Floating through bars and concert venues across the country is an enigmatic yet modest figure, forever listening, perpetually attuned to; and in touch with; the trends and tunes being pumped out of the American music scene. That enigmatic figure is Bob Boilen, editor of NPR’s “All Songs Considered”, curator of the Tiny Desk concerts, and arguably one most important people in the music industry today.
It began while hosting radio shows on NPR, filling snippets of dead airtime with the most peculiar and intimate musical finds pulled from his personal treasure trove of obscurity, rallying what most would associate with student radio, holding onto a community vibe that is often lost with big radio. Bob Boilen would add his flair for the unconventional and targeted bringing the most shadowed of artists into the light. It was through this, that put his show, and now immensely popular podcast “All Songs Considered” on the map - consistently gaining traffic with over 2 million downloads per year. This all powerful force caused the manifestation of the Tiny Desk Concert. A concert played, at a Tiny Desk. Bob Boilen’s desk in particular.
Now you may recognise this desk from the video that was latched onto by the internet, when we all realised that T-Pain was actually really fucking talented. Realising that T-Pain could sing was the musical equivalent of finding out that OJ actually did it, shattering everything you once believed however affirming your worst fears at the same time. This was the aim of the Tiny Desk, to turn your taste on its head, to shatter illusions constructed from this social media driven hypebeast that dominates the way your opinion is fashioned. To strip talent back to the core, with a few pieces to an ensemble, and a message that resonates loud and clear to everyone in front of the Tiny Desk.
Does this immense new level of popularity change Bob Boilen? Let me pose a different question. Do the New York Knicks have any chance of winning the NBA this year? Well, despite having a superstar forward and a war chest of experience in the front office, the Knicks will forever dissapoint, just as Bob Boilen gets no closer to being ego driven engulfed in popularity. No, Bob still attends 10 gigs a week (on average), and is forever sifting through the untouched in an immense ocean of musical score. Remember Bob Boilen has his own war chest, his brain, full of music, and this doesn't stop him facilitating the development of young musical stars, nor does he resist celebrating monumental talent.
So why is the Tiny Desk so important? I want you to take a look at this clip, filmed in the White House, a small gig by Common and a group of close friends, all behind Bob Boilens Tiny Desk. This just serves to illustrate the outer rim of Bob Boilens sphere of influence, and his roots only grow deeper the further you look inside that sphere. Common, talking to Bob on a personal level is both grateful and in awe of his humility and ear. Many an artist will attest to Bob’s immeasurable impact on their lives as both artists and humans, the man has such stature in the industry that now the Tiny Desk is not so tiny (metaphorically, obviously), with the weight of the music world behind him, Bob Boilen can do pretty much anything (like step out from behind the desk and casually win an Emmy).
A radio host, an alt-rock singer, and a buddhist all walked into a pub, they were probably all there looking for Bob Boilen. If you're looking for a new place to find music, ditch your discover weekly and bookmark Bob Boilens Tiny Desk Concert’s, the cornerstone for the curation of new talent and celebration of established stardom. You wont regret it.
Title image cred here.