For the best of 8-bit/chip music extravaganza Blip Festival 08 without leaving your computer screen, video editors have completed their dark craft and gotten some documentation online. Our friends over at 2 Player Productions are working on more long-form documentary, but they already have this cover of “Atomic” by Glomag and stealthopera for your enjoyment.

"Atomic" cover by Glomag f. stealthopera @ Blip Festival 2008 in NYC from 2 Player Productions on Vimeo.

Glomag, here’s an idea for your next set: I stand nonchalantly at your side, edging ever closer until you punch me in the face with one of your air fists. Slapstick gold.

And here’s our friend / CDM drinking buddy Joel Johnson interviewing our other friend 8-bit artist Bubblyfish, for Boing Boing and Offworld.

For more video goodness, Peter Swimm has a whole Blip album up on Vimeo:

Blip Festival 08

Assuming you happen to hate chip music (it’s been known to happen), there’s still plenty to learn from this crew. Sure, you could argue they came up with a gimmick – although I think the essence of marketing is figuring out if there’s a sellable hook in something you already love. But having watched Blip and 8-bit music take off, there are a lot of other, underrated factors:


  • They worked together. The 8-bit community in general has done a fantastic job of cross-promotion, supporting each other as fans, going out to get gigs, and advocating the work they do, even before you look at collectives like the awesome 8-bit collective. (That, incidentally, is a great place to start looking at this scene.)
  • They have fun. People can bring friends to a Blip gig and be sure their friends will have a good time, whether they’re hard-core fans or not. Now, maybe your music is less “accessible,” but part of what makes this work is that the 8-bit folks do throw good parties, and they share infectious positive energy in what they’re doing, which could be applicable to anything.
  • They’re on-message. The 8-bit folks really do have something to say about how technology is used musically, and they say it, via all sorts of different press outlets and the lie. That’s helped add to their longevity, because people believe it’s worth following this music over time. Replace those sentences with something you care about, find some other people who feel the same way, and this is something that can be replicated.
  • They’re global. I love New York, which has been a epicenter for this kind of music, but New York can’t begin to sustain these artists on its own. A whole lot of this crew tours, and there’s strong coordination worldwide. Even in New York, it’s a niche genre, which means it needs that international reach to thrive.
  • They found parallel fields to connect. Cross the streams! Art, gaming, tech – it turned out that the stuff from the 8-bit crowd mattered to people outside the music world. Result: get out of your own personal bubble.

All of these points sound like a recipe to help unusual music genres do better around the world. I have no doubt that we could have more screaming crowds of people in laptop music, for instance, and that even the world’s hot spots (hello, London, New York, Berlin, Melbourne, and company) would like their scenes to improve. Obviously, the 8-bit scene benefits from timing and their unique field. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them and fight for your own Indietronica Augmented Microtonal Banjo movement.

  • Or have a 100+ vids on youtube

    in before the debate!

  • velo

    YEAH!!!!!! BLIPFEST '08!!!! Too bad I wasn't there. 😛 but hey, I listened to the stream.

  • yur on dude. But couldn't I punch someone we DON'T like? Like the guy what messed with Nullsleep's mixer?

  • @glomag: ha!

    Oh, and I should add, chip music has definitely been getting plenty of love from readers, so that was more a rhetorical point … I think it's not so much any specific genre as getting smarter about building communities around music and live performance! In fact, if I had some champagne around, I'd toast that … I will soon.

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  • toastblitter

    Peter, funny you should post on this. Just a couple weeks ago I was at a joint HacDC/DorkbotDC discussion about building community among techies in the DC metro area. I mentioned the 8-bit scene as a prime example of passionate enthusiasts doing it right.

    I feel like a large part of that scene's success lies in the way virtual and physical outlets are balanced and complement each other. Websites, message boards, and online media outlets`work to support shows, festivals, and venues (like Blip and the Tank in New York) and vice versa.

    Also, since live performances have been made into such a cornerstone of the 8-bit scene, there is a guarantee that the virtual community will periodically have physical outlets.

    Not too far off what you're trying to do with things like Create Digital Music Night.

  • I wish I could be apart of some sort of collective like the 8-Bit one. Being from A) Canada, B) Northern Canada, it's hard to find any one else who would want to take this kind of thing really seriously.

    I would love to get my hands on a couple of old gameboys, some lsdj and nanoloop carts. But I just don't have the money, which makes me very upset.

  • @David:
    Well, one way to create those collectives would be online. I'm certainly interested in figuring out how/if CDM can help folks do that. I don't think that you absolutely have to be in the same geographic location. (And I used to do issue advocacy stuff where we were organizing nationwide, initially before we had all the great Web tools we have now!) Geographic presence is fantastic, but you can start by getting people together online.

    As for cost … well, the Game Boy is about $10, so it's really only the LSDJ or Nanoloop cost that hurts.

  • @dave:
    actually a great way to get around some costs would be to get a cart from someone that has a flashing service, like nonfinite. The LSDJ rom only requires a 2 dollar donation (though i'd say it's worth far more), and if you provide proof that you've paid to nonfinite (or any other similar vendor w/flashing service) he'll put the rom on the cart when you buy it. This circumvents the need to buy a transferer, which can add somewhere in the region of $50 more to your bill. Cost of cart this way= $40ish + $2 + shipping.
    And yeah, gameboys are dirt cheap online. Ebay is your best friend.

