Every year, we ask unsigned artists to send us their songs. These artists invite us into their communities and spaces — their buildings and basements and backyards — and share the music they've been working so hard on. Getting to be among the first people to hear a great new song feels like being let in on the best secret. And through the Tiny Desk Contest, we get to share those coveted secrets with the world. We're thrilled to announce that the Tiny Desk Contest is back for 2021!

Since we started the Tiny Desk Contest in 2014, we've gotten to discover new music (and new desks) from tens of thousands of artists from across the country. Our winners have gone on to do remarkable things — winning Grammy awards, playing sold-out tours around the world and signing to major labels — and we can't wait to celebrate even more great music this year.

This year's panel of judges is phenomenal: Linda Diaz, our talented 2020 winner, will be part of our lineup — plus fellow extraordinary Tiny Desk alums Tobe Nwigwe and Phoebe Bridgers. Joining me from NPR Music is Tiny Desk producer Bobby Carter, and I'll also be joined by some friends from NPR Member stations: Jewly Hight, editorial director at WNXP in Nashville, and John Morrison, host of Culture Cypher Radio at WXPN in Philadelphia.

Here are a few reminders about how the Contest works:

  • We'll start accepting entries next Tuesday, May 11, at 10 a.m. ET.
  • Entries close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, June 7.
  • You must be an unsigned musician and at least 18 years old to enter.
  • To enter, record a video of yourself playing one original song at a desk (any desk will do!) and upload it to YouTube.
  • Enter by submitting your entry at npr.org/tinydeskcontest.
  • The winner will play their very own Tiny Desk concert.

And while there will only be one winner, we'll be sharing tons of standout entries on this blog, in our mashup videos and on social media. When the Contest has closed and our judges have picked their favorites, then we'll start Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf, a weekly livestreamed series where each judge will share their favorite entries on the NPR Music YouTube channel.

Speaking of virtual events: To kick off this year's Contest, we're bringing all six of our previous Contest winners together for the very first time. Next Tuesday, May 11, join us for Tiny Desk Contest Family Hour, where I'll talk with our past winners live on YouTube. The event will also feature performances from all the winners: Fantastic Negrito, Gaelynn Lea, Tank and the Bangas, Naia Izumi, Quinn Christopherson and Linda Diaz. We hope you'll join us and ask your questions in the YouTube live chat.

Big dreams have to start somewhere. Why not the Tiny Desk?

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