What happened in 2006?

Time for some statistic disco! Four years ago I thought that the term chipmusic was doomed, because chiptune was so popular. Let’s have a look if things have changed.

This graph from Google Insights shows the increase in the amount of searches for chipmusic. The increase is probably caused by the launch of chipmusic.org (in early 2010, right?). I believe that Blip Festival switched from chiptune to chipmusic around the same time, but I could be wrong. So, it seems like chipmusic is back! Right?

Wrong! You see that little blue line at the bottom? That’s chipmusic. Now look at the red line at the top, flying lying a killer hawk in the skies. That’s chiptune. Well, atleast it stopped its increase during 2011. Micromusic (in orange) is now about as popular as the term chipmusic. “Chip music” (in green) shows a very similar development to micromusic.

So why is there such a huge difference between the tune and the music? Since Insights doesn’t go further back than 2004, it’s hard to say. We can’t see how the McLaren bonanza affected things, for example. (If anyone knows how to search -2004, let me know). But it’s clear that in 2005 the terms were rather equal. They were battling it out. But chiptune won. In 2006-2007 it was taking off. So what happened back then?

The first Blip Festival happened at the end of the year. That probably made chipmusic a lot more popular in the US. And once something is big in the US it probably gets big elsewhere too, right? It’s the freedom virus! ^__^ But what else happened that could have caused this? Several artists got attention outside of the scene. David Sugar, Bodenständig 2000, Nullsleep & Bitshifter with their big tour, Paza and those 8 bit rappers (via Beck), DJ Scotch Egg. Hopefully I made some impression aswell – I made three gigs and one release every month in 2007 :). But perhaps it was the dawn of 8bitcollective (as music.gameboymall.com) that made the difference? Any ideas?

Btw – USA is not the country where chiptune is the most popular search term. It’s not a European country either. And it’s neither Japan nor China. Not Australia either. And it’s not somewhere in South America. It’s Indonesia!

For those of you who don’t know, Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world. And the people who Google in Indonesia, they like chiptune twice as much compared to Norway (which comes in second). To put it in a weird way. I remember when this guy called Jar-Wo contacted me in 2006/2007. At that time there wasn’t much going on, but he was one of the people who got it started. Big up, Jar-Wo! (and rest in peace)

Update March 17: As Optiroc pointed out in the comments, it’s also interesting to see how “keygen music” relates to these.  It has quite steady (relative) amount of Google searches. For the past years it’s been 4 times as popular as chipmusic/chip music/micromusic – and 4 times less popular than chiptune: http://is.gd/1uTBs7.

14 Responses to “What happened in 2006?”

  1. Daniel Rehn (@daniel_rehn) Says:

    “Micromusic” always seemed the best option—all-encompassing while still implying the chip-based constraints. And, in the end, historians will decide what we called it.

  2. Linda Says:

    Interesting… I still feel that there would be a great amount of people looking for getting more out of their vehicles when searching “chiptune”. One of my sisters happens to be married to an Indonesian guy and goes on holiday to Indonesia in 2 months. I’ll ask her to drop the question :-)

    One idea: scooters seem to be the most preferred way of transport in Indonesia and in 2008 someone posted a way how to get more power out of it by using a gameboy…. (Dutch: http://webwereld.nl/nieuws/39090/scooters-op-te-voeren-met-gameboy.html)

    Is it possible to see with which other words chiptune was looked for? So we could get a better idea about the context the searchers were thinking in.

  3. Lazerbeat Says:

    I still don’t really dig the name “chip/micro/tune/music” as Trash80 has pointed out rock isnt “guitar” music, but still. One possible idea.

    I think Indonesia might be queering the results a little. It might be possible that in countries like Japan (probably they use “チップチューン” rather than “chiptune”), the UK, the US and sweden, perhaps a lot of the people who are fans of the genre are searching for more specific things like “prosound mod” or “midibox SID”. A lot of potential searchers have already found chipmusic.org, chipflip, 8bit peoples etc?

    Large numbers of searchers for the name of a genre in a region might indicate the genre is growing or reaching a wider less well versed audience?

  4. goto80 Says:

    I’m wondering if chiptune and internet access in Indonesia is perhaps a bit more ‘exclusive’ than in EU and US? Meaning – the people who have internet are young and cool and then they like chipmusic. :D It’s a bit more new and hip there perhaps, like Lazerbeat suggests. Remember that the statistics are relative to the other searches in the region.

    But perhaps we shouldn’t make too much out of these statistics. We can’t know how accurate they are. Afaik, there’s no way to see the details – like the contexts that Linda mentions – or what these numbers actually represent. And even if we could – these are just search behaviour on Google, after all. They might represent the whole population.

    Anyway. I have a folder on a hard drive called guitar music. :) For me that is actually a relevant term, because I never had much guitar-based music.

    Personally I don’t mind defining music from the tools used. Feels more solid, somehow. If there is a new genre name today, it means something quite different in 5 years. Obviously that happens to chipmusic aswell, but I like that there are some tiny objects that everything revolves around: the soundchips.

    Daniel – yeah the historians decide. I’ve tried to be a one and decide how it was used around 1990. It’s more or less impossible. But that’s a secret!

