Arts & Entertainment: Singapore Humble Triumph


Arts and Entertainment in Singapore/ Credit Photo by Singapore Tourism

Singapore is barely visible in people’s eyes compared to its giant neighbors in the region. Its size is almost equal to Indonesia’s Jakarta Province or South Korea’s Seoul. Moreover, the tiny size of land endows the city-state with fewer advantages of natural, specifically highly anticipated mineral resources.

However, the city-states’ gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in 2023 outperformed other ASEAN member states with $82,746 (International Monetary Fund, 2024), nearly twentyfold of Indonesia’s and Vietnam’s. Singapore also marked a robust inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI), about more than $214 billion in 2023 (Singapore Department of Statistics, 2024), while Indonesia made only around $47 billion (Munthe et al., 2024).

Singapore is a global multinational hub in the Asia region where more than 7,000 multinational companies (MNCs) operate their headquarters in the city-states (Hawksford, 2018). Thus, private businesses and services are the country’s spearhead. The bright economic rapport of Singapore, despite being less endowed, helps it to define its capacity on the international stage.

Nonetheless, the author observes that there is a fresh perspective to define Singapore’s competitiveness & identity that is often overlooked and barely noticed nowadays, which is the entertainment industry.

Arts & Entertainment for Singapore

First, why are arts utilized in the context to depict the states’ image? Arts are believed to reflect people’s expression and knowledge even since the primordial life when archaeologists identified civilizations by the left relics of cave paintings and worship instruments.

Furthermore, arts also provide pleasure and raise aspirations so they can “win men’s minds” better than typical political propaganda during the Cold War. In multicultural settings, arts help to mediate diversity by touching on basic values, such as common practices and ideas (Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, 2011).

Take a lesson from Singapore which delicately featured its image in animations. It was the Tom & Jerry series that the pilot show aired in August 2023 featuring some Singapore icons like Merlion to Marina Bay Sands while those characters playfully chase each other along the streets (Sng, 2023). The localized show was developed by Singapore and India-based studios under the commission of Warner Bros Animation.

Beside the landmarks, the show also depicted the local way of thinking & living (Lang, 2023). For instance, they went with cricket materials instead of baseball and featured the exotic durian fruit. Some common daily scenes like staying in line for dentist appointments and collecting your passport are portrayed as well. Furthermore, the main characters are also different in shape, with a chubby face and big-rounded eyes, compared to their usual American-style appearance (Charles, n.d.).

Even though it is not completely relevant for the whole region, it concludes that Singapore was being chosen to represent what other people expect about Asians. Thus, Singapore has benefited from being displayed on the screen. Moreover, it shaped public opinion about Asian setting characters through their talents’ work with blockbuster studios and indirectly touted as global Asians in Western eyes, these are collectively the overlooked powers of Singapore that the author refers to.

Beyond arts, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) had expected more. It was the ground of multi-years partnership between STB and Warner Bros to highlight and promote Singapore globally in the studio’s artworks since the deal was inked in 2022 (Singapore Tourism Board, 2023). Therefore, all the mentioned benefits are indispensable effects of the contract and materialized beyond the method of political propaganda.

Last March, Singapore hosted a 6-days long Taylor Swift concert. The concert had sold 300,000 tickets and for this item alone it could generate up to $75.2 million while a more holistic tourism calculation estimated the event could profit Singapore between $350-$500 million (Tan, 2024).

Singapore’s big fortune was not accidental. The only concert in the region was related to its grant to the event promoter so that it could benefit Singapore more, the subsidy estimated to be up to US$3 million (Koh & Lee, 2024).

Later, neighboring countries like the Philippines and Thailand questioned Singapore’s sense of neighborhood and called for duplicating the strategy on their own. Prior to this, an identical tactic was applied at the domestic level when the Western Australia government in 2023 secured the Coldplay concert in Australia to be held in Perth only (Koh & Lee, 2024).

If we look in detail, the method is similar to trade agreements. Some entities are open to signing an agreement with the same partner but a degree of profit may not be equal, depending on what deals are reached. Moreover, it was the partners’ wise also to consider which counterparts are more favorable for them so that more specific, or rather exclusive, agreement might be produced.

