Revenue / 05.21.18
Everyone Wants a Residency Right Now
Cher once described Vegas residencies as “an elephant graveyard where talent goes to die,” according to music journalist and former New York Daily News columnist Jim Farber. Now, Vegas is the place to be if you’re a million-dollar popstar like Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani, the former of whom is guaranteed just over 1 million dollars per show at the MGM Park Theater. As Variety puts it, “The price tag for a superstar artist’s residency has been inching up steadily in the post-recession years and as more and more acts, both contemporary and heritage…plant semi-permanent roots in the desert outpost.”
Why the sudden Vegas fever?
Things started to shift in residencies’ favor roughly a decade ago, when Celine Dion took up shop in Sin City. Dion’s 2003-2007 “A New Day…” stint at Caesars Palace grossed $382.5 million, clearly demonstrating the demand for residencies. Then in 2013, Britney Spears began her “Piece of Me” Vegas residency, which earned around $135 million in ticket sales alone. Dion broke the “elephant graveyard” stigma of the 80s and 90s, and Spears then proved that millennials are interested in Vegas shows — very much so. It’s no wonder artists in 2018 are ravenous for a piece of the Vegas pie.
Kurt Melien, vice president of entertainment at Caesars Entertainment, strongly believes residencies to be more lucrative than tours. He said in a Billboard interview that with residencies, artists “don’t have the cost of travel, they don’t have the cost of trucking and they don’t have the cost of building moveable sets. If you have any interest in producing a high-production show, it’s absolutely cheaper to do [a Las Vegas residency]. And you don’t have the cost of additional hotel travel and hospitality. The folks you hire tend to live in [Las Vegas] ― the band, the dancers and support staff.”
Indeed, audiences across the board are demanding increasingly extravagant concerts, due to fans’ mounting expectations for thrilling events. If artists want to avoid pricing fans out of their concerts, residencies might just be their best bet.
Cost, however, is just one reason why artists choose residencies. Queen + Adam Lambert frontman Adam Lambert appreciates how venue consistency can allow for musical creativity. He recently told BlabberMouth.net that the band's upcoming 10-date Las Vegas residency in September will allow them to "experiment a little bit more."
"It's the first time we've ever done that many shows in one venue before," Lambert said. "But I think it'll just give it a different energy for us to be really comfortable. When you're on tour, you walk into a new venue and it sounds different, and you have a whole new audience there. You're in a different city. There's different flavor in the city or the weather or whatever. This will be consistent, so I think it'll allow us to play more."
Gwen Stefani, meanwhile, told the Moore County News Press that she expects her upcoming Las Vegas residency in February and March 2019 to be the "perfect" way to tour her music while still focusing on her three young children. The 48-year-old singer said touring and being a parent is "almost impossible to do, and it's a lot of balancing. The Las Vegas residency is just perfect for where I'm at right now, being a mom." Melien points to this same residency benefit for Spears, saying, “Technically, she can fly back that night or the next day and be in L.A. pretty quickly. That’s what’s great about this for her, because she’s definitely a mom as much as she is a performer.”
Residencies are proving to be especially alluring for aging pop stars who are no longer willing or able to commit to extended road tours. Barry Manilow is one such singer. His previous five-year residency at the former Las Vegas Hilton began in 2005 and ran five years. From there, he enjoyed a two-year residency at the Paris Las Vegas. He is returning this month to the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino for an extended engagement, dubbed "Barry Manilow Las Vegas: The Hits Come Home."
Of course, Las Vegas isn't the only locale in which big-name musicians are setting up residence. Billy Joel has been keeping his live performing chops up to snuff with a one-a-month residency at New York's Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen's eight-week residency at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre proved to be such a mega-success that he extended it an additional 10 weeks earlier in the year to meet demand. Springsteen performed five nights a week during the residency, from Tuesday through Saturday. The run has since inspired such other artists as Tom Jones to consider similar resident runs.
Ticketing has been a bit of an issue in some instances. Even with Ticketmaster's Verified Fan service in place to decrease secondary market sellers and ticket price inflation, Variety reported that Springsteen tickets still made it to the secondary-market sites almost immediately and were going in the four-figure range. To combat this kind of thing, Barry Manilow fan club members and Westgate Resorts residency owners were offered a pre-sales period before tickets were made available to the general public for his upcoming residency last month.
For the venues that host these artists, the pluses are obvious. They provide a long-term booking and bring in a large and steady stream of revenue. One of the biggest was Elton John and his two residencies in Vegas. From February 2004 through April 2009, his "The Red Piano" residency played 243 shows and drew approximately 1 million fans. He and his band returned on Sept. 28, 2011, with the all-new "The Million Dollar Piano" residency that played 207 shows across seven years. "We've had the most magnificent time here!" the Las Vegas Review Journal quoted John telling his audience at the end of his final show on May 17.
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Tags: Music , Ticketmaster , Theater