[Prof. Lee Yongwoo was interviewed by NBC News on 7 July 2023.]
Millions of fans across the continent are vying for 300,000 seats at the singer’s six “Eras Tour” shows next year in Singapore, her only stop in Southeast Asia.
HONG KONG — Millions of Taylor Swift fans in Asia competed for about 300,000 concert tickets Friday as general sales began for her six shows next year in Singapore, the singer-songwriter’s only stop in Southeast Asia.
Swift’s “Eras Tour,” which began in March and includes more than 100 shows on five continents, has set off a frenzy for tickets and is on track for a record $1 billion or more in sales. Some fans jockeying for the limited number of seats at Swift’s concerts have referred to their experience as “The Great War,” a song from her 2022 album “Midnights.”
But the war in Asia seems to be even greater. Fans on the world’s most populous continent have only two places, Japan and Singapore, where they can see Swift perform.
“I’ve never had any experience buying concert tickets like this before,” Iqhram Khan, a fan in neighboring Malaysia who successfully bought a ticket to one of the shows in Singapore, told NBC News via a messaging app.
Khan has been a Swiftie for more than 15 years and saw her perform in Malaysia in 2014 and in Japan in 2018.
Swift had initially announced seven concerts in Asia next year: four at the Tokyo Dome in February and three at the Singapore National Stadium in March. But due to what promoter AEG Presents Asia called “overwhelming” demand, the number of shows in Singapore was doubled.
She is also set to perform seven shows in Australia in February.
In Japan, tickets are being distributed through a lottery system. In Singapore, a Wednesday presale open only to credit card holders at United Overseas Bank drove a 45% increase in the bank’s daily average credit card applications in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, according to Bloomberg News.
General ticket sales for the Singapore shows are open only to those who registered in June and were selected to receive a code, although the code does not guarantee a ticket. Ticketmaster described the added step as “an extra line of defense against bots.”
But the competition, as well as the prospect of traveling long distances, haven’t stopped Asian Swifties from trying to see their star.
Khan said he waited four hours in line for a United Overseas Bank card after the international shows were announced last month. On Wednesday, he readied himself hours before the presale began, opening multiple browsers on five different devices.
Even so, his chances looked bleak. Almost all his numbers in line were six or seven digits: 600,000, 800,000, 1 million.
“Thankfully, one of the queue numbers was 59,000,” he said. “The one browser was my only hope to get the tickets.”
He had his ticket after an hour, and has already booked his hotel and transportation.
Like their counterparts in the U.S., Swift fans in Asia have complained about bots and scalpers. If it weren’t for them, Khan said, “more real fans would be able to buy the concert tickets.”
Fans shut out from the Singapore presale had another opportunity Friday, when general ticket sales began.
Marine Wu, a 27-year-old student from China, said Friday that she had been “tossing and turning since last night” because she was so nervous.
“I don’t want to miss this opportunity to see her,” she said.
When she succeeded, Wu said, she was so excited that she “ran around my house twice.”
“I think the reason why she is so popular around the world, not only in America but also in Asia, is because of her original musical authenticity,” said Lee Yongwoo, an assistant professor in cultural studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Lee praised Swift’s composition and songwriting skills.
“Her songs are unique, and she is a storyteller that tells stories resonating with people.”
Even Pita Limjaroenrat, Thailand’s leading candidate for prime minister, declared himself a Swiftie, inviting the singer to return to the country where her sold-out concert was called off in 2014 after the military seized power days before.
“Hey Taylor! Big fan of yours,” Pita, the leader of the progressive Move Forward Party, said on Twitter. “Btw, Thailand is back on track to be fully democratic after you had to cancel last time due to the coup. The Thai people have spoken via the election and we all look forward to welcoming you to this beautiful nation of ours!”
Other fans are still holding out hope they’ll have a seat at a show.
Blue Shi, 26, a teacher who lives in China’s Fujian province, joined the Tokyo lottery after failing to get a code to buy tickets in Singapore, and is waiting for the results to be released later this month.
To travel to Japan, she would have to fly several hours and obtain a passport and visa, which she is paying a travel agency to help her with. She would also need to get colleagues to cover for her while she is away.
“Not a problem for me at all,” said Shi, who said she started listening to Swift in junior high school because she was touched by her songs, especially the ones about love. “Having the ticket will empower me to overcome all difficulties.”
Larissa Gao is a fellow on NBC’s Asia Desk, based in Hong Kong.
Zhenzhen Liu is an intern on NBC’s Asia Desk in Hong Kong.