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“Tiny Desk” at 15: An oral history

by Sean Fennel, Alternative Press, April 18, 2023

“Tiny Desk” at 15: An oral history of the beloved NPR series’ early days and its momentous legacy

It is a testament to NPR Music’s "Tiny Desk" that it has remained, for 15 years now, one of the consistently great corners of not only YouTube, but the internet as a whole. From humble and largely anonymous beginnings, "Tiny Desk" has become a staple of the global music community, leaving a significant cultural footprint, with Mac Miller’s 2018 session alone amassing over 101 million views.

The last 15 years in pop culture have largely been defined by the seemingly shrinking distance between artist and audience, as social media allows fans into the lives of their favorite musicians in a way not possible before. While some platforms can feel highly curated, "Tiny Desk" remains a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when those barriers are removed, providing listeners and viewers an up-close view of their favorite performers.

(...) To celebrate the anniversary of the "Tiny Desk" series, which officially launched on April 22, 2008, Alternative Press caught up with some of the key figures in its creation, as well as some of the early performers who played behind the desk in the early years.

(...) Bob Boilen (Host of All Songs Considered and Creator of "Tiny Desk"): By 2008, I had worked at NPR for 20 years. I had produced an awful lot of music stories for All Things Considered. Most of those stories would call for the artist to come into the studio. They would then stick on headphones and get behind microphones with big poppers in front of them and record a song or two for us. The studio was beautiful and the sound amazing, but what occurred to me was that what we were getting was a reproduction of the record. It just didn't seem like it was anything new or different for the artist, so putting them behind the desk was going to be challenging.

Read comments by The Tallest Man On Earth (photo), Hozier, Thao Nguyen who performed in the early stage of the series, and hear the stories from Bob Boilen, Stephen Thompson (Writer/Editor, NPR Music and Host, Pop Culture Happy Hour) and Robert Carter (Senior Producer "Tiny Desk" Concert Series) in this article by AP, where it was initially published.


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