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SoundCheck: Local musicians are encouraged to enter the NPR Tiny Desk Contest 2022

Tiny Desk Contest 2022

The NPR Tiny Desk Contest is in full swing and KSMU is encouraging all unsigned musicians in our listening area to enter.

KSMU team member Melissa Rea says musicians don't need a lot of high-tech equipment to enter the contest.

“All you need to do is record a video of you performing one original song and make sure you include a desk in that video,” said Rea. “And then you upload that video to YouTube."

To enter, musicians must be at least 18 years old and be an unsigned artist.

"Before you enter, we actually suggest running through a quick eligibility quiz on the contest website and that will tell you if your entry is following all the rules. You can submit your entry on the contest website through March 14," said Rea.

The winner will play a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR’s headquarters and headline the Tiny Desk Contest On The Road Tour.
For more details on the rules of the contest, visit — or you can click on the link from on our homepage,

Local musician Betsey Mae Graves entered the contest in 2020 with a video of her song “Love Note.”

“It actually is a really easy process and maybe I’m coming from that in a biased way because I have a husband, Chad Graves, who is very adept in all of that technology,” said Graves. “We didn’t have to get too elaborate with how we recorded it. We used my iPhone to get the video. I believe he used a separate recorder to get our audio. Kept it pretty simple.”

The nice thing about the Tiny Desk Contest is that if you have the equipment to make more advanced recordings, that’s great—but you can also just totally use the video and audio from your phone, which is what many musicians end up doing.

Musicians should feel free to get creative with the visuals. For Graves's video of “Love Note,” she started out writing at a desk—you know, that really important thing that’s in your video—with her husband, Chad, playing bass. As the song moves along, they do a seamless switch where Betsey takes over the bass and Chad moves to Dobro.

Betsey Mae Graves has some advice for musicians thinking about entering the Tiny Desk Contest.

“Just do it. It is the perfect way to get your music out there on a nationally recognized platform with thousands of artists from everywhere. It’s just an amazing experience to get to be a part of that, whether you win or not. Even if you don’t win, it shows that you have ambition. That you are motivated to put your music out there,” Graves said.

In 2018, KSMU's Jess Balisle spoke with NPR Music’s Bob Boilen about the contest.

“Have a good time with it. Because that’s sort of the most important, that the odds of you winning might not be great, but you also will do something and mark a time in your art and your place in your songwriting that’s important, and that’s cool, but also you want to get eyeballs and earballs, so to speak, on your music that you never would have if you sat home and didn’t film this thing. So, there’s nothing to lose and sort of everything to win," Boilen said.

All local musicians who enter the NPR Tiny Desk Contest this year will be entered for a chance to play a showcase at Tie & Timber Beer Co. this summer.

Jessica Gray Balisle, a Springfield native, grew up listening to KSMU. When she's not wrangling operations and compliance issues, she co-hosts live music show Studio Live and produces arts and culture stories. Jessica plays bass in local band the Hook Knives. She and her husband Todd live with their two cats, Ellie and Jean-Ralphio, and way too many house plants.