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Commentary

Unlocking Concert Economics: Singapore’s Long-term Plan

By Nicole Lum
3 May 2024 | 8 min read

The role of concert economics in city development is growing. In Southeast Asia, Singapore has gained the upper hand in part due to its meticulous urban planning.

Singapore’s ability to attract big names like Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift and Blackpink has proven to be both an economic success and a triumph in soft power. While on the surface, this might seem like the outcome of fruitful negotiations with artists and promoters, the real ‘smoking gun’ behind Singapore’s successful seduction of these megastars continues to go unnoticed and even under-appreciated. 

Taylow Swift in Singapore | MORROW Intelligence
Bruno Mars Concert | MORROW Intelligence

The Eras Tour (left) and Bruno Mars Live in Singapore (right) at the Singapore National Stadium (Source: CNA and Daniel Ramos)

The Eras Tour (top) and Bruno Mars (bottom) in Singapore at the Singapore National Stadium (Source: CNA and Daniel Ramos)

Factors like accessibility, efficiency, security, safety and quality of experience are also crucial considerations for an artist when deciding on a suitable location. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee raised this poignant question during his speech in Australia, when he remarked, “if we had not made such an arrangement, would [Taylor Swift] have come to someplace else in Southeast Asia?”

It is Singapore’s sound urban planning foundation that is responsible for many of these desired outcomes, that are not only an everyday public-good, but also an attractive trait for Singapore to wield in the geopolitical arena.

Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and Bruno Mars’ Live in Singapore are not one-offs; the small island-city has always been a choice destination for marquee entertainment in Southeast Asia and sometimes for more than one seating (Figure 1). 

Figure 1: Number of major concert dates per country across Southeast Asia (2023-2024)

20242023

Concert
Country
Bruno Mars
Live in Singapore
Taylor Swift
The Eras Tour
Coldplay
Music of the Spheres Tour
Ed Sheeran
The Mathematics Tour
Jacky Cheung
60+ Concert Tour
Westlife
The Wild Dreams Tour
Harry Styles
Love on Tour
Blackpink
BORN PINK World Tour
Singapore366111312
Malaysia--1162-1
Indonesia--11-3-2
Thailand2-21-214
Philippines--21--12
Vietnam-------2

None for Cambodia, Brunei, Lao PDR and Myanmar

Figure 2: Top cities ranked by number of Swift’s listeners on Spotify, in March 2024

2.3%
1.6%
1.6%
1.3%
1.3%

For the songbird, Singapore was her only stop in Asia; fans in the region had no choice but to make a trip down. This was despite Jakarta [Indonesia] and Quezon City [Philippines] ranking 1st and 4th respectively in terms of number of listeners on Spotify (Figure 2).

Establishing Accessibility and Efficiency

Taylor Swift’s six night-performances were held at the Singapore National Stadium, with each lasting almost four hours long. South Korean boyband SHINee even coincided their concert at the adjacent Singapore Indoor Stadium, with the opening of the Eras Tour. This is testament to Singapore’s capability to cater for multiple scales of events, with fast turnaround time.

Two concerts in the same area. (Source: YouTube)

Singapore National Stadium | MORROW Intelligence
Singapore National Stadium | MORROW Intelligence

Singapore National Stadium, Kallang Wave Mall and Stadium MRT station are adjacent to each other. 
(Source: Jason Goh on Pixabay)

Besides the Singapore National Stadium, Singapore also has a wide range of multi-use venue options including the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the Capitol Theatre and the renovated Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. All of them are well-connected and easily accessed by a comprehensive transit system and road network. 

The Singapore National Stadium is served by a MRT station that connects directly, and two more approximately a 600m walking distance away.

And Singapore’s compactness means convenience for revelers who only travelled less than 5km from the city centre. Traffic management has been highly lauded for quickly channeling people away through various exits and transport modes. 

It is quite different for other Southeast Asia cities (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Large-scale multipurpose public venues of Southeast Asia

Singapore

Singapore National Stadium

55,000 seats with retractable roof; situated with other sports facilities, retail, residential and mixed-use development, 5km away from city centre

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Gelora Bung Karno Stadium

90,000 seats; situated with other sports facilities, 16km away from city centre

Jakarta, Indonesia

Singapore National Stadium

77,000 seats; situated with other sports facilities, mosque hotels and malls, 9km away from city centre

Jakarta, Indonesia

Jakarta International Stadium

82,000 seats with retractable roof; situated with a soccer field and waterbody, 12km away from city centre

Bangkok, Thailand

Rajamangala Stadium

51,000 seats; situated with other sports facilities, shophouses and a school, 14km away from city centre

Manila, Philippines

Philippine Arena

50,000 seats indoor; situated with other sports facilities, 30km away from city centre (in Bocaue, outside of Metro Manila)

Hanoi, Vietnam

My Dinh Stadium

40,000 seats; situated next to some shophouses, 13km away from city centre

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

National Olympic Stadium

30,000 seats; situated with apartments, malls and shophouses, 4km away from city centre

Vientiane, Lao PDR

New Laos National Stadium

25,000 seats; situated with other sports facilities, 18km away from city centre

Yangon, Myanmar

Thuwunna Stadium

32,000 seats; situated with other sports facilities, hotels and shophouses, 9km away from city centre

None for Brunei

Transport connectivity is a major problem in other parts of Southeast Asia. Take the Philippine Arena for example, that is located some 30km away from the capital city, Manila. Sometimes, due to land scarcity or rising costs, large-scale event venues tend to be constructed well-outside the major city, leading to crippling commuting issues. Commuting becomes a challenge without any direct public transport links. It was reported that people spent four hours travelling from Manila for a Bruno Mars concert last year, where about half the audience arrived late.

