This page is a collection of info, tips, and community guidelines to help make your FAWM experience the best it can be. You can also ask questions in the forums, and friendly FAWM veterans will help you out!
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1. Basic Rules
What's going on here?
We are all attempting to write 14 songs in the 28 days of February.
Isn't that crazy?
Maybe. Think of FAWM as a big, free, month-long, international songwriting workshop that only requires an Internet connection (instead of a plane ticket and hefty registration fee). Other fawmers will become your friends and accountability partners; sources of feedback and creative growth.
Can I really do that?
Yup! Each year thousands of fawmers try… and maybe half of us hit the 14-song mark. Many haven't written a song in years, and some have never written songs before. (Of course, some can write 20 songs in their sleep.) On average, even the "non-winners" walk away with 7-10 new songs to their name. Not bad for a month's work.
OK, So… you mean I have to write, produce, and record, a whole album in February?
Well, our focus here is on songwriting, not recording. Rough demo recordings are encouraged if you are able (see below). But don't let production values get in the way of your creative process, there's plenty of time for that in the rest of the year.
What constitutes a "song"? Can I write instrumentals?
Pop songs, instrumentals, "sound art," whatever. The goal is to be challenged, build community, and have fun… by whatever musical means.
What if I only write lyrics?
That's cool, too. In fact (if you're game) there's a good chance that another fawmer wants to collaborate by setting your words to music. Just ask around in the forums, and be sure to read the collaboration guidelines below.
How long should my songs be?
As a loose guideline, aim for 3 minutes.
I really can't start until February?
Hey speedracer! Please wait at least until February 1 (your local time) to start writing. If you have a lonesome hook or idea you've been wanting to work out for months, it's OK to finally structure a song around it for FAWM. Or, if you're planning a concept album it's OK to start doing research. Just don't take any old song and say you wrote it in February. Note: the website will unlock song posting at midnight February 1 at the international date line (more details below).
What happens if I use a song I really wrote earlier?
Nothing. But you'd be a cheater. You're not a cheater, are you?
What do I get for "winning"?
14 new songs to call your own, and the admiration of your songwriting peers.
What's the community like?
The "fawmily" is a positive, encouraging, we're-all-in-this-together kind of scene. You can check out the etiquette section for tips and the glossary to get a crash-course on our inside jokes and such.
Is FAWM really free?
It is to you, but not to us. To help cover development and operating costs, we suggest kindly making a donation. You get rock hands by your name if you donate US$10 or more, or if you buy more than US$15 worth of swag at the FAWM Merch Store.
I don't think I can make it to 14 songs. Should I even try?
Of course!! You will surprise yourself. Besides, let's say you only write two. That's still more than zero, right?
Well, do they have to be good songs?
That's the goal… some will be good, some maybe less so. If you're feeling iffy about a tune, just hammer it out ("fawm it") and move on, but don't give up. A salvageable line or melody may still come out of it. FAWM will definitely help you grow as a songwriter.
Do I have to post lyrics and demos of my songs?
Nope. You're only required to post a title for each new song so we can track your progress. Notes, lyrics, MP3 demos, etc. are optional. A cool thing about FAWM is garnering feedback from fellow songwriters, but some may not be able to or even want to record/post demos of their songs, and that's fine.
What quality should my demos be?
Good enough for a rough idea of the song. Some people put a lot of effort into their demos, others just sketch them out. But the point here is to write 14 songs, not record them, so don't get too hung up on it unless you really want to.
If I post lyrics or demos, does FAWM own the copyright?
What are the weekly "challenges"? Do I have to do them?
Challenges aren't compulsory. We all hit writer's block, and the challenge each week offers a theme or structure to work around. It's totally optional, but may help you toward the 14 song goal. It's also fun to see how other fawmers interpret the criteria. Here is a list of past challenges we've done.
What about the Twitter ideas?
