Taylor Swift is coming to Asia: Are you ready for it? | Asian Business Review
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Taylor Swift is coming to Asia: Are you ready for it?

By Therese Reyes

With only two stops in Asia, most Swifties won’t be able to go to The Eras Tour, but that’s only made the hype stronger. 

When Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour kicked off in Glendale, Arizona in mid-March, the city was renamed – at least temporarily – to Swift City. Though symbolic, the gesture predicted the pop star’s takeover that would happen in the succeeding months. Las Vegas lit up its Gateway Arches with colours representing 10 of Swift’s albums, or eras (if you know, you know). The street outside the concert venue in Arlington, Texas was renamed “Taylor Swift Way,” whilst the mayor of Tampa, Florida gave Swift a key to the city. 

Whilst this may look like a lot of fanfare for those who don’t count themselves Swifties, it’s about to get even bigger. Following the announcement of Swift’s international tour dates, the hype is now building on the other side of the world. Miss Americana is headed East, and Asia is getting ready for it. 

Swift is a global superstar but she’s especially popular in Asia. In 2019, the Philippines and Indonesia ranked in a list of the top 10 countries that streamed Swift’s music on Spotify. These two countries have one of the most active social media users in the world, making them natural hotspots for fans of Swift, who mastered online fan interaction way before it was standard practice. 

And yet neither the Philippines nor Indonesia are part of The Eras Tour, which only has one stop in the entire Southeast Asia. So far, only two stops in Asia have been announced for next year – four shows in Tokyo, then six in Singapore – instantly starting a frenzy among millions of fans across the region who are vying to get tickets. 

Swift’s fans dub the mayhem “The Great War,” a cheeky reference to a track on the singer’s latest album Midnights. Most are willing to get on a plane just to watch their fave star IRL. Dennis Argenzia, president of Live Nation Asia Pacific Touring, told the South China Morning Post that about 10 to 40% of concertgoers at events held in Singapore come from outside the country. Much of the initial conversations around The Eras Tour were about how to secure tickets, but also about how to get there and where to stay. The first of these Asia concerts won’t happen for another seven months, yet social media is already flooded with hotel recommendations, travel budget breakdowns, and weather warnings (it’ll be quite cold in Tokyo but very warm in Singapore). Everyone, from dedicated fans to small and large businesses, is looking to get in on the action.

Just moments after the Asia concert dates were announced, Philippine Airlines advertised “International Concert Era” flights to Swift’s stops in APAC, in the same style as The Eras Tour’s poster. Days later, Singapore’s Changi Airport took a cue from TikTok trends and posted a romanticised video of the city-state with Swift’s song “Bejeweled” in the background. 

Going one step further, Swifties shared dating profiles on social media, looking for a partner with a very specific requirement: a UOB card that would allow them access to a presale of the shows in Singapore. According to a Bloomberg report, daily average UOB credit card applications across Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam increased by 45% the week concert dates dropped, compared to earlier that same month. 

Meanwhile, a mom-and-pop craft store in Singapore advertised their wide variety of beads, calling all Swifties who plan to make friendship bracelets for exchanging during the concert. As per The Eras Tour tradition, these friendship bracelets fit snugly into Asia’s unique brand of fandom, which put emphasis on community. Whilst this is true for many subcultures around the world, it’s a lot more DIY and grassroots in Asia, making it more palpable. 

It’s long been common practice for K-pop fans to arrive at a concert venue hours before a show to meet other fans, give away hand-made merch, and exchange collectable photo cards. Swift doesn’t have official photo cards but there are now countless fan-made ones available on TikTok and e-commerce platforms like Shoppee. Asian fans also take it upon themselves to plan surprises for their favourite artists, like wearing a certain colour for a concert or holding up uniformed banners during a song. Sometimes, fans go to a concert venue with no intention of watching the show at all, happy just to feel the buzzing energy outside an arena. We see Swifties doing that now too, gathering outside The Eras Tour stadiums to hear Swift perform live. They may not see their favourite artist, but at least they’re singing along to every bridge, together. 

With limited concert seats and escalating airline prices, this is likely to happen in Asia as well. Not just outside concert venues but in pocket events all over the region. Most fans in Asia have resigned to the fact that they may not see Swift come 2024. But instead of killing the vibe, this only made the hype even stronger, leading to more fan-organised events and starting the Swift takeover earlier than expected. 

Filipino drag performer Taylor Sheesh, for example, now has her own growing following after her The Eras Tour-inspired performances went viral online and was featured on Rolling Stone. She continues to perform at other gigs and locations in the Philippines and now hopes to do it internationally as well. 

Then there’s Speak Now Taylor’s Version Asia, a series of fan-organised events happening across the region in time to celebrate the re-recording of Swift’s 2010 album Speak Now. “It may not be our turn yet, but we stand by the promise to keep all the magic we made,” a promotional Instagram post says, followed by a list of links to events in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Taiwan – all places Swift will be skipping for her tour. 

This speaks to the kind of subculture Swift has built all these years. One that grows online (Whether it’s on MySpace, Tumblr, Instagram, or TikTok) but is solidified in offline concerts and intimate fan parties. A fandom that’s just as much about the music and secret messages on lyric booklets as it is about inter-fan relationships. Not every Swifty will make it to The Eras tour but it’s clear that this is just the start of much more to come in the year of Taylor.

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