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Taylor Swift Eras tour angers southeast Asia as Singapore scores lucrative six-night residency

Taylor Swift’s ongoing Eras concerts have sparked a diplomatic row after Singapore guaranteed a lucrative six-night residency – at the expense of its disgruntled neighbours.

The deal, thought to be worth around £14m has led to a backlash among the city-state’s neighbours due to an exclusivity clause negotiated by prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, which prevents her from performing anywhere else in southeast Asia.

The popstar is playing six shows in Singapore from 2 to 9 March, under a deal that has been branded “unfriendly” by critics in Thailand and the Philippines, who complain that they are being deprived of the tourist boom brought by Swift’s tour.

Last month, Filipino lawmaker Joey Salceda said the deal, for which Swift is reportedly being paid an incentive worth £2.3m per show, “isn’t what good neighbours do”.

Speaking from the Australian city of Melbourne, where he is attending an Asean leaders’ summit, Lee confirmed that Swift was provided with “certain incentives” from a government fund established to rebuild Singapore’s tourist industry after the Covid pandemic.

Chinese fans of Taylor Swift arrive in Singapore for the first of her sold-out shows in the city-state (EPA)
Chinese fans of Taylor Swift arrive in Singapore for the first of her sold-out shows in the city-state (EPA)

While he declined to say how much the deal was worth, Lee said he didn’t regard it as unfriendly towards his neighbours.

“It has turned out to be a very successful arrangement. I don’t see that as being unfriendly,“ he said, suggesting a neighbouring country might have done the same had they got there first.

“Sometimes one country makes a deal, sometimes another country does. I don’t explicitly say ‘you will come here only on condition that you’ll not go to other places,’” he added.

He also suggested that Australia might have made similar “mutually acceptable, sensible arrangements” with Swift when she performed in Sydney and Melbourne ahead of her Singapore shows.

Taylor Swift performing in Singapore (Getty Images for TAS Rights Mana)
Taylor Swift performing in Singapore (Getty Images for TAS Rights Mana)

“If that’s what’s needed to be done to get an outcome which is mutually beneficial and which, from Singapore’s point of view, serves not just to grow the economy but also to bring in visitors and goodwill from all over the region, I don’t see why not,” he said.

“If we had not made such an arrangement, would she have come to someplace else in southeast Asia or more places in southeast Asia? Maybe, maybe not. These are things that she will decide.”

Lee Hsien has defended Singapore’s exclusive deal for six Taylor Swift concerts (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Lee Hsien has defended Singapore’s exclusive deal for six Taylor Swift concerts (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The Independent has contacted Swift’s representatives for comment.

The “Anti-Hero” singer is currently preparing to release her latest album, The Tortured Poet’s Department, which she announced upon winning her 13th Grammy Award at the 2024 ceremony in February. It is due for release on 19 April.

Her Eras tour has made headlines around the world for its impact on local economies, with cities experiencing booms in tourism and hospitality around each of her stops.

Last year, Forbes reported that she had achieved billionaire status, in part thanks to the Eras tour along with her “Taylor’s Version” re-recorded albums and her box office smash concert film.

The publication describes Swift’s brand as “essentially a multinational conglomerate with the world’s most devoted customer base”.

It was also noted that Swift is one of the few performers to achieve billionaire status on music and performance alone.

She embarks on the longawaited European leg of her Eras tour in May, starting in Paris, with her UK shows taking place this June.

Additional reporting by Associated Press.