The deal may also reflect Singapore’s competitive advantages such as its location, which is relatively in the middle of the region and accessible for foreign fans. Furthermore, the public transportation network, which is amongst the world’s best ones (Dhar, 2023), and the hawker cultures, where people can dine with local nuances at a reasonable price, help to increase the trip experience.

Other considerations are that it has been placed 17th globally and 2nd in the Asia-Pacific region in the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) in 2023 (Singapore Tourism Board, n.d.). This recognition helps to improve the venue’s impression in the awakening of climate concerns.

So, once again, Singapore has proved its diplomatic and business savvy by winning a contract with the private sector. The concert inevitably uplifted the state’s image and economy. Although it caused a sentiment from others, the practice is equally approachable and competitively fair by considering the venue’s advantages.

Some Takeaways

In a bigger picture, the author realizes that Singapore is walking beyond inter-state relations to embrace non-traditional stakeholders such as art and entertainment companies. It utilizes the diplomatic channel to display its urbanized, sophisticated Asians identity. This approach also brings more fortune economically by luring foreigners to come to the city-state, which in the Taylor Swift concert benefits Singapore only.

From that reason, it is vague to accuse the business sectors of being openly involved in political practice because of their aim for profit. As long as the project’s premises are aligned with the market demand and satisfy their craving for innovation then they will go on.

For the exclusive deal regarding the concert, the author highlights a competitive advantage of Singapore, like its public amenities, relative distance to other states, local cultures, and global recognition to gather the fans in the region so that the promoter consciously considers the contract positively.

However, scholars can break down the process to identify any political purposes or state’s hand in the business contents. For instance, are there any funds flowing into the companies/ artists under specific contracts and what are the contracts expected for artworks. As for other countries, this process helps to inspire which line of work is able to connect their office with business entities alike.

The identification isn’t applicable when the company has its home-grown initiatives. An example is Disney which often produces animations inspired by local folk tales, namely Moana and her Pacific Islanders story or Elena of the Avalor with latino setting. Thus, artworks aren’t merely sugar-coating a state’s image, but also uplifting cultures to foster common understanding.

In conclusion, Singapore’s experiences show states’ ability to project their identity by collaborating with private entities and what it takes is a diplomatic expertise to identify the states’ capacity and demand. Nonetheless, the company is still profit oriented and has its own value so that the work should be able to satisfy both parties.


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Dhar, S. (2023, January 12). S’pore Ranked 4th In The World For Public Transport, Hong Kong Takes Top Spot. MustShareNews. Retrieved June 28, 2024, from

Hawksford. (2018, September 3). MNCs: Why you should set up a subsidiary in Singapore. Hawksford. Retrieved June 28, 2024, from subsidiary-in-singapore

Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. (2011). Chapter 8: The Arts as Cultural Diplomacy [ICD Cultural Diplomacy Outlook 2011]. Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.

International Monetary Fund. (2024). GDP per capita, current prices. IMF Data Mapper. ghlight=SGP

Koh, S., & Lee, E. (2024, February 20). STB gave grant for Taylor Swift concerts, event likely to generate major benefits for S’pore economy: Govt. The Straits Times. Retrieved June 28, 2024, from event-likely-to-generate-major-benefits-for-s-pore-economy-govt

Lang, J. (2023, October 20). Relocating Animation’s Most Famous Cat-And-Mouse Duo To Asia: How Tom And Jerry Ended Up In Singapore. Cartoon Brew. Retrieved June 28, 2024, from 50.html

Munthe, B. C., Suroyo, G., & Kapoor, K. (2024, January 24). Indonesia sees FDI worth $47 bln in 2023 – investment ministry. Reuters. Retrieved June 28, 2024, from estment-ministry-2024-01-24/

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Sng, S. (2023, July 26). From Merlion to Marina Bay Sands: New Tom and Jerry series to feature scenes set in Singapore, debuts in August. AsiaOne. Retrieved June 28, 2024, from


Tan, A. (2024, February 29). Beyond a swift lift to Singapore’s Q1 economy, Taylor’s concerts can deliver long-term dividends. The Straits Times. Retrieved June 28, 2024, from onomy-taylor-s-concerts-can-deliver-long-term-dividends

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