Photo by Chris Pizzello on Shutterstock

This post is a part of a series digging into the stories revealed by the data of The Top 100 Tours of 2017.
Find the list here and an overview of the other stories here.

A Closer Look

Q. What's up with Britney in Vegas?

Britney performed 60 shows in a single city in 2017, Las Vegas.

Understanding the Vegas Residency

Residencies are far beyond the concert series mentioned here. It refers to when a show isn't taken on a traditional tour, but instead resides (hence the name) in one location. Residencies tend to run for months at a time, and can even span many years.

Residencies are often associated with Las Vegas, since its famous strip has homed a many iconic star of the past and present. However, the "Vegas Residency" association tended to be negative.

“Historically, Vegas residencies were [...] famous artists playing in small showrooms just to draw in the gambling crowds.”
Kurt Melien, vice president of entertainment at Caesars Palace

Celine Dion changed the game in 2003 when at the peak of her career she agreed to a Vegas residency doing 5 shows a week over 3 years (she ended up staying for five – and is doing another one now).

The obvious benefit of a residency is not having to take the sets and the team on tour, i.e. eradicating the cost associated with physically transporting sets and the team from city to city. This means even more extravagant sets can be built for "an over-the-top spectacular" (Melien again).

For many singers, the attraction is a business model that eliminates the most expensive part of touring – getting fans to come to you. They don’t have the cost of travel and they don’t have the cost of building and trucking movable sets [from here].

Back to Britney

Britney launched her own Vegas residency in 2013. It seemed to make sense to critics at the time since she got to spend time with her family and capitalise on her at-the-time already long career (read: "ah, she's kinda over anyway, this will be perfect for her").

After year on record shattering year for Spears in terms of ticket sales, she proved to not be quite done with the music business yet.

"Spears’ residency was perhaps the smartest thing she ever did for her career when it comes to finances, rehabilitating her image and in communicating with her longstanding fan base." [from the Independent]

She has since been applauded for proving that putting on a kickass Vegas show is not just be good for her image and good for business, but good for the industry at large. The general consensus now seems to be that Britney cemented the revitalisation Dion pioneered: making Las Vegas "the busiest entertainment city in the world" (from here).

In the words of Billboard:

916,184 tickets sold
Spears fundamentally changed how Vegas residencies worked. Over four years and 248 shows, Spears sold 916,184 tickets for a total gross of $137,695,392, inspiring other destination shows from artists like Lady Gaga.

Vegas – and Beyond!

Quite simply; the proof is in the pudding. The number of other residencies that have started popping up demonstrates that this model is becoming increasingly popular amongst acts and venues in the live entertainment business.

It's not just Vegas anymore, but New York seems to be building up its own culture of residencies, with Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden there at the forefront and Bruce Springsteen's ongoing stint on Broadway not far behind.

Residencies seem to be staking a permanent claim in the live music industry. In 2017 we saw:

  • Backstreet Boys kick off the fastest selling residency so far at the the Planet Hollywood in Vegas, which is extended well into 2018
  • Santana performed a big portion of their shows at the House of Blues in Vegas
  • Cher split her time between Las Vegas and Washington D.C. on a duel residency
  • Jennifer Lopez completed her second year in residency at The AXIS Auditorium in Planet Hollywood
  • Rod Stewart toured around Europe and the US, but still performed 15 times in 2017 at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas

An Added Bonus for Residencies

Springsteen made it twice to The 2017 Top 100 list, one entry with the E-Street band on tour, and one on his own as Springsteen on Broadway as a residency. With 55 performances at the Walter Kerr Theater in Manhattan's Midtown Theater District, at a theater that seats no more than 975 souls. It's quite an achievement that a show that size even makes this list.

Remember: gross (establishes rank) = tickets sold x ticket price

Such limited capacity (and limited supply of available tickets) can only mean one thing: high ticket prices. This is the opposite of what we see for the country acts, who have high volume of tickets sold at a much lower price point.

Sorting the end of year list by ticket price places Britney 4th for 2017. Cher is 6th, Jennifer Lopez 3rd and topping the list is Springsteen – all on a residency in 2017.

Not only does the 'residency' business model have the huge benefit of not having to transport humans and equipment across the planet – but attendees can also be charged top dollar to be there.

Britney Announces Vegas Residency with 1,000 Britneys