We tweet daily song ideas at http://twitter.com/fawm. Like the weekly challenges, these are intended to get the juices flowing, and they aren't compulsory.
Can I write a concept album?
Sure! It's even encouraged, and fawmers have been doing this for years. Rock operas, musical interpretations of classic literature, songs themed after elements of the periodic table, you name it. In 2006, a triple-whammy of fawmers combined forces to write a three-disc tribute to all the presidents in U.S. history, which was released as a triple-CD set in 2008 to much critical acclaim.
What about collaborative songwriting?
This is also encouraged. Though, if you are in a band with several songwriters, see if you can collaborate on all of them. The website even officially supports posting songs as collaborations between two FAWM accounts. (See collaboration guidelines below.)
Is there an age limit on participation?
You must be at least 15 years old. You can be as old as you like.
Great! Where do I sign up?
Why, on the sign up page of course!
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FAWM is awesome. Let's keep it that way!
These guidelines go beyond the Terms of Service. Please read and abide by them for a better FAWM experience for everyone.
- Keep the focus on creativity and productivity.
- Everyone will be reasonable.
- Everyone expects everyone else to be reasonable.
- Do not be offended if someone suggests you are not being reasonable.
Reasonable people think about their use of this site, and the needs of others, and adjust their behavior to meet the goals of a common good for the community, i.e., expressing what you want to say, but accepting and accommodating the needs of others. Volunteer moderators will work to make sure this principle stays on track. Mods reserve the right to remove posts from the forum which they feel may disrupt the discussion within a thread or may mislead other members.
In general practical terms, this means:
- Keep comments constructive.
- No attacks, insults, or flamewars (even if you feel attacked, insulted, or flamed).
- If you see abusive comments, use the "report abuse" button and let the moderators know.
- If you get frustrated with the site or its users, take a break and go write some songs!
- If you feel a fawmer has "cheated" (posting covers, recycling old songs, etc.), don't make a scene. Maybe it is against the ethos of FAWM (maybe not?), but that does not undermine your own achievements!
The Internet is a weird and sometimes rude place. Help us make FAWM the Internet at its best! More detailed suggestions below...
- If responding to a challenge, use the tag perscribed by the fawmer who issued the challenge (usually in the first post)
- Reserve the "favorite" checkbox () for the 2-3 songs you most want feedback on (don't just "favorite" everything). These will usually be your "best" or favorite songs, but it's meant as a guide for fawmers looking to provide feedback but don't have time to listen to all of your FAWM material.
- If you "feast" (i.e., write several songs in one sitting), flag your songs accordingly (). That way people can wait to listen to them all together, or optionally filter them out of the jukebox (some fawmers prefer to skip these when giving feedback and short on time).
- If posting songs with profanity or explicit themes, please check the NSFW or "Not Safe For Work" box (). This will let listeners know what to expect, and filter accordingly.
In the Forums
- Fawmers come from all over the world. If someone says something you find offensive, it might just be getting "lost in translation" (it's pretty hard to communicate with strangers solely in writing anyway). Even if they are being rude, you don't have to fan the flames.
- It could also be that you just don't get along. That's fine, too.
- You're not going to change anyone's mind over the Internet
- Give people the benefit of the doubt.
- Do not use personal insults.
- Do not insult other people's songs, websites, albums, etc.
- Please keep threads on topic!
- If there is a general thread for a topic, please do not create a new one (eg - demo updated)
- Uhmmm.... please don't create a forum topic to solicit feedback on your songs. It can get annoying! If you're a newbie who is seriously getting no love, it's OK to do it (once), but don't make a habit of it.
Commenting on Songs
- Focus on the song rather than the demo (if any).
- Don't discuss your rating of the song (if any).
- Accentuate the positive.
- Generally avoid negative remarks. Constructive criticism is OK, though.
- Phrase any criticisms in a way that suggests how to improve the song (not show off your expertise).
