Photo (CC-BY-ND) tianhua.

Record an album in the month of February, and have it in the mail by March 1: that’s the RPM Challenge, and so far, some 6,000 acts have already delivered. Nathan Groth writes us with details (and apologies for late posting here, since that means you have… less time).

Long time reader of CDM. I’m also a coordinator of this little thing called the RPM Challenge, which is now into year #6. I think you may find it interesting and we would love to get some coverage in the hopes it may entice more people to get involved. I also think it’s something the CDM community would find appealing.

While it’s not geared specifically towards electronic or experimental musicians or usage of specific tools, it does represent a little local event that has gone global, while still running entirely (100%) by volunteers and donated server space. The website is also powered by open source code. With no corporate sponsorship, it’s managed to curate one of the largest free music collections on the internet, plus it’s a really neat idea!

It began as a idea based on National Novel Writing Month, and it was a strictly local affair in Portsmouth, NH at first. Over the years it’s gone global, attracting people from as far off as Tokyo and McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Despite the reach, though, the great thing is that it’s managed to be strongly local as well, and in that really lies it’s power- it’s managed to walk a fine line between an amorphous- internet based event and a strongly local one at the same time.
Enough babbling from me, I’m just an excited volunteer.

The competition is global, and there’s a global listening party on March 26 – I hope we’ll check in there. Do let us know if you get your music posted; Synthtopia posts the same call so perhaps we’ll have a number of music tech blog-reading producers out there.

I’m not sure February will be right for everyone, but you’ll know if it’s right for you. As for the question of whether a month is enough time to produce an album, in some cases, it’s actually harder to take longer. When I talked to Gold Panda back in October, he described the three weeks he had to make “Lucky Shiner” as the very element that made the production possible and satisfying:

I looked after their dog over Christmas and had my whole studio set up there. I have a really short attention span, so most tracks are done in a day, and then I’m bored with them. And if they turned out good, then they’re good, and if I think that they’re not really finished or whatever, then they get rendered to the hard drive and put into iTunes and sit in there forever.
I was never really a big fan of dogs before, so I kind of had this bonding with this dog called Daisy. She’d wake up really early and wake me up, and I’d take her for a walk, come back, start making tracks. And then after an hour or so, she’d want to go for a walk again or play. Every time I was getting into it, she’d kind of stop me and we’d go for a walk. It stopped me from overworking things, and I think that’s what made it — [the album’s] more simple and more direct. It was good to have a distraction while I was doing it.

It’s a familiar scenario – both the three weeks, and the smaller periods of time are a kind of “timeboxing.” (See my story on the Pomodoro Method.) I hope to talk more about productivity this week and next, so feel free to bring up ideas – and let us know if you’re taking up the RPM gauntlet.