In 2006, a New Hampshire based publication called The Wire put together a local music project called the RPM Challenge. It was a call to local musicians to record an entire album in the month of February. The next year RPM was expanded to include musicians from around the world and has become, for many, an annual summons to put music first.
RPM stands for Record Production Month and, like its cohort projects FAWM and NaNoWriMo, tasks creators with putting their art at the absolute forefront of their lives for a short amount of time a year. It's exciting to see what so many people can put together during the shortest month of the year, and with RPM the result is hundreds of new albums put out for free every year.
Artists who sign up for the RPM Challenge must record 10 original songs or 35 minutes of music to successfully complete the challenge. Music writing can be done prior to February 1, but no recording can take place before then. There are no winners and no prizes, just the accomplishment of putting new music out into the world.
One of the most valuable aspects of the RPM project is the community that flocks to the site every year. In January the site wakes from its hibernation and begins to buzz with recording artists eager to reconnect with the project forums and to learn about or share thoughts on music and recording. As February hits, everyone is deep into the joy and stress of creating music, collaborating on projects or lending moral support to those who struggle to finish their album. The month of March is spent celebrating (and sleeping) while listening to the music of others (all of which is currently available for free streaming on the RPM Jukebox) and preparing for the annual listening parties hosted in several different cities, inviting artists to get together and listen to the fruits of their labors in a real-world environment. There is an overwhelming positivity to the RPM Challenge that is often hard to find in the music community.
Signups for the 2010 Challenge are now open and continue through February. At the time of this writing, 610 musicians have signed up, including ten from Chicago. Over the course of the next month, your intrepid Home Recording Examiner will attempt to talk to all Chicago RPM challengers about their projects, progress, and process.
If you are a musician looking for inspiration, the RPM Challenge starts on Monday, February 1, 2010.