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Malaysia In Its Missed Swiftonomics Era

It's Taylor Swift's world, and we're just living in it.

Just as things are returning to their pre-covid conditions, a handful of international artists including Billie Eilish, Jay Chou, Blackpink, Keshi and Lany had brought live shows back on the road, and even made a quick stop in Malaysia to perform for fans. Taylor Swift really took her sweet time before starting to tour again, but this was deemed necessary- Taylor would rather keep fans waiting than to potentially disappoint with a postponement or cancellation due to re-rising Covid cases.

For a mastermind like Taylor, who enjoys planting cryptic messages and witty references in her production, making an announcement when she is fully ready with the tour concept is essential. So when the Eras Tour was eventually announced in November 2022, fans knew it's going to be huge and fully thought-out, especially since Taylor's intended Lover Fest was cancelled back in 2020 due to the pandemic and she had since rolled out numerous number 1 albums with multiple fan favourites each. In fact, fans had their mind boggled on how she would tour again- one tour supporting each new album release, or would she ignore her surprise indie production more suitable for intimate settings (see: folklore and evermore) to deliver her pop megahits? Well, let's just say Taylor always has some tricks up her sleeves. A comeback tour that fits her current fame and majesty called for a 3-hour show that brings its audience down a journey through her 10 musical Eras (see: albums), thus The Eras Tour.

The Look What You Made Me Do hitmaker touring again for the first time since her blockbuster Reputation Stadium Tour in 2018 was a celebratory event among fans. The Reputation Stadium Tour had grossed $345,700,000 across 53 shows (38 of which were held in the US) and had seen a total attendance of 2.9 million fans. Fast forward to the Eras tour, which production scale had not only been magnified, the number of shows also saw a steep increase. It was announced that the tour will hit 20 cities in the US across 52 nights and 79 other shows will be held in other regions including Latin America, Australia, Europe, Tokyo and Singapore. The Eras Tour is estimated to generate an income sufficient to pump up Taylor’s net worth of $740 million (reported by Forbes on 1 June 2023) past the billionaire mark, even after deducting taxes, venue and musical instruments rental, operational charges and crew wages.

Yet, beyond Taylor and her team’s own earnings, the entire US economy (and certainly, countries in other regions handpicked to receive Taylor’s grace) should be clapping their hands. The Eras tour is not only on track to become the biggest concert tour in entertainment history, The Wall Street Journal reported that it has the potential to gross over $1 billion, which is about three times what the Reputation Stadium Tour had managed. Fortune reported that research company, QuestionPro, estimates the Eras Tour to generate a staggering $4.6 billion in consumer spending in the US alone. This comes as no surprise, especially since the cities hosting Taylor will automatically expect expenditures on guests’ accommodation, transport, gastronomy experiences, merchandise purchases and more. For example, Chicago reportedly recorded a hotel occupancy rate of 96.8% the weekend Taylor performed, which translates to an average of 44,300 hotel rooms occupied in the city each night. In fact, the Federal Reserve (the Bank Negara/Central Bank equivalent in the US) had also taken notice of Taylor’s economic impact as surveillance indicators including public transit ridership in Chicago, hotel occupancy in Cincinnati and Philadelphia pointed to spillovers from the Eras Tour’s as key regional economic drivers.

This brought forth the discussion of the Multiplier Effect Taylor has on the cities she visits. Just in case you are not familiar with the concept of the Multiplier Effect, it basically suggests that a change in an economic factor (in this case, spending) will lead to a larger change in another (in this case, economic output or income). Not to mention, businesses will strategically hike their prices near concert dates to capture the grandiose demand in their respective product markets, thus amplifying the total expenditure in the region. This means that Taylor’s presence could boost local earnings, attract economic injections if people fly in to watch her perform, or even save certain countries from a recession. In fact, just a few weeks ago, reports pointed to Beyonce being responsible for causing inflation in Sweden when her Renaissance World Tour kicked off in Stockholm on 10 May. What could Taylor’s impact be?

