Music streaming platform Bandcamp recently secured a deal with Taihe Music — a Chinese company that now owns a collection of previously indie labels such as Maybe Mars — making dozens of albums from China’s rock and indie scene available on the site. Yet if that move was cause for celebration among fans of Chinese music, the joy was short-lived. Late on Tuesday 16 February local time, word began to circulate that Bandcamp appeared to be inaccessible in China.
The music streaming platform, which has made headlines throughout the past year for its artist-centric model and in particular its excellent Bandcamp Fridays initiative, has become a popular outlet for Chinese indie bands in recent years. It’s no coincidence that RADII’s monthly round-ups of the best Chinese music have frequently been dominated by tracks sourced from the site.
Bandcamp’s disappearance behind the so-called “Great Firewall” — China’s system of controls on certain overseas websites and services — has been met with dismay by many in Chinese music circles, as the site had provided an important bridge between DIY labels and artists in the country and international audiences. In the short-term, many of those using the platform from within China will likely find a way around the block, but the longer-term impact should not be underestimated, as Krish Raghav articulates:
Bandcamp is now blocked in China. The reason will be bureaucratic, routine. The effect will be subtle tragedy- a slow-burn drift to an insular music scene that has to rely on volunteer content smuggling and context translation. Skills this resilient scene knows all too well. ??
— Krish Raghav (@krishraghav) February 17, 2021
Frustratingly, the move comes just a fortnight after a deal between Bandcamp and Taihe Group, which along with Maybe Mars includes the Ruby Eyes Records and IndieWorks imprints. Taihe had announced the agreement in early February by declaring that it was “helping music exchange and mutual learning between Chinese and overseas musicians.”
Taihe’s deal does mean that there are now dozens of fantastic Chinese rock records available on Bandcamp, in addition to those from the numerous independent labels from the country that were already releasing there. However, the back catalogue appears to have a few gaps, especially where potentially controversial releases are concerned.
Unfortunately, it seems the blocking of Bandcamp may throw up a barrier for artists hoping to reach international audiences who want to explore the extremely diverse, fascinating Chinese music scene.
For a curated guide through some of the best Chinese music to be found on Bandcamp, check out articles on the site from RADII writers Josh Feola and Bryan Grogan and take a look through our most recent New Music round-up here:
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