Marketing 6 min read

How NPR Tiny Desk Concerts Leverage Their Audience for Artists

Closeup image of the NPR site | Gil C |

Closeup image of the NPR site | Gil C |

Musical artists like Tank and the Bangas had a following before appearing on NPR Tiny Desk. Yet, like many musicians are finding out, Tiny Desk’s YouTube channel is now a launchpad.

New Orleansbased ensemble fronted by Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Tank and the Bangas, are not newcomers to the music scene

The group released their first two albums back in 2013 called Thinktank and Rhythm of Life and have been regular features at a number of prominent music festivals both nationally and worldwide.

Despite this steady fanbase, it wasn’t until their NPR Tiny Desk concert that the hits of Tank and the Bangas entered most people’s lives.

Of course, more prominent and already transcendent artists like Paramore and St. Vincent have also featured on this show. So have members of once-popular bands like Ted Leo of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.

But now, there’s no denying that NPR Music has leveraged their reach to help indie musicians gain publicity.

How did the entity known for public radio evolve into an influential platform for new artists?

NPR Music Creates a New Kind of Influencer MarketingClick To Tweet

A Quick Recap of NPR Tiny Desk and Tank and the Bangas

This was the first time I had ever seen a musical performance like this.

The style fused poetry and raw emotion with ambient, alchemical musical stylings. It was also one of the first NPR Tiny Desk Concerts I watched and it was a drastic departure from this 2011 Adele performance with almost 8 million views that I had known Tiny Desk for previously.

While Tank and the Bangas were not unknown prior to NPR Music, it has certainly had a positive effect on their music careers.

google search predictions for tank and the bangas
Google Search predictions have certainly recognized NPR Tiny Desk’s relation to Tank and the Bangas |

Shortly after Tank’s March appearance on Tiny Desk, the band featured on The A.V. Club’s YouTube channel. After that, it was Rolling Stone and Paste MagazineIn December of last year, they played NPR Music’s 10th Anniversary Concert.

Since 2008, NPR Tiny Desk Concerts have hosted various musicians. However, it has only been since 2014 that they have hosted annual contests for indie artists.

NPR Music thus takes a step toward becoming an influencer platform for artists.

Bob Boilen, one of the main initiators of the Tiny Desk movement, has curated the channel’s growth. That growth informs how artists responded to the internet traffic on NPR Music’s YouTube channel.

Many artists still consider late night shows or radio play the best avenues for visibility. But, as you can see on, NPR Music regularly gets millions of monthly views.

The cult following of the channel is loyal (and vocal), with many videos breaking 50,000 views in two weeks or less. Thus, NPR transformed their YouTube channel into an influencer platform.

The Power of Music Meets the Power of Influencers

As we previously covered, small-scale social media influencers can charge up to $300 per post based on their analytics. Influencers with more than 1-million followers can get up to $50,000 per post. With more followers comes more payment.

Of course, more well-known figures such as Kim Kardashian West are the highest earning influencers. In fact, Kardashian West is paid around $500,000 per post.

That’s why influencers with a following of 30,000 people or fewer, also known as micro-influencers, are starting to become the target of smaller, more modestly-sized businesses.

Even larger companies and corporations are starting to look towards micro-influencers thanks to their target audiences and committed followers. The main theory behind this shift is largely due to how engagement has been seen to decrease after an influencer has over 100,000 subscribers.

In the context of NPR Music, all you have to do is look at the Tank and the Bangas video. Their personal YouTube channel still only has 20,000 subscribers. Despite this, they have been busy nonstop since the NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Since its release just over a year ago, their NPR video has gained more than 4-million views. That’s a little less than 334,000 views per month. Obviously, YouTube views don’t work like that, but for the sake of these quick maths, let’s roll with it.

In an all-new influencer phenomenon, the NPR audience which is well over our 100,000 subscriber threshold was able to draw attention to a micro-influencer, in this case being Tank and the Bangas. Is it reasonable to assume that a less engaged audience uses NPR’s huge platform to find artists and influencers that they can better engage with?

NPR Music is tapping into the influencer market in a very peculiar way.

Tiny Desk Concerts Operating as a Platform, an Audience Member, and An Influencer

Similarly to our argument for Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, NPR Music is now an influencer. In many ways, they use YouTube as their platform just like John Oliver uses HBO.

NPR Music creates this influencer pyramid by acting as a platform for indie artists. The average “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me!” listener might be hard to define. The average Tiny Desk viewer is, because of the medium, we can assume, younger, more online-focused, and indie-music loving (a.k.a. me). 

Not only do I share their content on social media, I also send them personally to people like my boyfriend, my boss, and my mom, too. That’s why the latest call for NPR Tiny Desk concert entries has been profoundly answered. As far as platforms go, it’s one of the biggest stages for new and upcoming bands in America right now. 

If this is your first time hearing of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, you can find a playlist on YouTube here and enjoy the unique treats that otherwise would have gone unseen. My top favorites are The Onyx, Stan Taylor, and Ivory Circle

Even if these bands don’t get selected, some internet lurker like me is out there spreading the word about them. That means that NPR Music has extended its platform beyond its own YouTube channel.

As the Internet grows ever larger in its ability to share, create, and distribute, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts are a sign of the near future.

Is this the influencer pyramid next wave in influencer marketing?

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

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