Taylor’s recent announcement of the Asian leg of the Eras Tour sure did place a lot of fans in an emotional turmoil. Yes, fans were thrilled to see her not forgetting Asia exists, but the limited number of shows also meant greater competition to obtain tickets. The only shows in Asia include four nights in Tokyo and six nights in Singapore. Fans from the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and more reacted strongly to the lack of shows in their countries as it meant the entire Asia would be fighting to fit into the mere ten sessions, each having no larger capacity than 50,000 attendees. Some journalists reported that Thailand and the Philippines might have been missed out on Taylor’s list due to the lack of suitable infrastructure to support the Eras Tour. In fact, some of the larger, more qualified stadiums in South East Asia are located in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Singapore. The National Stadium Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur has up to 85,000 seats; Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno main stadium has a capacity of 77,000 guests; Singapore’s National Stadium can fit 55,000 people at full capacity (note that, in a concert setting, only up to 50,000 seats will be available as the space behind the stage would be restricted of clear view and it is typically not utilised). Beyond that, other considerations concerning facilities may include flights (and airports), accommodation, and intercity transportation, which might point to Singapore being a prime location as a concert hub than its neighbours as the city-state’s world-known hospitality and tourist-friendly infrastructure have frequented positive headlines. Singapore’s central location in the region also makes it an easy destination for both show-goers and event managers alike.

However, Malaysia and Indonesia might have fallen victim to potential conservative and religious backlash concerning her ‘loud’ and public advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights and other concert regulations that have also dissuaded many other performers. In Malaysia, criticism has been raised against concerts by international artists such as Blackpink and Coldplay as nurturing cultures of hedonism and perversion. Back in August 2022, local MP and PAS (political party) Youth chief, Ahmad Fadhli Shaari, warned of protests should the government ignore requests to cancel such events, given the concerts’ incompatibility with the Islamic values. Months later, Nasrudin Hassan, a representative from PAS, took to Facebook to call for Coldplay’s scheduled show in Kuala Lumpur this November to be cancelled. This was believed to be motivated by pictures of Coldplay’s frontman, Chris Martin, holding a pride rainbow flag during one of his past shows in Singapore, which implied support for the LGBTQ+ community. Yet, no changes to their performing schedule has been made so far as Local Government Development Minister, Nga Kor Ming, defended Coldplay of their good track records with Malaysia. Nga’s argument centralised around the British rock band’s generosity and environmental conservation efforts in Malaysia as they sponsored the Interceptor 005, a trash-cleaning watercraft placed in the Klang River back in 2021.

Taylor’s presence in the region for shows is akin to an event of the century, especially since the pandemic had shown us how the idea of ‘certainty’ could be so utterly fragile. As we see Malaysians scrambling over to Singapore, Tokyo and Australia for shows- the outflow of capital into tickets, accommodation, transport and food will be evident in the months leading to the shows in 2024. On top of that, tickets of the Eras Tour in Singapore cost an average of RM857 across the six main categories (actual range is RM375-RM1200). Let’s scale things down to RM500 per ticket and 50,000 attendees for our model, that is a generation of RM25 million in revenue on tickets alone, for just one single show! Now imagine this amount of money leaving the country to Singapore, in addition to any possible spillovers in other industries, on six occasions for Taylor. This means we could expect our currency strength to weaken! Malaysia has missed its economic lottery, which could be an opportunity to help strengthen the ringgit and to boost local economic activities. Moreover, it does not help when Coldplay, who I opine is (almost) on par with Taylor’s stardom, is hosting six shows in Singapore but only one in Kuala Lumpur next year.

Will Taylor announce more shows in Asia? We do not know for sure, but her tour schedule for half of March and the entire April 2024 seem empty at the moment. As a fan, I am incredibly proud of her commitment in planning out this tour as it has certainly gone beyond expectations and broken records other artists could only dream of achieving. I can’t wait to see what other tricks she has up her sleeves- having evidently outdone herself already even when her tour is not even 50% in progress.

Regardless, here’s a reminder to those getting tickets to be mindful of scams. Only get tickets from authorised ticketing services! As much as the ticketing system these days is able to prevent scalpers and bots from obtaining a large number of tickets, which would prevent true fans from getting them, we are still unable to stop scammers. Thus, as wise consumers, we need to take precautions when purchasing tickets. Some RED flags of potential scammers include the following:

  1. They demand for your personal or credit/debit card details.

  2. Their deals sound too good to be true.

  3. Their tickets do not have proof of authorisation.

  4. They instil fear or urgency, and demand for immediate transfer of payment.

Good luck surviving the great war!

Written by, Euan Thum, Journalist, Charisma Movement 22/23. Edited by, To Ying Yun.

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