- Check the song page or the fawmer profile for more information about the type of comments sought (e.g. go easy, be tough, seeking feedback on a particular aspect of the song).
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3. Collaboration Guidelines
TLDR: Communication and consent! Collaboration etiquette:
- Always get permission before starting a collaboration
- Your work belongs to you
- Discuss collaboration roles
- Express any expectations regarding editing
- Agree on how and when to post your collab on the FAWM site
- Agree on future plans, if any, for the song
Starting a Co-write
Don’t offer to co-write unless you have time to do so. If there’s a particular writer you want to work with, you can make a request on their sound board (profile page). Understand they may say no. If you have lyrics you want set to music, or a composition you want words to: Post in the Collaboration Classifieds forum. Or tag the song #lyrics-needed or #music-needed. (If you have found a co-writer and don’t want more, edit the song post to delete the tag.) If you’re looking for lyrics to compose to, or music to write lyrics to, peruse the Collaboration Classifieds and the "needed" tags. There are often Random Collaborations threads that pair lyricists and composers to write together from scratch.
Although the emphasis in FAWM is on the writing of songs, fawmers may also choose to collaborate on production elements, e.g. having a singer or instrumentalist add a layer to a completed composition.
Be clear from the outset about how much or little editing you want. This has to do with time commitment as well as working style. When posting a #music-needed lyric you may specify things you don’t want changed, e.g. all changes open to discussion, don’t change anything, don’t change any gender pronouns.
Check with each other as you make changes.
Discuss with your collaborator(s) about who will post. If you’re adding music to a #lyrics-needed post, discuss whether you’ll add the demo to the existing post or will create a new song post. The FAWM website will only support two collaborators on a song post. If there are more, you will need to create a duplicate song post as a workaround.
If you want to collaborate with a view to the finished song being used outside/ after FAWM, check with your collaborator before you start.
Is your collaboration going to be used post FAWM 50/90 and be out in the general music world for sale or streaming ? Is it going to be released for distribution (onto Spotify etc) ? If it is, you need a co-writer's agreement signed agreeing the copyright splits. These can be easily signed (and be legal) electronically. Do not release a track as a single or on an album of your own, without asking the co-writer if they agree to this. And if they agree, then you need their PRO and IPI/CAE# in order to ensure that they receive their share of any royalties from mechanical, writer's, publisher's, or any other copyright attached to the song. Who owns the 'Master' ? You cannot 'Pitch' the track anywhere without your co-writer's written consent. Unless otherwise agreed, each party in a collaboration on FAWM remains the owner of their individual part (ie lyrics or music). Eg. a lyricist can use their lyric outside of FAWM with a different co-writer/composer/singer, and you cannot use their/that same lyric outside of FAWM, even with your music. And vice versa.
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4. Website Features
Where are my important emails from FAWM (e.g., the one with my account password)?
It possibly got caught in your spam filter. Add "
@fawm.org" emails to your white list and scan your spam folder for emails with subject lines like "Welcome to FAWM!"
No dice. Still not getting 'em.
Some email providers (AOL, we're looking your direction) are notoriously bad at killing our automated messages without even putting them in your spam folder. Go to the contact page and fill out a "Technical Problems" report, and we'll look into it for you!
The website looks a little screwy sometimes. Is something wrong?
I love my iPhone/iPad/iPod and want to listen to demos on them!
Starting in 2013, we have re-written the players so hopefully this should work.
I'm having other problems.
Then check out the forums, where other fawmers can probably help out, or the FAWM admins will try to address them.
When can I start posting songs?
Song posting is unlocked midnight at the end of Feb 1 on the international date line. That's 9pm in Tokyo, or 12 noon in London (GMT), 7am in Pittsburgh/Toronto/New York, 3am in Anchorage, etc. You may post songs up until the same time on March 1 (i.e., as long as it's still February somewhere in the world).
What do all the funny icons mean?