  5. Optiroc Says:

    I’d guess that the dominance of “chiptune” over “chip music” merely say that there are more people looking for a “catchy chiptune” to listen to than there are people interested in “chip music” as a genre or movement. How do these numbers compare with searches for “intromusic”?

  6. Optiroc Says:

    Correction: Not “intromusic”, “keygen music”!

  7. goto80 Says:

    Ah, keygen music. Excellent point. I forget about that term too often.

    It seems to work quite independent from the trends of the chip-terms. “Keygen music” has quite steady (relative) amount of Google searches. For the past years it’s been 4 times as popular as chipmusic/chip music/micromusic – and 4 times less popular than chiptune: http://is.gd/1uTBs7.

    I’m not sure if chiptune is used as a noun in the searches. It is very common to use it as the name for the genre. “I make chiptune”. One idea is that vorc.org contributed to this (Videogame music Or Chiptune), as the main site for sound chippery around 2002-2006.

  8. FTC Says:

    Anders goes quantitative!

  9. chunter Says:

    This is the first time I’ve literally heard/read someone saying he or she is comfortable with the idea of a music being named after the instrument. I agree that the term “chipmusic” is too vague for its own good, compare to terms like “electronic” and “turntablism.” Maybe it’s better to embrace it, since it’s easier to say “I make music with synthesizers” or “I play guitar” than it is to say “I play mixed up progressive/jazz/dance/dub/pop/rock.”

  10. Marilou Says:

    I think you are missing one point here, that every term is entirely defined by its historical and social context.
    For example: what is experimental music? Anything that today is quite advanced/avant-garde but that in three years it could be conventional.
    So what was called keygen music in the ’80s could be called chiptune in the mid ’90s, and moving to time it can be chip music, chipmusic, micromusic etc. It depends very much which term a) the people that compose it and b) the people that write about it decide to use.
    Usually music genres describe a certain music culture and musical style. In this sense, chip music could be coined as a genre. But it isn’t that simple – is there a music industry that will support it as genre? And what about the idea of “videogame music” which is quite popular in some areas? And to confused it even more, what is “music” in chip music?

    Another interesting point is the search engine that was used – was it only Google? There are some countries that don’t rely on this, so you may find that in altavista or yahoo the frequency of terms is different.
    Personally I find that Italians use very much the term micromusic nowadays – I don’t know how it was in the past, feel free to shed a light here. In France I come across “8bit” quite a lot and “chiptune” – I have a very vague idea that “chiptune” is more used because of the similar to french linguistics/pronunciation. And the list goes on…

  11. goto80 Says:

    I see these statistics (of Google-searches only) about industry and consumption, basically. Listeners. Consumers. Journalists. The ones who’re already down with chip-stuff probably don’t search for it.

    Google has plenty of power when it comes to categorizing and recommending things. It reflects and affects what’s popular. So I’d say that Google algorithms are hard to separate from “the social”.

    For many years I was annoyed with the shifts in meaning in the chip-terms. Since then I’ve done plenty of research on how the terms have changed over the years. And realised that it’s unavoidable, like you say. It’s different because of geography, culture, language, etc.

    Discussions about what chiptune “is” has become more rare over the last years, it seems. Although some still say “it’s not a genre it’s an instrument”, others have quietly accepted the general (Google!) understanding of it. The one about gameboys and videogames. “Others” — being me. :)

    So why not just embrace this definition? I like the idea of genres as object oriented. Instead of aesthetics or artists or styles or culture, there are soundchips. Whatever you do with them you still have the option of calling your music chipmusic. It doesn’t matter what you use it for, atleast it’s always chipmusic. And also, then I can say “I make chipmusic – it’s made with 8-bit machines” instead of going bla-blabla-blalbalbla about aesthetics. That’s refreshing!

    And just to be clear – this object oriented view is intertwined with culture in many ways that I won’t go into here. Technical terms like 8-bit, soundchip, tracker and computer also varies with time.

  12. Linda Says:

    Speaking of Google algorithms. I don’t know when the auto complete functionality got introduced. Might have helped the searches too.

    I disagree that Google techniques are giving a representable view on social communities. It might give a representable view of what people want to get out of the Internet and that’s still a limited domain. Plus, google is streering people too. Within the algoritm, showing results, the advertisements shown (based on your inbox? for how long have they “beta tested” that) and the autocomplete functionality.

    Sorry, I’m a bit sceptical on Google.

  13. goto80 Says:

    In my sentence, Google “might represent the whole population” might should in fact be don’t. Eeek. Fail!

    I’m no expert on search engines. All can I hope is that the numbers are correct. That they actually show what people have searched for. Perhaps those results are sponsored too, who knows?

    I try to out of the Google galaxy but I usually come back to their services because most of them are better than the others. They do influence our lives a lot. Their master plan is to predict the future. So the best way to do that is to create the future. :) But yeah, Googlism is another topic.

  14. goto80 Says:

    Interview with Low-Gain, which gives a personal account for the 2006-scene in the US, about e.g. 8bitcollective. http://geekparty.com/low-gain-interview-part-2-blip-festival-and-the-rise-of-8-bit-collective/

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