With January coming to a blustery close, folks all over St. John’s are asking each other that fateful question: Are you doing an RPM?
The RPM (Record Production Month) Challenge invites people to record an album of original material in the month of February. It’s an international challenge that took off in St. John’s when The Scope published an article encouraging people to give it a try in 2007. Since then, close to a thousand albums have been recorded for the challenge in Newfoundland and Labrador.
This February will mark the tenth annual NL RPM Challenge. Unpossible NL are facilitating our province’s branch of the challenge and in honour of it’s tenth anniversary, Executive Director Elling Lien, has created a bot that will convince you to make an RPM.
The bot opens with, “Heyyyyyyy. So I heard you weren’t going to take the RPM challenge this February. Whaaaaaaattt???” and then lets you select reasons you might not do the challenge, which it counters with encouragement and cheesy gifs. It’s pretty freaking charming, click here to give it a go, I bet you’ll find yourself with an album at the end of February.
“I realized that I love encouraging people to make things, and that everyone has so many different creative sparks in them that want to catch fire. People want to try stuff, play around, and the RPM gives them that — with a little bit of pressure but not too much — for music and recording,” Lien explained.
Danielle Hamel of Land of the Lakes recorded her first solo-album for the RPM Challenge last year. The album,Your Friends Don’t Buy It At All by It Could Be Franky, won Best Urban Album at the 2016 Music NL awards and was longlisted for the 2016 Borealis Prize. She found the RPM’s month-long time limit was exactly what she needed to push herself to complete the project.
“Confining yourself in any way can be a powerful creative tool. To write and record an album in a month, I am spared the stress of over-thinking, over-analyzing, re-writing, and re-recording. It’s a freeing process,” Hamel wrote.
Part of what makes the NL RPM Challenge so magical is that more and more musicians with various levels of experience sign up each year. Some musicians use the RPM Challenge to try out a new sound or side project while others use it as opportunity to form a band for the very first time.
“I love that the RPM Challenge is a gentle motivator for that project that you have in the back of your mind, the one that will never see the light of day unless you are nudged out of your comfort zone and inspired to give it a try. The RPM Challenge has given me the motivation to do something creative without feeling the pressure that it has to be a masterpiece,” Hamel wrote.
The non-competitive nature of the challenge along with the tight deadline creates a sense of camaraderie among the people participating. That feeling of community helps people complete their projects and feel excited about sharing new work.
And that work, the albums produced through the RPM Challenge, have played a significant role in shaping our province’s music scene.
“Ten years is a long time, and 1,000 albums is a whole lot of music. It’s generated a lot of bands, brought a lot of musicians into the light, and made a lot of music. And it’s still going! I’m really proud of that. Way to go, St. John’s. Way to go, Newfoundland and Labrador,” Lien wrote.
If you’re still on the fence seriously go check out that bot right now.