M'sian opposition politician wants Anwar's govt to explain why Taylor Swift didn't perform in M'sia

Malaysia has joined the conversation.

Fiona Tan | March 06, 2024, 06:17 PM



The Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu) wants the Malaysia government to explain why American pop star Taylor Swift is not performing in Malaysia as part of her global "The Eras Tour".

Malaysia in talks with Swift's team from as early as 2022

Bersatu's legal and constitution bureau deputy chairman Sasha Lyna Abdul Latiff said in a statement on Mar. 6, 2024 that talks between the Malaysia government, under former Prime Minister (PM) Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and Swift's concert promoters began as early as 2022, Sinar Daily and the New Straits Times (NST) reported.

This was earlier than the time when Singapore sealed the deal with Swift to perform in Singapore, which likely took place not too long after a Singaporean team from SportsSG, Kallang Alive Sports Management, and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), including its minister Edwin Tong, met with Swift's agents and promoters in Los Angeles in February 2023.

Tong told Mothership on Feb. 28, 2024: We saw an opportunity, we negotiated quickly with them, and we closed the deal quite quickly."

Despite their head-start, Malaysia was unable to seal the deal, while neighbouring Singapore successfully secured the tour, Sasha said.

Sasha asked: "Did the Madani government make any efforts to secure the tour?"

She was referring to the incumbent PM Anwar Ibrahim, who introduced the Malaysia Madani, or Civil Malaysia, slogan on Jan. 19, 2023, shortly after Anwar took office on Nov. 24, 2022.

Bersatu, along with Parti Islam se-Malaysia (Malaysia Islamist Party, or PAS), are the main opposition parties in Malaysia.

Swift has "universal appeal", means a "gold rush"

NST quoted Sasha saying: "Even Indonesia, a Muslim-majority nation, has sought to host [Swift], emphasising her universal appeal."

Sasha added that Swift is not only wanted because of her musical abilities but also her positive influence, namely "Swiftonomics".

Swiftonomics describes the phenomenon where a country's economy is boosted by Swift's presence.

Indonesia's Tourism Minister Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno used the term on Feb. 19, 2024, saying that his country needs "Swiftonomics" to boost tourism, and is considering rolling out incentives to bring in more music, sports and cultural events to lure travellers, Bloomberg and South China Morning Post reported.

Sasha, however, did not use the term in her statement on Mar. 6 when she said the economic impact of Swift's tour cannot be overstated and instead described it as a "gold rush".

Malaysia government must explain

She added: "The lost opportunity to host Taylor Swift's Eras Tour represents a significant setback for Malaysia's economy, particularly amid ongoing challenges."

Sasha said Anwar and Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh must provide an explanation for the missed economic opportunity.

"The public deserves an explanation, particularly considering Singapore's proactive approach," she stressed.

She added that the Madani government is "under pressure to take proactive steps to secure similar economic opportunities involving renowned performers".

Swiftonomics in Singapore

Swift's global The Eras Tour started in Glendale, Arizona, United States on Mar. 17, 2023 and is set to conclude in Vancouver, Canada on Dec. 8, 2024.

The tour consists of 152 shows across five continents, and is expected to rake in more than S$1.34 billion (US$1 billion) in revenue, making it the first tour to do so, and the highest-grossing of all time.

Tong said the economic benefits that Swift brings to Singapore "are assessed to be significant and outweigh the size of the grant".

He was referring to MCCY's grant to support Swift's six shows in Singapore.

However, beyond saying that the grant is "not anywhere as high as speculated", Tong and the relevant authorities have remained tight-lipped on the actual size of the grant.

Some hotel room rates in Singapore went up by as much as 100 per cent or more on the first weekend of March 2024, which coincided with Swift's first three shows in Singapore on March 2, 3 and 4.

During that same period, demand for Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines' Singapore-bound flights increased.

However, both airlines were unable to pinpoint it to the "Swift Effect", AFP reported.

Swift has three more performances in Singapore on Mar. 7, 8 and 9 before she goes on a two month break.

She will resume in Paris on May 9, 2024.

A change in tune?

Bersatu and PAS is part of the Malaysian Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition, which has long been known for criticising concert events, NST reported.

PN and PAS were amongst the biggest detractors pushing for Coldplay’s concert in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 22, 2023 to be called off.

A PAS leader claimed in May 2023 that the concert would encourage "hedonism and deviant cultures" in Malaysia and bring no benefits to "religion, race and country".

Subsequently in November 2023, PN and PAS claimed that the concert would distract the public from the suffering of the Palestinians due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

A "kill switch" that could cut the stage’s electrical power supply and stop a concert immediately was subsequently prepared for Malaysia's Coldplay concert, following The 1975 singer Matt Healy's actions when performing in Malaysia in July 2023.

PAS has also voiced their objections to other international acts such as Blackpink and Billie Ellish.

Top image from Sasha Lyna/Facebook