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Taylor Swift Concert in Singapore Sparks Controversy Over Government Grant

HomeEntertainmentTaylor Swift Concert in Singapore Sparks Controversy Over Government Grant

SINGAPORE — The Singapore government is pushing back against claims that it paid Taylor Swift an exorbitant sum to perform a series of concerts in the city-state, seeking to calm tensions with disgruntled neighbors who protested their exclusion from the pop star’s Asian tour.

Edwin Tong, Singapore’s culture minister, addressed the controversy in Parliament on Monday, stating that reports about the size of the payment to Ms. Swift have been “not accurate and not anywhere as high as speculated.” However, citing business confidentiality, he declined to disclose the specific figure or terms of the grant.

The brouhaha began last month when Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha claimed at a business forum that Singapore had paid between $2-3 million to Ms. Swift on the condition that she not perform in any other Southeast Asian country during her highly anticipated “Eras Tour.”

“If I had known this, I would have brought the shows to Thailand,” Mr. Prayut was quoted as saying in Thai media. “Concerts can generate added value for the economy.”

His comments sparked backlash from officials and citizens in other regional nations like the Philippines, who felt it was unfair for Singapore to seemingly monopolize the American singer-songwriter’s limited Asian tour dates through an exclusivity deal.

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Joey Salceda, a Philippine lawmaker, called on Manila to demand an explanation from Singapore, branding such alleged behavior as “not what good neighbors do.”

The city-state’s tourism authorities had openly advertised offering Ms. Swift some form of grant or subsidy to incentivize holding multiple shows there, citing the economic windfall from hundreds of thousands of visiting concertgoers.

And the gambit appears to be paying dividends – Singapore hotels and airlines reported demand surges of up to 30% around the six concert dates from March 3-9. An estimated 300,000 fans, many flying in from neighboring Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, have secured tickets.

Minister Tong insisted the overall economic benefits would “significantly outweigh” whatever sum was paid to Ms. Swift. He portrayed the grant as a worthwhile investment to boost pandemic-battered sectors like hospitality, retail and dining.

The Taylor Swift concert…is an opportunity for Singapore to rebuild ourselves as a sustainable and vibrant live entertainment capital for concert-starved fans in the region,” he said.

Though just a tiny island nation, Singapore has long viewed itself as a cultural and entertainment hub punching above its weight globally. The affluent country regularly hosts major artistic performances, exhibitions, sports tournaments and other marquee events.

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Ms. Swift’s six-night stand at Singapore’s National Stadium represents her only shows in Southeast Asia on the Eras Tour celebrating her decade-spanning discography. Outside of Asia, she has already performed to packed stadiums across the United States and is set for future legs in Europe and Latin America.

At 33 years old, the Pennsylvania native remains one of music’s most bankable superstars, with sales eclipsing 200 million records worldwide. She is the first artist ever to claim the entire top 10 spots of the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to her latest smash album “Midnights.”

The feverish demand to see Ms. Swift live has been further stoked by her absence from touring for several years during the pandemic. Presales for her US dates caused Ticketmaster’s website to crash last November amid a virtual stampede.

In the Twitter-sphere, many Swifties from Thailand, Philippines and other regional nations vented frustration at missing out on the Singapore shows while speculating their governments were unwilling or unable to match the city-state’s lucrative offer.

However, some analysts suggested the furor over Singapore’s “buyout” of Ms. Swift may be overblown. Landing an A-list act often requires hashing out complex tour routing logistics and financial agreements based on available venues, dates and economic viability.

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For top international entertainers like Taylor Swift, it’s not just about upfront payments but other factors like production costs, fan demand, sponsor deals, tax implications and so on,” said Arctic Monkeys concert promoter Michael Rowe. “City officials are spinning a simplistic narrative.”

As Ms. Swift’s first performance in Singapore over the weekend demonstrated, the real winners from her wildly popular tour appear to be the legions of fans finally able to experience it live after years of delays.

Swarms of concertgoers descended on the National Stadium, many dressed in vibrant outfits mirroring the singer’s individuality-celebrating aesthetics. The setlist featured crowd-pleasing hits from across her albums like “Shake It Off,” “Blank Space” and “Anti-Hero.”

For Singapore, hosting the Eras Tour is the latest chance to reaffirm its status as a glitzy showpiece for Asia amid stiff regional competition. But officials may need to tread carefully to avoid appearing tone-deaf to sensitivities around opportunities being restricted to only deep-pocketed nations.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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