Music streaming platform Bandcamp recently struck a deal with Taihe Music – a Chinese company that now has a collection of former independent labels such as Maybe Mars – making dozens of albums from the Chinese rock and indie scene available on the site. Still, while the move was cause for celebration among Chinese music fans, the joy was short-lived. Late on Tuesday February 16 local time, rumors began to circulate that Bandcamp appeared to be inaccessible in China.
The music streaming platform, which has made headlines over the past year for its artist-centric model and in particular its excellent Bandcamp Fridays initiative, has become in recent years a popular outlet for independent Chinese bands. . It is no coincidence that RADII’s monthly summaries of the best Chinese music have often been dominated by songs from the site.
Bandcamp’s disappearance behind the so-called “Great Firewall” – China’s system for controlling some overseas websites and services – was greeted with dismay by many Chinese music circles, as the site had provided a important bridge between DIY labels and artists from national and international audiences. In the short term, many of those using the platform from China will likely find a way around the block, but the longer term impact should not be underestimated, as Krish Raghav explains:
Bandcamp is now blocked in China. The reason will be bureaucratic, routine. The effect will be a subtle tragedy – a slow drift into an island music scene that must rely on smuggling volunteer content and translating context. Skills that 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 Ruby Eyes Records and IndieWorks imprints. Taihe announced the deal in early February saying it “helps musical exchanges and mutual learning between Chinese and foreign musicians.”
Taihe’s deal means that there are now dozens of fantastic Chinese rock records available on Bandcamp, in addition to those from the many independent labels across the country that were already releasing there. However, the back catalog appears to have a few shortcomings, especially when it comes to the potentially controversial versions.
Sadly, it looks like the Bandcamp blockade may be a hindrance for artists hoping to reach an international audience wishing to explore the extremely diverse and fascinating Chinese music scene.
For an organized guide through some of the best Chinese music to find on Bandcamp, check out the articles on the site of RADII writers Josh Feola and Bryan Grogan and take a look at our latest roundup of the new music here:
New January music: Masiwei Primes from Higher Brothers and Yu Su dazzles
Cover photo: Unsplash