More than 800 original albums have been produced as part of the RPM Challenge in Newfoundland & Labrador since 2008. 2016 marks the event’s ninth year in the province. 

The RPM Challenge is an international creative challenge to anyone—regardless of recording experience or musical ability—to record an album in the month of February. That’s 10 songs or 35 minutes of original music.

It’s not a contest, there are no winners, no losers, and there’s no cost to enter—it’s for fun.

To celebrate all of the hard work, at the end of the month there’s a public, all-day listening party where at least one track from each NL album is played. The event is also streamed online.

“The RPM has become this great hybrid—a game, a training ground, and a winter festival all bundled together,” says Elling Lien, NLRPM Executive Director. “RPM brings people together like a festival, it encourages individuals to learn how to record and get better at making music, and, meanwhile, everybody is racing against that same ticking clock.”

“The pressure really hits when February 28 rolls around,” he laughs.

People have until noon on March 1 to submit their completed albums.

This year marks the eighth year for the challenge in the province. The event has made a huge impact on the music scene—and how could it not? More than 650 original albums have been produced as part of the RPM Challenge in Newfoundland & Labrador.

One of many examples is musician Steve Maloney. He recorded an RPM Challenge album—his first full album—back in 2011 under the pseudonym Mammoth. Maloney’s beautiful singing voice and songwriting style drew attention immediately, and his profile rose quickly in the local music scene. At last year’s MusicNL awards, he won Rising Star of the Year. Just this month he received two 2015 ECMA nominations for his work with his band, Steve Maloney and the Wandering Kind.

But awards and traditional success isn’t exactly what the RPM is about—it’s about individual success.

Lien says the fact that it’s not a contest is key for a lot of people.

“Songwriting contests eliminate those people who might not be very confident in their musical abilities,” he says. “There are scores of people out there who don’t call themselves musicians but who love to make music, love to play around. There are so many people out there who like to take the guitar out to the closet every now and again to pick out a tune. The RPM really works for them, and gives them a safe place to try things out.”

The pressure of the deadline is important, but people shouldn’t feel bad if they don’t record a full 10 songs or 35 minutes, or if they’re not happy with their music.

“If in the end they aren’t happy with their music, there’s no obligation to share it,” says Lien. “But most people end up being really proud of what they’ve made and want to pass it around.”

Is there another reason why it’s caught on here in the province?

“Februaries in Newfoundland & Labrador are nasty,” laughs Lien. “It may be mercifully short, but it’s a tough month, weather-wise. So what better way to spend a bad winter’s day than by enjoying making music inside?”

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