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Taylor Swift controversy draws mixed reactions as SG clarifies Thai PM's concert subsidy claims

Taylor Swift controversy draws mixed reactions as SG clarifies Thai PM's concert subsidy claims

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Taylor Swift fans in the region have been significantly upset over controversy surrounding Swift's upcoming six shows that will be played at Singapore's National Stadium with sentiments surrounding the controversy plummeting from 18.2% positive and 0% negative to 0.4% positive and 10.3% negative, according to media intelligence firm CARMA. 

This comes after Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin reportedly said at the iBusiness Forum that concert promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group said that the Singapore government offered subsidies of up to US$3 million for each concert.

He also reportedly said that this subsidy was contingent on Swift agreeing not to perform anywhere else in South-east Asia during her iconic Eras tour, according to The Straits Times

Don't miss: Big reputation: Is Taylor Swift the new marketing gimmick 

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) were quick to respond to the claims and issued a joint statement reportedly saying that tourism sectors such as hospitality, retail, travel and dining are likely to benefit from the event just like in other cities the star has previously performed in. 

It reportedly added that over 300,000 tickets were sold for the concerts in Singapore and that many fans would be travelling in from out of the country to see the shows, according to The Straits Times

It added that Singapore has a lot to offer as a destination for large-scale international events and cited its strategic location, quality infrastructure, safety, efficiency and diverse cultural offerings.

According to CARMA, Taylor Swift not coming to Thailand due to a deal between Singapore and the singer was the main subject of most mentions associated with the singer over the last 24 hours.

Netizens were divided on the issue with the main point of discussion being how the Eras tour is not coming to Thailand due to a deal between the singer and Singapore. Keywords associated with the singer after the news included 'money', 'tourists', 'deal' and 'exclusivity'.

This was in contrast to conversations prior to the incident surrounding Swift which saw words such as 'concert', 'biggest' and 'winning' standing out. 

Divika Jethmal, head of marketing, Asia, at CARMA, further explained that while some people were criticising Singapore for being selfish and trying to monopolise the concert, others viewed it as a smart move to attract big events.

"The issue of ASEAN unity was also raised, with some users suggesting that Singapore's actions may be detrimental to the unity of the regional bloc," said Jethmal. She added that some users expressed frustration towards the prime ministers of both Thailand and Singapore saying that they were trying to dictate where global superstars can or cannot perform.

"There are also comments criticising Taylor Swift herself, with some users accusing her of being a 'capitalist' and an opportunist'," said Jethmal.

However, industry professionals MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to concurred, saying that at the end of the day, concerts are simply a business.

An effective strategy

"It drives revenues for Singapore, creates jobs and brings tourists to our shores," said Kevin Kan, chief experience officer at Break Out Consulting Asia. "It allows more people to experience Singapore’s developments and attractions such as Jewel or Marina Bay Sands or Gardens by the Bay. It’s an opportunity to showcase Singapore and put it on the world stage punching above its weight," he explained with regards to Singapore's strategy surrounding the Taylor Swift concert. 

He added that as a business, if you can secure exclusivity, why would you not? "Many businesses have exclusivity contracts so why not for Taylor Swift concerts? If grants are given to artists, there has to be some level of return on investment," he added, saying that this ROI could be in the form of exclusivity.

"The comments from the Thai PM could be construed as sour grapes for missing out but it comes down to strategic planning and speed of execution. Otherwise, it's basically you snooze, you lose," said Kan. 

The impact of politics on concerts

As a result, while sentiments are currently low, the controversy will likely not have a long-term impact on if fans will choose to go to a certain country for a concert or not. Kan said:

Politics has a negligible impact on attending concerts. Especially for Gen Zs where instant gratification drives spending.

"Who in their right mind is not going to want to attend the phenomenon that has fueled the “Swiftie” movement?" said Kan. "For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. We have often seen artists bring their future world tours to countries where they have never been before. So, this might be the only time we see the “Swiftie” movement for a few decades."

Adding to his point, Jose Raymond, managing director at SW Strategies, said that concerts and major events such as sporting events and exhibitions or conferences are driving forces towards tourism and economic recovery, necessary for trickle down impact. He said:

Concerts are a magnet for people and spending. The economic impact is substantial and the buzz is palpable.

He explained that for fans, it is immaterial where concerts are held. "We will go where our artistes perform if they are around our neighborhood, or even outside of their area," said Raymond.

So, by having exclusive rights to concerts in the region, tourists will flock into Singapore from around the region, as evidenced by so many of the concerts Singapore has been holding and the inbound of travellers, explained Raymond. 

True enough, countries around the region have been looking to draw mega stars and events to draw bigger crowds. Recently, the country saw footballer Lionel Messi in Hong Kong, a visit that triggered much controversy after he did not play at the organised match. 

Fans expressed their anger and asked for refund after they paid HK$4,880 to watch the Argentina football star stay rooted at the bench throughout the friendly match between Inter Miami and the Hong Kong team on 4 February 2024.

Tatler Asia, the organiser of the friendly match, issued an apology on 6 February 2024, addressing the disappointment of football fans regarding the absence of Messi from Inter Miami's friendly fixture in Hong Kong. Three days later, Tatler announced a 50% refund for customers who had purchased match-day tickets through official channels.

The city's leader, John Lee, also recently came out to say that Hong Kong will continue to strive to attract mega events to come to Hong Kong while ensuring that the allocation of public funding for organising such activities is used appropriately.

This came after Thavisin's comments on Swift's concerts in Singapore. During a media session before the regular executive council meeting on Tuesday (20 February), Lee didn’t respond directly when asked if Hong Kong would offer similar subsidies.

Lee said different cities strive to attract various mega events such as concerts by international stars. The Hong Kong government will also persist in its efforts to secure such events due to the significant economic benefits they bring and the positive impact they have on enhancing the city's overall attractiveness and competitive image.

Join us this coming 24 - 25 April for #Content360, a two-day extravaganza centered around four core thematic pillars: Explore with AI; Insight-powered strategies; Content as an experience; and Embrace the future. Immerse yourself in learning to curate content with creativity, critical thinking, and confidence with us at Content360!

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