    BUT a great start would be to get the LSDJ rom and emulate it on your computer. This way you can make sure you have the patience for trackers or nanoloop (ROM is demo only) before you drop the cash on them.

  • Kezzie Beat

    Blip Fest 08 was the best weekend of my life. It taught me loads about myself, and who I wanted to be, the whole time I was there, things just felt so right.

    I hate calling it a scene…but this scene is something I am so proud of being in and love being involved with.

    It has certainly changed my life, I've met so many people, good friends, awesome friends, and unlike other genres, you get to talk one on one with your idols, your heroes, and find out they are as down to earth and friendly as everyone else.

    I hope I stay involved with this until the end, and I hope it never ends.

  • @Kris:

    Thanks for all the feedback. I already bought the rights to the official LSDJ rom, and have fooled around with it a lot. I was recently introduced to the concept of flashing. I will probably get two carts done after the holidays.

  • lilith

    aw, I missed out. I love seeing this amount of energy and sense of fun expressed in an electronic music scene. This is how it should be.

    doesnt hurt that I love that Blondie song.

  • lilith

    makes me wanna get involved too.

  • bsw

    haha jokes, at the start of the 1st vid, he girl who jumps on stage and starts touching the singer, after she gets off you see the bodyguard on stage…

  • great little article on blip…it was great to be there hanging out with so many of my friends from around the world…to those interested in the scene, a good place to go check it out online is 8bitcollective

  • gwenhwyfaer

    I feel somehow saddened, having just discovered that my own personal tolerance for chiptunes is about one and a half songs… Oh well, I'm glad everyone else had this much fun, anyway!

  • @gwenhwyfaer: I think that's actually totally okay. There isn't a genre for which that isn't true for *someone*.

    That said, I'm kind of interested to put together a list of "chiptunes for people who don't like them." I'd love to see more experimentation with these sounds … like a more ambient track, for instance. 🙂 I'm sure there's some stuff out there; I've heard it occasionally. (or I could, um, go make some, huh?)


    I went last year and had a bit of fun. As Tom Moody says, the believers are the important part. Brittney Spears isn't doing shit, but I bet her concerts are off the hook.

    The things that continue to excite me about the chiptoon scene have nothing to do with the fist pumping that happens at the shows. Opening up hardware, exploring the limits of throwaway technology, consumptive devices becoming avenues for storytelling, portable techno machines, and direct contact with instrument developers gets me wet…

  • Omar Morsy

    @Peter Kin "“chiptunes for people who don’t like them"

    I found this mix by MENEO that could actually help :

    And by the way, they where a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
    2 gusy full of raw energy. I have to say their electro dancehall style with Bowiesque vocals gave the crowd something to remember, besides their nude trademark!

  • zenzen

    Does the movement have rules about equipment and recording like, say, the "Dogme 95" movement does for film? I loved the videos and the energy, above. The sounds reminded me of my beginnings in electronic music, MusiCalc on the Commodore64(!). Is it uncool/heretical to make chiptunes using SID-chip vsts?

  • cobb

    What artists did bubblyfish say her work was informed by?? i didn't recog the names she mentions and am always on the hunt for new glitchy-ambient yummies.

  • Downpressor


    Thats a whole one more than mine.

  • rhowaldt

    i think DJ Scotch Egg is the master of chiptunes. or of the gameboy. or not. i don't know. but i've seen him live on lowlands festival (NL) and it was one of the sweetest things i have ever seen. and i am still in doubt as to whether he was greater than Sigur Ros, who i saw the day after i think. check out youtube for some great backstage footage as well.
    at the end of the show, he wanted to do a crappy ass casio-keyboard version of Jingle Bells (with christmas-hat on), and his casio-keyboard stopped working. after fiddling a little he decided it was not going to work again, so he started just singing 'jingle bells', and the entire crowd followed. it was great.


  • this is a nice article, but please please – chip music is not all about new york and gameboys! there was a "global scene" long before this: the demoscene and while i can understand that this is not relevant in this post, or in documentaries focusing on NYC (hehe), saying that the scene is global because NYC-people tour gives the wrong idea.

    i think chip music has all to gain from some proper criticism. while we can use the DIY-buzzwords (subversing limitations of commodities, using the obsolete, openness) to get attention, most chip-people seem to be just downloading and running software. musically, there is far too many people that get away with bad music because it is made with a gameboy. it is just as bad as polishing up bad songs with mega-production, right? some listeners wouldn't like the composition if it wasn't made with squarewaves. chiptune has gotten a face and a sound (sometimes even a history), and it's called gameboy pop.

    hmm, this is a really bitchy comment. 🙂 sorry to ruin christ's mess! i agree that other 'genres' have lots to learn from chipmusicians, and you pinpoint them down pretty well! and also, i think a list of what has came to be the fringe of chip music, is a very good idea! i am doing similar efforts over at chipflip. there is people exploring sound chips and really incorporating it in the process of making and performing music.

  • Salud

    Chip music was a *turn-on* when it came out the C64 becuz u cud ROLL YER OWN baby. And it's a GAS hearing it come round again. SALUD@

  • Completely agreed with Goto80!

  • Chiptunes are hot and they're created/enjoyed worldwide. Although this article focuses on the NYC crew there are a growing number of European artists who also tour.

    To hear more chiptunes, hit up
    ..its a streaming radio station where people can make requests. Also swing by Pulsewave (if you live in NYC) its a cozy monthly chiptune venue. has a party calendar that shows events going on worldwide. Viva la chiptune!