Taylor Swift wooed by Singapore before other international dates were lined up: KASM chief

Taylor Swift wooed by Singapore before other international dates were lined up: KASM chief

SINGAPORE: In early 2023, a team from Singapore flew to Los Angeles to meet leaders from the sports and entertainment world, as American pop star Taylor Swift was about to embark on her United States tour.

At the time, no international venues had been confirmed for the superstar’s The Eras Tour run.

A few months later, the Singapore team, working with concert promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), promised to “deliver Asia” to Swift, thus setting in motion a deal for an unprecedented six-day run of concerts at the National Stadium in Singapore – the only South-East Asian stop of her tour.

The Singapore dates were announced in June 2023.

Swift will hold six shows at the 60,000-capacity venue from March 2 to 9. More than 300,000 tickets have been sold for the concerts in Singapore, with a large number of fans travelling in from South-East Asia and the rest of the world.

“KASM (Kallang Alive Sport Management) initiated the idea (for the tour to come to Singapore) and led the discussions… We were the proactive ‘tip of the spear’ for the Government in these discussions that were had,” said KASM chairman Keith Magnus, speaking to The Straits Times on Feb 23.

“Once the discussion had progressed and we saw the opportunity of holding an only-in-Singapore event, we then thought it made sense to take a whole-of-government approach and brought in other relevant agencies to really have Team Singapore bringing in Team Taylor.”

Magnus took over the corporate entity established by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and Sport Singapore to manage the S$1.33 billion facility in Kallang in December 2022.

When asked if an exclusivity clause was baked into the agreement with Swift’s team, he said there was “certainly an understanding that it was an only-in-Singapore event, (and) that’s how it was branded”.

On Feb 16, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said he was informed by AEG that the Singapore Government offered subsidies of up to US$3 million (S$4 million) for each concert – in exchange for Swift agreeing not to perform elsewhere in South-east Asia during The Eras Tour.

The Singapore Tourism Board and MCCY then issued a joint statement saying that the upcoming concerts got the support of the authorities in the form of a grant, but stopped short of saying how much was pumped in.

When pressed, Magnus also did not elaborate on the specifics of the deal, nor the grant amount.

He is confident that moving ahead – whether a concert is a Singapore exclusive or otherwise – the Republic remains a draw for artistes.

Coldplay, for instance, played six shows in Singapore as part of its Music of the Spheres World Tour earlier in 2024, compared with two days in the Philippines and two days in Thailand.

“It’s now a proven model that if you are an artiste and you want to be in Asia to cater to the Asia fan base, you really just have to come to Singapore, play here,” he said.

He added that “fans are able and willing to travel to Singapore to have a great experience and participate not just in the concert, but a broader offering of what the country has to offer”.

The enormously popular tour is currently making a stop for four days in Sydney, where Destination New South Wales projects more than 100,000 visitors will flock to the Australian city, generating an economic benefit of A$80 million (S$70.7 million).

Swift’s seven shows across Australia’s two biggest cities from Feb 16 to 26 could generate A$1.2 billion in economic value in Melbourne alone, according to the city’s Lord Mayor Sally Capp.

The Singapore team’s maiden trip to Los Angeles was a catalyst for KASM “to understand and see what was possible on the global stage with marquee events”, said Magnus.

Calls had already gone out to draw the sporting and entertainment world to Singapore in October and November 2022, even before the Government took back the Singapore Sports Hub, according to Magnus.

“We had already begun making calls around the world, signalling that Kallang was going to be beating to a different drum,” he said.

“If the vision was to be the premier (entertainment and sports) destination, then we needed to be proactive.”

The Sports Hub, which Magnus noted is seeing the dividends of this now, has already had a jam-packed 2024.

Juggernaut act Coldplay played a six-day run of concerts at the National Stadium in end-January, while Ed Sheeran, with extra seating, drew a record crowd of 60,000 people to the same venue on Feb 16.

In January to April, the venue is expecting to welcome more than 900,000 visitors for concerts alone, with pop star Bruno Mars’ three dates in April expected to draw around 150,000 concertgoers. In March, the sporting venue will also host the Singapore v China World Cup qualifier.

Experts conservatively estimate that Coldplay’s concerts alone would have contributed a revenue of $96 million to Singapore’s gross domestic product, said Mr Zachery Rajendran, programme chair for the diploma in integrated events management at Republic Polytechnic.

“The impact of Taylor Swift’s concerts could possibly surpass that,” said Mr Zachery, adding that the temporary influx of travellers for such concerts brings a myriad of benefits to Singapore, ranging from economic growth to cultural enrichment to global recognition.

Magnus wants to continue to build on the momentum and ensure that the world of sports and entertainment “knows that there is a great partner they can have in KASM”.

“It’s almost an investment banking DNA and passion that’s been brought into the operating culture of the organisation… We are constantly in deal mode,” said the chairman and chief executive of investment banking firm Evercore.

“In order to do that, we have to be proactive and thoughtful in curating both world-class as well as national-class (events) to appeal to Singaporeans and visitors alike.” – The Straits Times/ANN

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