From Ed Sheeran to Taylor Swift, more Indians travel for the live music experience

Through the first week of March, strains of ‘Cruel Summer’ and ‘Karma’ have echoed through the streets of Singapore. “It feels like a Taylor Swift festival here. I can hear her songs everywhere,” says Shreya Sridhar, a marketing and communications consultant who flew down from Chennai to Singapore, to attend the singer’s The Eras Tour concert. A day before the concert, which she describes as “incredible”, Shreya says she went to the National Stadium, and saw Swifties lining up, lounging around on picnic blankets, and listening to music. In several spaces, there were corners dedicated to fans making bracelets to be exchanged — a Taylor Swift:The Eras Tour concert tradition  

Taylor Swift fans exchange bracelets ahead of Swift’s concert in Singapore on March 8

Taylor Swift fans exchange bracelets ahead of Swift’s concert in Singapore on March 8
| Photo Credit:
Reuters

It has been hard to miss the deluge of reels, posts, and updates since the year started, from fans at Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres tour which toured Singapore and Thailand in January and February, and subsequently, from Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour where the singer performed to packed audiences from March 2 to 9 in Singapore. Closer home, Mumbai is gearing up to host much loved English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran on March 16. It was just a couple of months ago that the city played host to Sting, Keane, Halsey, the Jonas Brothers and more at Lollapalooza 2024. 

Given the array of music acts to catch both in the country, and other parts of Asia, an increasing number of Indians are travelling out of their cities to catch their favourite music acts. With both Coldplay and Taylor Swift having tour stops in South-East Asia, the timing for music tourism, also known as gig tripping, has never been better. 

“While Singapore has been a stop for many international acts over the years, what has changed is that more people are exploring travel as a feasible way to watch their favourite music acts live. Concerts are becoming just as good a reason to take a holiday as anything else, and we are hearing of a tangible uptick in interest from our partners,” says Renjie Wong, area director, India, South Asia and Middle East(Mumbai), Singapore Tourism Board. 

He indicates that even though January is traditionally not a high season for travel to Singapore, there has been an increase in Indians searching for flights to Singapore through the time that Coldplay had their concerts there. “India is a key priority market for concert promoters, and is well connected. For travellers heading to Singapore, options are plenty to explore as well as a packed events calendar to choose from,” Renjie says. 

With ticket bookings that open nearly six months in advance for big concerts in most South-East Asian destinations, there is a fair bit of planning involved — as to how to navigate virtual queues, and having multiple people try their luck. Sanjana Shankar, a law student from Chennai,says that when tickets opened for The Eras Tour’s Singapore leg in July 2023, she and a few friends braved the virtual queue for around four hours and finally managed to get tickets. When tickets go on sale, fans try their luck by logging into the ticketing platform and wait in a queue of sorts where they are told how many people are waiting ahead of them to book tickets.

“Having wanted to see her perform for nearly a decade, we were thrilled. Singapore worked for two reasons — the fact that it is more accessible than the US or Europe, and the ease as well as cost of tickets compared to the USA or other destinations,” she says. 

Fans enjoy a concert at Lollapalooza India 2024

Fans enjoy a concert at Lollapalooza India 2024
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Concert tickets for The Eras Tour were priced 88 SGD(₹5,456) onwards for seats with a restricted view of the stage, with VIP tickets priced at 1,228 SGD (₹76,136). Sanjana says that she spent 248 SGD on tickets (₹15,000 approximately), and ₹50,000 for a five-day stay in Singapore with her friends, for what she describes as a once-in-a-lifetime experience 

Planning it out

There is palpable excitement on social media during the run up to these concerts, with reels from locals at the concert destination sharing travel tips, subway and bus routes, and other destinations to explore nearby as well.

Will Champion, Guy Berryman and Chris Martin of Coldplay perform at Stadio San Siro in Milan

Will Champion, Guy Berryman and Chris Martin of Coldplay perform at Stadio San Siro in Milan
| Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Much of this excitement also begins at home. Waiting to board her flight to Bangkok to catch Coldplay’s concert, Atasi Giri, a supply chain specialist from Bengaluru , says that she noticed how her flight was packed with people who were also attending the concert. “I could hear loud conversations about songs, seat choices, and how to get to the venue,” she recalls. The destination cities transform to welcome performing artistes and fans. Last year, Atasi says she visited Bangkok to see Agust D’s (BTS member Suga) D-DAY concert, and made a trip to the Philippines to see K-pop group Seventeen’s FOLLOW to Bulacan concert.