- User donated $10 or more to FAWM, and totally rocks
- Song is a fawmer's "favorite" (i.e., one they really want feedback on)
- Song is part of a "feast" (attempt to write many songs in one sitting)
- Song lyrics/content is "Not Safe For Work"
- Song demo can be streamed from FAWM.ORG
- Song demo video can be watched from FAWM.ORG
- Song demo is available at another website
- Restricted: you must be logged in to view/hear this song
- Private: this song is only available to the author
I donated! Where are my rock hands?!?
Donor icons are updated manually by volunteers. So it might take a few hours to appear. If it's been longer than 24 hours, feel free to contact us about it.
Does FAWM.ORG have RSS feeds?
Yes! We have one for songs (which you can subscribe to as a podcast), and another for forums:
What's my "watchlist?" How do I manage it?
If you're logged in, you can keep track of songs and artists in your watchlist. Just go to their artist profile and click the "Add" or "Remove" buttons (when logged in). You can view your watchlists in the "MyFAWM" section of the site.
What are "Zongs"?
That's our term for "Zero-comment sONGS." It's a way to quickly find and give feedback on songs that may otherwise slip through the cracks. You may also want to check the glossary for other "fawmisms."
I have MP3 demos. Does FAWM host them?
In general, no. To post your demos to the FAWM site they must first be hosted elsewhere. If you donate US$25 or more, however, you have the option of using our file hosting service as our way to say thank you. Check out the demo hosting section for more information and other alternatives.
I direct-linked to MP3s on my own web site. Uhm, why do I sound like a chipmunk (or Barry White)?
Your file is probably sampled at a rate other than 44.1 kHz (most likely 48 kHz). Try resampling your file, and encoding it at around 128kbps MP3 file. It will load faster and be compatible with our player.
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5. Demo Hosting
FAWM provides MP3 file hosting to fawmers who have donated $25 or more. This service allows you to upload MP3 files to an affiliated server. Only MP3 files are currently supported and files can not be larger than 10 Megabytes, but there is no current limit on the number of files that a user can upload. Users MUST have the copyright to any files they upload.
Users of the service will still have to paste in the URL path to their uploaded demo.
The service also has a display page that will allow others to view a user's directory of MP3 files, including any ID3 information included in the file such as Title or Author.
The current system is set to keep files for 6 months, after which they will be moved to an Archive folder. Files in the Archive will be available indefinitely, though they can be removed upon the user's request.
This page also describes a few demo-hosting options if that doesn't suit you...
If you have a SoundCloud account, you can post the song's URL in the demo field and it will embed and play automatically. However, you will need set the track to "public" in the track's settings on SoundCloud, and make sure that "Enable app playback" is checked in the "Permissions" tab.
To be playable through the FAWM streaming player, the demo must be in MP3 format, at 44.1kHz sample rate. (Other sample rates will work, but might sound unusually sped up or slowed down). Also avoid using variable bit rate (VBR) encoding. VBR encoded MP3s do not seem to stream properly.
Using Your Own Hosting. If you have your own website, simply upload an MP3 file to your site and paste its URL in the "Demo URL" field of the songs page.
Free Hosting Alternatives. Other Sites that have been used for MP3 Hosting:
Dropbox seems to have the most success these days. Google Sites and others also seems to be case sensitive. For example, if your URL is something like:
sites.google.com/site/fawmer/MySong.mp3, enter it exactly. The URL:
sites.google.com/site/fawmer/mysong.mp3will probably result in a broken link. We advise you to test the player before doing anything.
If you make a video of your song and post it to YouTube or Vimeo, simply copy and paste the URL of the video's web page into the "Demo URL" field of the FAWM song form. It will automatically show up on the FAWM song page.
Some fawmers use MySpace, Soundclick, PureVolume, Dmusic, AcidPlanet, or Bandcamp profiles to host demos, or prefer to link to some other page (e.g., blog) rather than letting MP3s be streamable from the site. You may enter any URL you like on the song form, and a link will appear (instead of the FAWM music player) on the song page, pointing people to that web address.
