edition of its Tiny Desk Contest. The annual search for the best unsigned musicians will result in one winner, who will get to play a Tiny Desk concert of their very own, as well as headline a 10-city tour and - hey - even appear on this show.

LITTLE MOON: (Singing) To where we are and where we'll go...

SUMMERS: That is a clip of last year's winner, the Utah indie rock band Little Moon. We now welcome back Tiny Desk series producer Bobby Carter. Bobby, welcome back. I mean, it feels like you and I were just having this conversation about last year's contest.

BOBBY CARTER, BYLINE: You know, time flies when you're changing lives with the Tiny Desk, right?

SUMMERS: Exactly. So, Bobby, for people who may not be as familiar, give us a little background on the Tiny Desk Contest.

CARTER: Well, yeah. I'm excited. I'm thrilled this year for the contest. For those who don't know, the Tiny Desk Contest is NPR's annual search for the next great, undiscovered artists. And like I said before, this contest changes lives. You know, past winners have gone on to play world tours, play Coachella, compose and write for Broadway. Our very first Tiny Desk Contest winner, Fantastic Negrito, has won three Grammys.

FANTASTIC NEGRITO: (Singing) I know that neither one of us - no, neither one of us can survive.

CARTER: And 2017's winner Tank and the Bangas - they were nominated for best new artist.

TANK AND THE BANGAS: (Singing) You, you - I say now you look like a loop. A what? You look like a loop. A what, girl? You don't understand me? I don't understand what you're saying. I said - I said you look like a loop, like a hula hoop. Oh, like a hula hoop.

CARTER: But also, just know if you're entering the contest, if you don't win, there's still opportunity to get a bit of that spotlight. We've had past Tiny Desk Contest contestants come back and play the Tiny Desk anyway. So please enter because there are so many benefits.

SUMMERS: All right, 10 editions of the Tiny Desk Contest - that is a long history. So tell us what's new this year?

CARTER: You hear bigger and better all the time, but we are really putting it into action this year. We're bigger and better. We're expanding our support for the artists. You know, I've had conversations with past winners, and we're finding ways to do more for the artists once they win. So, as always, we include Tiny Desk alumni who have played the Tiny Desk before as part of our judging panel. So that's no different. This year we have Julien Baker, who has played before, MUNA, Durand Bernarr. So we have all - you know, we got the alumni covered.

But we're expanding the panel this year to include music industry leaders - folks who know a star when they see one, who can help guide them along. Also, in addition to headlining the national tour, this year's winner will be paired with a mentor to help them navigate this crazy music industry. Last but not least, we're including the Tiny Desk audience in the voting process this year, so we will be crowning a fan favorite this spring.

SUMMERS: All right, sounds like this is a good one for people to enter. How do they do that?

CARTER: Yes. You go to npr.org/tinydeskcontest. Send us your video of you playing an original song. There must be a desk in the video.

SUMMERS: Of course.

CARTER: Don't forget that desk. Your entry window closes on February 21. The judges are looking for something singular - any genre, any style. Be great.

SUMMERS: All right, Bobby. I know you stay busy. I look forward to meeting the winner. When is that going to be announced?

CARTER: Well, we're going to go into a room, and we're going to duke it out for a few rounds of judging, and we will announce the winner later this spring.

SUMMERS: All right. NPR's Bobby Carter. Thank you, and come back soon.

CARTER: Thank you, Juana.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MILONGA ACCIDENTAL")

ALISA AMADOR: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Bobby Carter
Bobby Carter is a leader on the Tiny Desk Concerts team for NPR Music. He's brought an ever growing roster of big names and emerging artists through NPR's HQ to squeeze behind the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen and record standout performances, including Usher, Mac Miller, Noname, Anderson.Paak and H.E.R.