Likewise, many other event venues lack direct links to public transit. Neither the BTS Skytrain nor MRT connects to Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium; the nearest train station is a 3km walk away. Buses and water ferries remain the only options other than private hires. In Hanoi, the My Dinh stadium does not have demarcation for human and vehicular traffic. At the Blackpink concert last year, metal barriers were temporarily put up which forced many to take detours.

Blackpink concert | MORROW Intelligence
Blackpink concert | MORROW Intelligence

Blackpink concert traffic at My Dinh stadium, Hanoi (Source: VnExpress)

It is crucial to account and plan for different travel modes, particularly to service large event venues. However, connectivity should not be viewed in silo and cannot be ensured by one development project alone – public transport needs to be paired with housing and other amenities to support ridership and hence viability. 

Transport planning is a complex urban system that can deliver favourable results when incorporated alongside long-term thinking, good governance and efficient financing mechanisms.

Transforming and Humanising Space

Besides transport planning, urban design and placemaking also add to the concertgoer’s experience.

The Singapore National Stadium is nestled within the integrated Kallang Alive precinct that is home to housing, shopping malls, parks, and recreational spots along the waterfront. They are all woven into the intricate urban fabric and interact with each other such that people flow seamlessly. The human experience is prioritised with most of the parking cleverly hidden underground. Different needs can be catered to without the need for a car. Taylor Swift too, values walkability and proximity as she compares between Los Angeles and New York:

Taylor Swift’s interview on BBC Radio in 2019. (Source: YouTube)

The Singapore National Stadium also brings vibrancy to its surroundings. During the Eras Tour, there were public space activations around the stadium with mini festivals, food trucks, activity booths, light installations and roving acts. Complimentary drinks were also given out at a nearby carpark. People basked in the fringes, creating spillover entertainment even across the promenade. Those who lost out in the battle for tickets found solace in the Category 100 and 1000 seats that allowed them a slice of the action.

Taylor Swift concert | MORROW Intelligence
Taylor Swift concert | MORROW Intelligence

Swifties and non-Swifties in Singapore’s category 100 (left) and 1000 seats (right). (Sources: The Straits Times and Mothership)

Swifties and non-Swifties in Singapore’s category 100 (top) and 1000 seats (bottom). (Sources: The Straits Times and Mothership)

Generating excitement goes beyond the boundaries of the venue; an engaging environment helps to amplify the atmosphere, facilitating a lasting connection between people and place.

Sustaining Upkeep and Rejuvenation

As part of Singapore’s urban financial management, value generation is prioritised through its strategic implementation of mixed-use development. Besides playing host to international sporting and entertainment events, the Kallang Alive precinct is visited daily for its diverse retail, F&B and lifestyle amenities (climbing walls & tennis courts). This provides year-round, all-day activation which generates tax dollars for maintenance (that can be a laborious, resource-heavy task) and urban renewal. 

To stay competitive, plans were recently announced to replace the Singapore Indoor Stadium with a new best-in-class arena. Further rejuvenation is expected to take place under the Kallang Alive Masterplan such as the addition of the Kallang Tennis Hub and Football Hub this year.

Sports Hub | MORROW Intelligence
Sports Hub | MORROW Intelligence

Plans for the Sports Hub under the Kallang Alive Masterplan. (Source: CNA)

It’s not just about the stadium itself, but the surrounding uses that bring it to life and sustain it. This is the impetus of a popularising concept in the West called the “Stadium District” – a mixed-use retail and entertainment district centered around a large sports stadium.

One of its first includes Patriot Place in Foxborough, Massachusetts, a lifestyle mall meant to complement the Gilette Stadium with shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and even a medical centre. The tax revenue generated at Patriot Place, between US$8 to US$10 million, accounts for about 10% of Foxborough’s yearly budget. 

On the flipside, not all stadium districts have been successful. District Detroit was a plan since 2012 to construct new office space, retail, apartments and hotels alongside a new Little Caesars Arena. While the arena opened in 2017, delays have plagued the project due to financing issues, with opposition from residents who want to see funding for schools, libraries, transportation and affordable housing. 

Besides pursuing commercial value, what was most important was to meet the basic needs of residents. Singapore has always adopted a people-centered approach focused on providing opportunities for communities to thrive and participate in city-building.  

District Deloitte | MORROW Intelligence
Patriot Place | MORROW Intelligence

Patriot Place (left) and District Detroit (right). (Sources: Architect Magazine and The Detroit News)

Patriot Place (top) and District Detroit (bottom). (Sources: Architect Magazine and The Detroit News)

Calculating Moves Towards Liveability

For Singapore, its long-term investment in its infrastructure and meticulous urban planning has paid off; it’s been touted as the ‘LV destination’ for concerts in the region, partly due to its quality infrastructure and accessibility. 

The recipe for Singapore’s success is being studied by other nations in the region and competition is heating up in Southeast Asia – Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin quipped that a country that “wishes to promote its tourism should study Singapore’s strategy”, while Philippine lawmaker Joey Salceda said that Manila has been challenged to improve its infrastructure to host world-class acts like Taylor Swift.  In his recent visit to Singapore, Indonesia Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno met Singapore Minister Grace Fu to explore collaboration opportunities in showcasing top-tier music concerts and other international events in Jakarta.

All of this points to Southeast Asia being a sought-after travel destination that will continue to benefit from not only unlocking the growing potential of concert economics, but also shaping more attractive and liveable homes. 

The author would like to thank Saravanan Sugumaran for his contributions to the article. 

Author

Nicole Lum | MORROW Intelligence

Nicole Lum

Consultant

Nicole is a Consultant at MORROW Intelligence (MI), where she drives the research and policy analysis for scenario planning projects across a variety of built environment sectors including housing and transportation.

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