Summertime Blues: Indie on the Airwaves, Without Permission

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It’s been a rightfully tough month for Chinese advertisements. First this detergent commercial, then this depressingly bewildering spot for fans, and now cars.


Last week, the Chinese car brand Roewe released a new ad campaign for its fancypants new RX5 SUV.

This two-minute video ad was the centerpiece of the campaign, and spread fairly quickly online despite…well, judge for yourselves:

Leave aside, for a moment, the absolutely awful body-shaming subtext, the deeply problematic gender politics and the hackneyed plot – listen to the background music.

The song is Summer Time (夏天时光) by Beijing indie stalwarts Casino Demon (赌鬼), off their 2016 album Purple Haze From The Orient (紫气东来).

Roewe reportedly used the song without permission.

Casino Demon’s label, Modern Sky, took to Weibo to issue this sharp statement:


“Modern Sky and Casino Demon have found that the commercial for Roewe RX5, “Perfect Twins”, shared widely online, uses the song “Summer Time” from Casino Demon’s latest album as its soundtrack. We wish to state that the song is being used without authorization from Modern Sky, and constitutes a significant violation of rights. Modern Sky requests that all parties involved stop sharing and spreading the video, and we will take all possible action, including legal injunctions, to protect our rights.”

This one is going to be interesting to follow. Modern Sky have the clout and influence to force a response from Roewe, unlike two more recent incidents.

There’s been a troubling rise of unauthorized usage of Chinese indie music on public airwaves.


Last week, the Inner Mongolian folk band Delehei (德乐黑) discovered that one of their songs was used, without notice, on a CCTV-2 Dragon Boat special broadcast. The band has publically issued a statement, but no reply has been forthcoming from the state broadcaster yet.

Over a month ago, another Beijing indie band, the folk trio 16mins, had their song used without permission in a film. The medical thriller ‘Find Me Guilty’ (判我有罪) used the song ‘They Will’ (他们的未来) in its closing credits with neither credit nor authorization.

The band, like Modern Sky, issued a strong response and took legal action…and the story took a few unexpected turns.

It turns out the production company had outsourced the music production to a young Chinese musician, who was supposed to record a special number for the closing credits. Two demos were recorded, and somewhere along the line (maybe an internal spat?) the musician’s work disappeared from the film, replaced with the 16mins track.

The band itself sums up this utterly convoluted turn of events with the perfect reaction picture:


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