Sangjin Lee has long been a fan of NPR’s Tiny Desk music concerts. He appreciated the show’s musical diversity and the way the intimate setting made it easier to connect with the music. Lee, who previously worked at Korean entertainment giant CJ ENM and also at HYBE, the company that launched BTS, envisioned a similar music show in Korea, a program that shifted the focus from performances to the music itself. That vision led to Tiny Desk Korea, the first international iteration of the beloved music show. To make it happen, Lee, now vice president of content IP business for LG U+, enlisted longtime friend InSoon Kim, executive vice-president of the Korean format agency Something Special.
“It took three or four months to find the right contact from NPR, but he never stopped,” said Kim. “He was really persistent.”
To make the plea in person the duo flew to Washington DC and met the production team, the head of NPR music and Bob Boilen, the musician and media personality who hosts and created NPR’s All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts.
“He wanted to convince them that we not only have k-pop, we have a very diverse range of music in South Korea,” said Kim. “He wanted to spread that music energy, through this brand to the global fans of Korean music. So, he went over and talked face-to-face with the NPR people and convinced them.”
The goal of Tiny Desk Korea is to portray all the genres of Korean music, from traditional to classical music, as well as trot, jazz, R&B, hip hop, indie music, rock and also k-pop. The first series of Tiny Desk Korea concerts began airing on August 25 on the LG U+ platform and on YouTube. Guests included singer-songwriter Kwon Jin-ah, singer-songwriter and producer Sunwoo Jung-A, jazz performers the Yun Seok Cheol Trio, musician-actor Kim Chang-wan and BTS member V.
“Of course there will be some k-pop within Tiny Desk,” said Lee. “There are many new k-pop groups and musical artists who are eager to set their foot on the global market. So Tiny Desk would be a great opportunity and a great window for them to easily meet the global fans.”