“In the past, we have had customers wanting to travel to the Tomorrowland festival in Belgium, or even catch Guns and Roses perform in Abu Dhabi. In the last one year however, the magnitude of this trend has seen some solid growth with many Gen Z and millennial music lovers opting to travel,” says Neeraj Singh Dev, executive vice president, e-commerce and short haul holidays, Thomas Cook. 

He credits the magnitude of this trend to Thailand being visa-free for Indians at present, and how accessible Singapore is in terms of connectivity and procuring a visa. “Many destinations also have packages built around a big event — say a concert, and encourage us to promote it to people looking to visit the country at that time,” adds Neeraj. 

A fan of US singer Taylor Swift, also known as a Swiftie, wears friendship bracelets and holds postcards before the pop star’s Eras Tour concert at the National Stadium in Singapore on March 7, 2024

A fan of US singer Taylor Swift, also known as a Swiftie, wears friendship bracelets and holds postcards before the pop star’s Eras Tour concert at the National Stadium in Singapore on March 7, 2024
| Photo Credit:
AFP

From EMI options to discounts on reservations in bulk, there are several plans catered towards making these trips more affordable. From as low as an EMI of ₹4,000 per month, one can book a trip to Thailand, Neeraj says. “You may not have a disposable income, but you are a Coldplay fan keen on making the trip. This is easily possible now, and younger customers in particular who are used to buying phones online on instalments, are keen to take up a similar approach for travel as well,” he says.  

So what can travellers keep in mind as they gear up for a big trip to see their favourite musicians perform? Neeraj recommends that if they travel as a group of 10 or more, they stand a chance to get better rates on accommodation when booked through a service like theirs. “Refundable flight tickets too are a must, given that concert tickets go on sale months in advance.” 

Trends in India

A lot of this travel, both within India and to places nearby, have seen a marked increase post the pandemic. A host of Indian and international acts have toured the country in the last two years, including Post Malone, Backstreet Boys, and Westlife. More people are also making a beeline for a host of music festivals including Sunburn, VH1 Supersonic, and even the more niche ones like the Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival and Magnetic Fields. 

 Ed Sheeran performs live on stage as he plays a surprise support set for The Darkness at The Roundhouse in London,

Ed Sheeran performs live on stage as he plays a surprise support set for The Darkness at The Roundhouse in London,
| Photo Credit:
Getty Images

“While the initial post-pandemic fervour is settling, we’ve witnessed a remarkable 2x increase in ticket sales and a substantial 60% rise in total users compared to 2022. There is also a growing trend of concerts reaching tier 2 and tier 3 cities, breaking away from the conventional metro-centric model,” says Varun Khare, business head, Paytm Insider, the brand that has taken  concerts with artists like Arijit Singh, Darshan Raval, Vishal Mishra, Sonu Nigam and Anuv Jain to smaller cities that include Dehradun, Bhubaneshwar, and Mysore.

“Fans are undoubtedly willing to travel far and wide to catch their favourite artists live. Live entertainment and live music concerts are certainly seeing a massive resurgence in India,” says Owen Roncon, chief of Business, Live Entertainment, BookMyShow. The platform’s year-end report Best of 2023  #EntertainmentOnASpree indicated that nearly 4.11 lakh people ventured outside of their home cities to catch live entertainment experiences. “Lollapalooza India 2024 had nearly 34% of its attendees travel from other Indian cities including Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi-NCR, Guwahati and Jaipur,” he adds. 40% of the attendees at Ed Sheeran’s  + – = ÷ x Tour in Mumbai will be coming in from other cities. 

Earlier this year at Lollapalooza, singer Halsey, to loud cheers from the audience, announced that the second largest streaming numbers for her music came from India. Owen too says that India has been the second largest market when it comes to audio streaming numbers for many artistes globally. “ India is becoming a focus region for international artists and performers as they sharpen their performances and game to cater to large swathes of young and growing fans here. The encouraging response from audiences across categories in India suggests that the demand for live entertainment is all set to continue on an upward trajectory,” he adds. 

Going by the current trend,  an ‘adventure of a lifetime’ at a concert of your choice might be just a four-hour flight away. Or, it could even be closer home. 

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