Taylor Swift’s fans in Asia are all excited about her upcoming concert “The Eras Tour” as the star is going to play a whopping six shows at Singapore's National Stadium and four nights at Tokyo Dome.
The mega act is undoubtedly beneficial for Singapore and Japan as it is expected to see fans coming to both regions from all around Asia. However, Hong Kong, a city which used to welcome mega acts performed by renowned international artists before the pandemic, is being skipped by the American singer.
Apart from Swift, British bands Coldplay and The 1975 have also excluded Hong Kong on their upcoming tour schedules, which will include places such as Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Why is Hong Kong often missed out by global pop stars?
Industry players MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to attributed this to several potential factors, including the size of the concert venue.
In fact, unlike the National Stadium in Singapore and Tokyo Dome in Japan which can both seat up to 55,000 people, the current main indoor concert venues available in Hong Kong lack large concert venues that can accommodate tens of thousands of fans. For example, AsiaWorld-Expo can take up to 14,000 people, whereas Hong Kong Coliseum can accommodate up to 12,500. Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre can take 8,000 audience, according to their official websites.
Yvonne Ma, founder and managing director at Eighty20, said many international acts require large venues to accommodate their massive fan bases, and if Hong Kong lacks suitable venues, it may be less attractive for these artists to come to the city.
Additionally, logistical issues such as travel and accommodation for the performers and their teams can also play a role in determining whether or not they choose to include Hong Kong on their tour.
Apart from the size of event venues, event organisers are often looking for the biggest return for their investment. The cost of hosting these events can be enormous and it may be hard to get suitable returns on investment requires sell-out audiences in venues, according to Kevin Kan, chief experience officer, Break Out Consulting Asia.
He added that as most concerts or tours by mega stars are planned years in advance to coincide with recording, appearance and endorsement obligations, Hong Kong may not have been a planned stop as the city only opened up post pandemic earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Michael Maddess, CEO, Action Asia Events said the Taylor Swift situation is due to not only religious conservatism, but more on the fact that Hong Kong lacks talents in the organising side. He added that companies that have been holding budgets over the pandemic also have to contribute to the overall strategic direction of events going forward with sponsorship and other help to drive the industry forward.
What more can be done?
True enough, Hong Kong has long been a key name on the international stage, and it has indeed made effort to pull in major events such as the Hong Kong Rugby Seven and Standard Chartered Marathon after the pandemic. However, it will still take time to build the profile of Hong Kong as a preferred location for these types of entertainment events, according to Kate Kwan, general manager, TEAM LEWIS Hong Kong.
As such, it is essential for the government and industry players to come together to think of effective ways in attracting international pop stars to perform in the city. David Ko, managing director of RFI Asia, believed that Hong Kong should build more and better concert venues that can cater to different sizes and types of events.
“For example, the Kai Tak Sports Park, which is expected to be completed by 2024, will feature a 50,000-seat main stadium that could host major concerts and sports events. Another example is the West Kowloon Cultural District, which aims to provide a vibrant cultural hub with various performing arts venues and open spaces,” he added.
In terms of consumer experience, many concert patrons are now looking for experiences rather than just attending a concert. Break Out Consulting Asia’s Kan said the savvy event organiser could bring mega stars to smaller locations with more intimate concerts or even a short “in-residence” showcase. He added:
Thereby allowing patrons to experience a memorable up-close event that caters to smaller venues.
On the other hand, the government can offer incentives to help the event industry go forward, said Action Asia’s Maddess. “As in a place such as Hong Kong where landlords rule, SMEs don't have a chance to survive unless they get some kind of help along the way as inflation is out of control with ridiculously high rents. We should be proud that at least Swift is heading to Asia which is a start after everyone has been suffering over the last three years.”
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