KTV Crackdown: China Bans ‘Harmful’ Karaoke Songs

Songs with references to gambling, violence, drugs or criminal acts (and more!) are soon to disappear from China’s karaoke catalogs

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Matthew Bossons
9:42 PM HKT, Mon August 16, 2021 1 mins read

Few things in China exemplify a night of revelry quite like a karaoke parlor — the abundant booze, the low lighting and that sauced-up friend who has to botch the words to “Still Dre” before calling it a night. However, due to a newly announced song blacklist, late nights of raucous rap renditions in China’s KTV venues might soon be a thing of the past.

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has announced that it would create a list of off-limits songs at karaoke establishments.

Songs that contain references to gambling, violence, drugs, criminal acts or obscenities, promote cults and superstitions, violate the country’s religious laws, or endanger China’s sovereignty will be scrubbed from song databases at venues, according to the ministry.

While this music crackdown may come as a surprise to some, songs that violate the abovementioned criteria have been banned at karaoke bars since 2006 — although venue compliance has been lackluster.

According to state-backed newspaper Global Times, the country is home to nearly 50,000 singing and entertainment venues. Many KTV establishments have a music library of approximately 100,000 songs, making government supervision of karaoke catalogs time-consuming and challenging.

karaoke song ban in China

The rules on harmful content at karaoke venues will go into effect on October 1. Image via Unsplash

According to Global Times, a team of experts has been assembled to assess the suitability of songs based on the regulations on harmful content released in 2006. Music that infringes on the rules should be removed from karaoke catalogs by October 1, 2021.

This is not the first time KTV libraries in China have taken a hit: Back in 2018, the China Audio-Video Copyright Association (CAVCA) issued a notice calling for karaoke operators to remove more than 6,600 music videos from their systems due to copyright infringement.

Chinese netizens have responded to the karaoke crackdown on Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo, and the hashtag #national karaoke forbidden songs list# had 11 million views at the time of writing.

“Everything needs to be positive. If I sing a positive song, then I can become a positive person, or if I sing a song 10 times, then I’ll be brainwashed to believe I could be a positive person,” commented one netizen under a post by a Chinese-language magazine.

Another Weibo user lamented that soon you might only be able to sing red songs — songs celebrating the history and triumphs of the Communist Party of China — at KTV bars.

Additional reporting by Wang Junjie

Cover image via Pixabay

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