February Album Writing Month
February Album Writing Month or FAWM is an annual songwriting challenge. The challenge is to compose 14 original songs in the 28 days of February.
FAWM began in February 2004 as a personal project of singer-songwriter Burr Settles, who was inspired after completing a short novel for NaNoWriMo. He recruited three friends to join him in attempting to compose 14 new songs during the month. Since all four so-called "fawmers" lived in different time zones, they used a blog to track their progress and encourage one another. Each of them met or surpassed the 14-song goal, with 66 songs total.
Due to expressed interest from songwriters who stumbled upon the FAWM 2004 archive, the challenge was opened up to the public in February 2005 at FAWM.ORG, where the challenge has remained. Registered users may post demo recordings of their new songs to keep track of their progress and elicit feedback. Participation and song output roughly doubled annually up to 2008:
- 2005 - 513 songs, 25 completed the challenge*
- 2006 - 1,372 songs, 71 completed
- 2007 - 2,706 songs, 128 completed
- 2008 - 5,710 songs, 522 active fawmers, 280 completed
- 2009 - 7,375 songs, 754 active, 339 completed
- 2010 - 10,263 songs, 1,073 active, 487 completed
- 2011 - 10,450 songs, 1,238 active, 497 completed
- 2012 - 11,015 songs, 1,325 active, 465 completed
- 2013 - 9,687 songs
- 2014 - 9,894 songs
- 2015 - 10,936 songs
- 2017 - 11,239 songs, 457 fawmers completed the challenge
- (*some completed more than the 14 songs)
In 2008, because of a Leap Year (29 Days), the ante was upped to 14½ songs — the extra half-song being a songwriting collaboration. In the years since, collaborative songwriting has become a staple of the FAWM community.
The project also produces a compilation CD series, entitled 14 Songs In 28 Days. Each album documents the corresponding year's FAWM event, and previous releases have been met with critical praise from indie-music magazines such as Wonkavision and PopMatters.
Many so-called "fawmers" are professional musicians who have also released FAWM-penned songs on their own albums. A notable example is a three-way collaboration between Jefferson Pitcher, Christian Kiefer, and Matthew Gerken (Nice Monster), who each wrote songs about 14 U.S. presidencies for FAWM 2006 (for a total of 42, saving the then-current President Bush for a later collaboration). The result, titled Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs for 43 U.S. Presidencies was released as a triple-CD set during the 2008 election season
FAWMers keep in touch with each other throughout the year at a companion website, www.fawmers.com
Fawmers compose music of all genres and styles, though the most prevalent are folk, indie rock, and singer-songwriter. In order to spur creativity and work outside of ruts, fawmers periodically create new "genres" and challenges, such as:
- Strangle Disco - Dance music usually involving classical music samples
- Crucio - A songwriting game similar to tag
- Exquisite Corpse - A songwriting equivalent of the classic game, wherein one person writes 60 seconds of a song, then passes only the last 10 seconds to the next person, who continues the song, and so on.
- Morphing - A songwriting equivalent of the classic game Telephone. Each person in the songwriting chain must write a song based on the previous song, by changing half of it.
- Explore the core - Recording several highly different versions of the same lyrics and chords.
- Feasting - Writing and recording lots of songs in one session in a short space of time.
- Auntie Sin - Someone writes the antithesis of the first song in the chain, then the next person writes a synthesis of the first two songs, then the next person writes the antithesis of the third song, then the next person writes a synthesis of songs three and four, and so on.
- Skirmish - A title/prompt is announced and songwriters must immediately write a song in the space of the next hour.
The FAWM Challenge is popular among participants in other timed artistic challenges, such as NaNoWriMo, Songfight, 50 Songs in 90 Days, Sounds of the Weak, National Solo Album Month (NaSoAlMo) and Album-a-Day. FAWM was also the model inspiration for the RPM Challenge, which encourages its participants to record a 10-song album.