The RPM Challenge is a creative challenge offered yearly to musicians, similar to other time-based challenges such as NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month held each November).
RPM invites musicians to create a whole album of music, 10 songs or 35 minutes, in the month of February. It is not a contest so there is no winner. The challenge functions solely to give musicians a needed push towards finishing original material and help them achieve a sense of satisfaction. The challenge is open to all participants regardless of style, solo artists or groups, country of origin, language or theme. The albums are then made available for streaming and sharing via an online jukebox, and a listening party is held.
Rules and Guidelines
The rules for the RPM challenge are simple. As it is not a contest, there is no monitoring or enforcement of the rules, aside from the March 1 deadline.
- Produce an album of 10 songs or 35 minutes length
- Record the album during the month of February
- A finished CD must be dropped off or postmarked by noon on March 1
While the rules are simple, a number of informal guidelines seem to also have been instituted either by being implied in the official rules, or through consensus of the participants.
- The album must consist of original material, rather than cover songs.
- All songs do not necessarily need to be written during the challenge, but it is encouraged by certain members.
- Any form of recording is acceptable, from a simple tape recording to full studio production.
- Working on final tweaks after midnight on March 1 is acceptable, as long as you don't sleep.
The challenge was begun in 2006 by staff at the Portsmouth NH alternative newspaper The Wire. The event was promoted in the paper, and CDs for that and subsequent years were dropped off or mailed to the Wire offices. Approximately 220 bands and solo performers from throughout the New Hampshire seacoast and surrounding area signed up, and produced a total of 165 CDs. In early March of that year a wrap-up and listening party was held, beginning at the Portsmouth Music Hall, and moving out to several other venues, including The Press Room, the Red Door, and the now defunct Muddy River Smokehouse.
In 2007, several well-known websites and media outlets picked up the story, and participation increased to over 2400 acts from such varied locations as Tokyo, Auckland, Montreal, Antarctica and Oslo. Participants represented every continent, and turned in over 850 completed albums for the March 1 deadline. Listening parties were held in Portsmouth NH, Georgia, and the UK.
In subsequent years, the challenge has followed a similar pattern and comparable participation. Kickoff events and listening parties are scheduled worldwide. 2011's Portsmouth listening party was held on March 26.
An informal gathering often takes place on the morning of March 1, as local participants hand deliver CDs and meet up at the Friendly Toast restaurant, just downstairs from the Wire offices.