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Here is a brief reference of FAWM terminology for fawmlings (and long-time fawmers with failing memories). This is merely a list of the most common.
- afawmmodations (n.) allowances friends and families must make to a participating fawmer so he/she can continue to write and record songs without distraction.
- alan turing (n.) song for which you think your vision might be greater than your songwriting ability [etymology: Burr's failed attempt at a song for the 2004 "tribute challenge" about notable mathematician Alan Turing].
- fawmpulsive (adj.) the state of being consumed by FAWM, e.g., checking the forums or your song comments every five minutes, writing music (or about music) instead of caring for the duties of everyday life.
- FAWK (n. or v.): balls-out rock by a fawmer.
- FAWM (n.) February Album Writing Month, e.g., this site / songwriting challenge.
- fawm (v.) 1. to participate in the annual FAWM challenge. 2. to decide a song is "good enough" and move on to writing the next one [ex. "Man, I really just fawmed that one."].
- FAWM Escape Velocity (n.) the point at which there are more FAWM songs written in February than there is time in February to listen to them all [see escape velocity].
- FAWM D. Rockingfeller Foundation (n.) a donation on behalf of another fawmer who is perhaps unable to contribute financially, thus granting them "rock hand" status and an enormous sense of well-being.
- fawm widow / -er (n.) significant other of a fawmer, thoroughly neglected for the month of February save for (possibly) the 14th.
- fawmbassador (n.) fawmer who actively promotes FAWM during the off season.
- fawmbo (n.) gung ho fawmer, determined and/or desparate to post 14 songs by the end of FAWM.
- fawmburger (n.) any meal (or handful of food) hastily prepared and eaten while fawming.
- fawmer (n.) you, me or any FAWM participant.
- fawmidable (adj.) state of the task at hand, daunting. e.g., needing to post 14 songs in 12 hours.
- fawmism (n.) colloquial vernacular used in the FAWM community.
- fawmling (n.) newcomer to the FAWM challenge.
- fawmonos (v.) it's January 31 let's go.
- fawmpilation (n.) annual compilation CD of 14 FAWM songs (from 2005-2011).
- FOP (n.) FAWM Over Party, e.g., informal regional gatherings of fawmers generally held in March or April.
- founding fawmer (n.) Burr Settles, Eric Distad, Willis Fireball, or Matt Hopper [participants in the original FAWM 2004].
- FUC (n.) FAWM Ukulele Club. Founded by Tim Fatchen. Promotes ukulele compositions.
- infawmnia (n.) inability to sleep due to songwriting anxiety and/or addiction to FAWM.ORG.
- MUFF (n.) Mandolinists Unite For FAWM. Founded by Calum Carlyle. Promotes the use of instruments from the mandolin family.
- The Muse (n.) A collection of computational creativity tools build for fawmers.
- Rocktober (n.) A month long experiment in recording new versions of songs - either songs by established artists or (much preferably) by other FAWM/5090 Participants. This month is for looking at old songs in new ways, working on new recording techniques, playing with new styles, and generally having a lot of fun.
- songfathering (v.) impregnating another FAWMer on a song you just posted, by adding them unannounced as a collaborator. When they notice, they need to contribute/finish the song.
- strangle disco (n.) music genre "invented" during FAWM 2007, often featuring Beethoven samples, disco or hip-hop beats, and wordplay.
- unzung hero (n.) what a fawmer becomes when fawmer: 1) receives first comment of the FAWM season, 2) has at least one comment on each song e.g., no zongs, 3) causes a fellow fawmer to reach a zong less state.
- zong (n.) zero-comment song. Not to be confused with the term introduced by Dr. Seuss in "Oh The Thinks You Can Think".
- zong-busting, zonging (v.) to comment only on zongs.