Help/FAQ

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!


1. Basic Idea

What's going on? We're attempting to write 14 songs in the 28 days of February.

Isn't that crazy? Nah. Think of FAWM as a big, free, month-long, international songwriting workshop that only requires an Internet connection. Other fawmers will become your friends, collaborators, and accountability partners; sources of feedback and inspiration.

Can I really do that? Yup! Each year thousands of fawmers try... and hundreds make it to 14 songs. Some haven't written in years, while other have never written a song before. (Of course, some can write 50 in their sleep.) On average, even "non-winners" walk away with 7-10 new songs. Not bad for a month's work!

OK, So... I have to write and record a whole album in February? Our focus is on songwriting (or composing), not recording. Rough demos are encouraged if you want to (see below). But if production values get in the way of your creative process, don't let it! There's plenty of time for that 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 and have fun... whatever that means to you.

What if I only write lyrics? That's cool. In fact there's a good chance that other fawmers wants to collaborate by setting your words to music, if you're up for it. Just ask around in the forums, and be sure to read the collaboration guidelines below.

How long should my songs be? Maybe aim for 3 minutes?

And I can't start until February 1? Don't just take any old song you already wrote and claim it for FAWM. But if you have a lonesome hook/idea you've been bouncing around for a while, it's OK to polish it off for FAWM. Or, if you're planning a concept album it's OK to start doing research. Note: the website will unlock song posting at midnight at the international date line (more details below).

What happens if I use a song I really wrote earlier? Nothing. But you're not a cheater, are you?

What do I get for "winning"? Many new songs and the admiration of your songwriting peers.

What's the community like? The "fawmily" has a positive, encouraging, we're-all-in-this-together kind of vibe. 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? To you, but not to us. To help cover costs, we suggest making a donation.

I don't think I can make it to 14 songs. Should I even try? YES! You will surprise yourself. Even if you only write one song, that's more than zero, right?

Do they have to be good songs? Some will be awesome, some not as awesome. 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, audio 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? Sketches that give an idea for the song are fine. The point here is to write 14 songs, not record them, so don't get too hung up on recording unless you really want to.

If I post lyrics or demos, does FAWM own the copyright? Nope! Review the Terms of Use. Your songs are yours!

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 or more 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!


2. Etiquette

FAWM is special. 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 you feel someone has suggested you are not being reasonable.

FAWM has some features in common with social media platforms, but FAWM is different. It's a place to build community, not build a brand. It's a place to make music, not make a scene.

Think about your use of the FAWM site and the needs of others. Express what you want to say, but accept and accommodate the needs of others. The volunteer moderators will work to make sure this principle stays on track. Mods reserve the right to remove posts from the forums 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" feature to 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...

Posting Songs

  • If responding to a challenge, try to use the tag perscribed by the fawmer who issued the challenge (usually in the first post)
  • Reserve the "featured" song flag for the one(s) you most want feedback on. It's meant as a guide for fawmers looking to provide feedback but don't have time to listen to all of your material
  • If posting songs with profanity or explicit themes, please check the NSFW ("Not Safe For Work") box. This will let listeners know what to expect.
  • If you participate in a "skirmish" (one-hour group songwriting challenge) or "feast" (writing several songs in one sitting), use the #skirmish or #feast tag, and flag your songs accordingly. That way people can wait to listen to them all together, or optionally ignore them.

In the Forums

  • Fawmers are 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 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 fawmling 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).
  • Accentuate the positive.
  • Constructive criticism is OK, but try to avoid negative remarks.
  • Phrase any criticism in a way that suggests how to improve the song (not show off your expertise).
  • Avoid mansplaining or other kinds of flexes

3. Collaboration Guidelines

TLDR: Communication and consent! Collaboration etiquette:

  • 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 actually have the time. If there's a particular fawmer you want to work with, you can make a request on their profile page. Understand they may say no.

If you have lyrics you want set to music, or a composition you want words for: post in the Collaboration Classifieds forum, or use tags like #needs_collab, #needs_music or #needs_lyrics. Once you've found a collaborator and need any more, edit the song post to delete the tag!

