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Bandcamp is now banned in China

In a blow to many underground & indie artists, the Great Firewall strikes again

LiFTED | Roger Yiu | 24 Feb 2021

On February 16, rumors started circulating online that bandcamp was down when thousands of Weibo users were unable to log into their existing Bandcamp accounts. By February 17, it was later confirmed by censorship watchdog GreatFire.Org on Twitter that Bandcamp was now one of the banned websites amongst many other online platforms in China.

This has come as a shock to many music fanatics in China considering Taihe Music Group, the Beijing-based music conglomerate, recently issued a statement announcing a deal with Bandcamp. They uploaded a majority of their music, including all the indie labels under the Taihe’s umbrella, to Bandcamp as an approach to help the international scene get to listen to underground Chinese musicians.

Bandcamp has been a crucial staple for independent musicians all over the globe, and even more so for Chinese musicians, as it provides a flexible platform for them to showcase their talents and be paid fairly for their work on the site with little to no censorship.

Krish Raghav, illustrator, and a founding member of Shanghai Concrete and Grass Music Festival, as well as a former Chinese underground music promoter, first delivered the news of Bandcamp’s ban on Twitter. “It's a key discovery mechanism, especially for club and electronic music. It generates media opportunities, collaborations, tours, and even record deals. You can't get that on local platforms because in many cases, they are not accessible from outside China,” Krish explained in an email interview with LiFTED. “Platforms within China, mainly Netease Music and Douban for indie music, pay next to nothing, and are mainly negotiated at the record-label level rather than the artist level and are subject to pretty strict content regulations.”

Inside the Chinese internet ecosystem, the Great Firewall is a censorship system that controls China’s netizens’ access to overseas websites. Using a VPN is still a viable way for Chinese netizens to skirt the blocking by hiding their IP address, but undeniably this is a huge blow to the electronic music community. Since Soundcloud and Mixcloud have been banned in China for a while, it seemed that Bandcamp was a dream come true for artists and producers. Now, unfortunately, the dream is over.