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Daily Drip

Has China Really Banned Tattoos From Music Festival Stages?

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That’s the story doing the rounds on WeChat and beyond at the moment. A screenshot, purportedly from someone passing on guidelines from the forthcoming Hangzhou outpost of Modern Sky’s Strawberry Festival to bands, has been circulating among music-related group chats stating that:

The most recent guidance is that you can’t expose tattoos. You should wear long-sleeved T-shirts. […] For artists with tattoos on their hands or in places where they can’t be hidden, management will have to try and come up with ways to cover them. Basically, they can’t be on show. […] At the moment, the suggestion is you use band-aids or scarves etc

The story comes following China’s apparent “hip-hop ban”, which appeared to bar tattooed performers from mainstream TV.

To try and find out more, I messaged someone at Modern Sky, which in addition to organizing Strawberry Festivals across China is also a prominent music label, and owns a hip-hop-focused spin-off brand called MDSK. My contact is not directly involved in the Hangzhou iteration of Strawberry Festival next month, but when asked whether the screenshot was accurate or not, their reply was “it seems it’s true, sigh”.

I also sent the screenshot to someone involved with Midi Festival – China’s longest-running rock music festival brand which organizes events all over the country and tends to have a metal and punk slant to its line-ups – and the reply was that they hadn’t received any such requests or guidelines. “It’s not clear whether it’s true or false,” they added.

This is sometimes the way with such “directives”, and it may be that Strawberry is merely covering its back in the run up to a busy season of shows.

The May 1st Labour Day period is traditionally a key time of year for music festivals in China, with Modern Sky planning major festivals in both Shanghai and Beijing, and Midi hosting its flagship event just outside Suzhou during the holiday this year.

Hangzhou Strawberry Festival is due to take place over the weekend of April 14-15th – we’ll be keeping an eye on the stages to see what happens.

Meanwhile, here’s a nice little thread on it all from Nathanel Amar:

More on tattoos and controversy in China:

China’s Tattoo Scene: History, Controversy, and Reality

After the “Hip-Hop Ban”, Chinese TV Turns to Street Dancing Shows

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.