Time Is Running Out To Enter NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest
With the deadline for NPR's second ever Tiny Desk Contest looming just around the corner (February 2 to be exact) NPR's Ben Naddaff-Hafrey offered PledgeMusic some advice on what an entry needs to make it stand out from the crowd, and how competitive we can expect it to be.
Guest Post from PledgeMusic News
Every few days, we check to see if there’s a tiny new present from the good folks at NPR. We’re pretty sure you do, too. A new Tiny Desk concert from NPR Music usually arrives twice each week, showing us an often fun new side of some of our favorite artists while introducing us to new ones. Last year, NPR opened wide the gates for an unsigned musician or band to record their own official Tiny Desk show with the first ever Tiny Desk Contest. After thousands of entries, the judges choseFantastic Negrito, a man who went from busking in Oakland to playing major festivals in a single year.
The second ever Tiny Desk contest is open, and the deadline is looming soon on February 2. In an effort to find out more about the prize (and to highlight the fact that you need to apply soon!), NPR’s Ben Naddaff-Hafrey, who works with the Tiny Desk Contest community, recently spoke with us about what makes a video stand out from the others.
Just how competitive has the “Tiny Desk Contest”: been in the past?
This is only the second year of the Contest, so it’s early to say. By the end of last year, we’d received a few thousand entries from all 50 states. There is, of course, one winner, but we make sure we watch every entry so we can find the gems that we want to feature on our Tumblr, NPR Music social channels and even on follow-up Tiny Desks. Last year, Deqn Sue really stood out so we had to bring her to play. We think of this as a chance to bring together all the unsigned music makers in the country so they can see what everyone else is up to and get a shot at some national exposure, win or not. For us, it’s a great way to find incredibly talented artists that we might not see otherwise.
When you look back at last year’s winner, do you feel you can see tangible effects of the win itself?
Last year, a blues musician out of Oakland, Calif. called Fantastic Negrito won the Contest. Around the time he entered, Xavier (his real name) was a busker in Oakland. He and his friends shot their entry on an iPad in a freight elevator, and we were totally blown away by the group. Since winning, his EP went to No. 1 on the iTunes Blues charts. He’s played festival shows for thousands. He did it all on his own, but the team is glad to have played a role in giving him more exposure.
What comes to mind if I start the statement “A great Tiny Desk contest entry should have…”?
We’re looking for an artist with an unique talent. If you’re going to stand out, you need a spirited performance that will rise above. This isn’t about a cute video — though we like those, too. It’s about the songwriting and the individual expression.
Anything artists or bands should definitely avoid when preparing their video?
1. Make a new video of you or your act playing an original song at a desk (of any kind, really).
2. You get one song only. (We really do watch each of these, so we limit it to one.)
3. Everyone in your video should be 21 and over, and you should all be legal U.S. Residents.