Similarly, if you’re looking for lyrics/music to add to, peruse the Collaboration Classifieds or "needed" tags.

There are often "Random Collaborations" forum topics that pair lyricists and composers to write together from scratch.

Although the emphasis in FAWM is on writing songs, fawmers may also choose to collaborate on production elements, e.g. having a singer or instrumentalist add a layer to a completed composition.

Editing

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 #needs_music lyric you may specify things you don’t want changed. For example: open to all changes, don’t change anything, don’t change any gender pronouns, etc.

Check with each other as you make changes!

Posting

Discuss with your collaborator(s) about who will post. If you’re adding music to a #needs_lyrics post, discuss whether you’ll add the demo to the existing post or will create a new song post.

Future Plans

If you want to release a FAWM collaboration outside/after FAWM, check with your collaborator before you start to set expectations:

  • Is your collab going to be used post FAWM and be out in the general music world for sale or streaming?
  • Is it going to be released for distribution (Spotify, etc.)?
  • If so, you need a co-writer's agreement signed agreeing the copyright splits. There may be mechanical, writer's, publisher's, or other copyright/royalties attached to the song. Managing this is outside the scope of this document, and FAWM is not liable for any damages incurred by mishandled collaborations, so be aware of the considerations.
  • 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 (i.e., lyrics or music). 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.

No Posthumous Collaborations

Fawmers have made life-long friends and songwriting partners through FAWM. The bittersweet thing about this is that sometimes we lose a "fawmily" member, and it leaves us reeling with how to process our grief. One natural response is to write a tribute song in memory of our dear friend.

However, FAWM strongly discourages any attempts to posthumously "collaborate" with the account of a deceased fawmer. This includes remixing, sampling, crediting, or any other effort to write songs on their behalf — for example, to give them a posthumous "win" — without express written permission from the fawmer (prior to death) or their estate. While this may be well-intentioned and feel like a way of honoring our friend, their family or estate may not see it that way, and it is important to respect that.

If you attempt this, you indemnify FAWM of any losses or damages you might incur, as per the terms, and we will remove any disputed material if a representative contacts us and asks us to do so, as per the copyright policy.


4. Website Features

Where are my important emails from FAWM (e.g., password reset)? It possibly got caught in your spam filter. Add @fawm.org emails to your white list and check your spam folder for emails with subject lines containing "FAWM"

Still not getting 'em. 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? You may have found a bug! FAWM is a volunteer operation with only a couple of developers, and we most thoroughly tested the site with Chrome. You can report bugs in the Website Tech Help and Feedback forum.

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).

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!

What are "Zongs"? That's our term for "Zero-comment sONGS." It's a way to quickly find and give feedback on songs that have slip through the cracks so far. You may also want to check the glossary for other "fawmisms" below


5. Song Demo Hosting

FAWM provides demo hosting for "super fawmstars" who donate $25 or more. This allows you to upload MP3 or OGG files directly from the song post/edit form. There is currently no limit on the number of songs you can upload audio demos for. You must of course own the copyright to any files you upload!

Without FAWM hosting, you may still paste any of the following into the "Demo URL" field of the song post/edit form, and your demo will be automatically included on your song's page:

  • SoundCloud song page URL; note you need set the track to "public" in the track's settings on SoundCloud, and make sure "Enable app playback" is checked in the "Permissions" tab
  • Bandcamp song page URL
  • Video demos from YouTube or Vimeo video page URLs
  • Experimental platforms like Funkwhale and Bandlab
  • A direct link to any *.mp3, *.ogg, or *.wav file hosted on your own server, or services like Dropbox or Google Drive; note that an HTTPS protocol is needed!

If you paste a URL to anything other than the above, FAWM cannot directly embed your demo into the song's page, but will still provide an offsite link.


6. Glossary

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.
  • 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.) all-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 (first-time fawmer).
  • fawmonos (v.) it's January 31, let's gooooo!
  • 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.
  • 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 built for fawmers.
  • slothcore (n.) music genre "invented" in FAWM 2021, generally ambient music involving very slow rhythms (20-40 BPM)
  • strangle disco (n.) music genre "invented" in 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 "zongless" 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 on zongs.