Bob Boilen, ‘Tiny Desk Concert’ Co-Founder, Leaving NPR

Bob Boilen, ‘Tiny Desk Concert’ Co-Founder, Leaving NPR

Bob Boilen, who became one of the premier tastemakers in American music when he helped create and host “All Songs Considered” and the Tiny Desk concert series, said he would be retiring from NPR after 35 years.

“It’s time to find new challenges in life, and I’m excited about some of the possibilities,” Mr. Boilen, 70, who also directed “All Things Considered,” said in a note that was distributed to NPR’s staff and was obtained by The New York Times on Friday. “I leave at a time when new creative folks will hopefully envision exciting new futures for NPR Music.”

In a separate note on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Mr. Boilen said that it had been a “thrill” to work on the programs.

His last day will be Oct. 2.

Mr. Boilen propelled NPR into new directions in the digital landscape by producing and creating some of the broadcaster’s most popular podcasts and shows, NPR executives said in the note to the radio network’s staff, which highlighted his innovations over decades.

His tenure at the company started in 1988 when, determined, he “started showing up on NPR’s doorstep every day,” his profile on NPR says. His persistence paid off. Within weeks, he was hired to work on the flagship news program “All Things Considered” on a temporary basis. Less than a year later, he became the director of the show, a job he continued to hold for 18 years.

At “All Things Considered,” he produced music stories, brought in music writers, and edited and produced reviews. The show’s musical excerpts spawned an online show in 2000, when they were turned into full-length tunes on “All Songs Considered.”

“People are music-starved,” Mr. Boilen told The Times in an interview in 2000, shortly after the debut of “All Songs Considered.” “They like this music because it’s not like music you can hear anywhere else on the radio. We play music from all over the world, and from all different eras.”

It was later absorbed into NPR Music, which he helped to create in 2007.

“For over 35 years, Bob has been a fixture here, whether as a longtime producer and director on ‘All Things Considered’ or as a digital pioneer with NPR Music,” the staff statement said.

As a musician himself, Mr. Boilen shared his ability to have an impact on the work of other musicians. Project Song, a documentary series, gave audiences a look at the process of writing songs by challenging artists to write a song at NPR in a day or two. It won an Emmy Award.

In 2008, Mr. Boilen became a co-founder of the Tiny Desk concert series, which invited artists to perform on video at a no-frills, eclectically decorated space without music studio editing. The New York Times Magazine described it this month as a “prime venue for artists seeking an authenticity baptism,” including emerging and famous musicians; songwriters; and artists that play an array of genres at his desk in an unassuming, cluttered office in Washington, D.C.

It set the music industry agenda for the next 15 years, NPR said.

“It is very difficult indeed to go anywhere in the world — whether it’s a battlefield in Ukraine, an embassy in Washington, a farm in the Midwest or a restaurant in Asia — where people haven’t heard about and watched Tiny Desk Concerts,” the company said in the staff note. “This is the very definition of a global phenomenon.”

After the start of NPR Music in 2007, Mr. Boilen and his co-creator, Stephen Thompson, found themselves unable to hear Laura Gibson’s performance at a South by Southwest concert in 2008 because the crowd was loud. So “we half-jokingly invited her to our office for a concert,” he wrote in a Facebook post last year on the series’s 14th anniversary.

“A few weeks later, on April 14, 2008, she showed up at the NPR offices while in town for a concert,” he continued. “I set up a few cameras and a single microphone, edited the video and posted it online.” Tiny Desk was born.

Last September, NPR Music celebrated its 1,000th Tiny Desk concert with a performance from the singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo. Other artists over the years have included the Cranberries, whose Tiny Desk has been viewed more than 18 million times, and Taylor Swift, whose video has received over 15 million views, along with Alicia Keys, Megan Thee Stallion, Harry Styles and Mac Miller, whose performance was one of his last before he died.

Mr. Boilen said that he had approached NPR with no journalism or radio training.

“I was a musician and a video producer in 1988, but the folks at NPR saw something in me and gave me opportunities to take chances and grow,” he said in the statement to staff.

Mr. Boilen also wrote a book, “Your Song Changed My Life,” in which he asked musicians, both famous and emerging, which single tune had the biggest impact on them and their work.




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