What It's Really Like To Have A Las Vegas Residency

When it comes to having a Las Vegas residency, gone are the days of the sleazy lounge lizard singing off-key to a room half full of disinterested gamblers. This image, perhaps best personified by Bill Murray's old "Saturday Night Live" routine as Nick the Lounge Singer (available on YouTube), couldn't be further from the reality of more modern performers in residence, including Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and the woman who started the modern Vegas residency trend, Celine Dion.

Per Variety, pre-Dion, the term "residency" didn't even exist in terms of Las Vegas, and a performer announcing that they were heading to Las Vegas for an extended period of time was seen as a sign that their star was fading, as opposed to on the rise. Said AEG Live senior VP John Nelson, "In 2003, when Celine started, people still thought Vegas was a place to go and end your career. That dynamic is completely upside down now, and it didn't happen overnight."

Dion and her late husband/manager René Angélil were reportedly inspired by the over-the-top, special effects-heavy Cirque du Soleil stage show "O." As Dion told Variety, "We wanted to do something very different from our touring show, and it would have been impossible to take something like that on the road."

Celine Dion set off the craze for Vegas residencies

Celine Dion's "A New Day" residency at The Colosseum theater at the Caesars Palace resort and casino lasted from March 2003 until December 2007, and as reported by Billboard magazine, the 717 shows brought in nearly three million people and made an incredible $385 million. Dion literally set the stage for more celebrities to come to Las Vegas for an extended period of time. Per John Meglan, co-president of Concerts West, which collaborated with Dion and Caesars on the residency, Dion's show served as a proof of concept "that an artist can sit down in Las Vegas and allow the audience to travel to them instead of the audience traveling to each city."

One of the massive benefits for performers is that a residency allows them to stay in one place for an extended period of time, rather than going on the road for months or even years. Dion, who came back for a second Vegas residency in 2011, told Variety, "It was so great to be based in one city: I'm very happy that in Vegas I can give my children a stable home life, and I can still do what I love doing as a career."

Vegas residencies bring out longtime, loyal fans

In 2020, Vice published an article on the "unexpected coziness" of a Las Vegas residency, and noted that most of performers who are lucky enough to get a Vegas residency, including Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Lady Gaga, are often approximately mid-career and therefore have at least 10 years' worth of beloved hit songs to draw on for their audiences. Those audiences likely consist of supportive, massively invested longtime fans who are willing to not only travel to see the show but pay the high ticket and merchandise prices as well. Performers are appearing before a loyal and enthusiastic audience, and can more easily participate in a day-to-day life with their families as well.

According to Kurt Melien, who was at Caesars Entertainment before becoming president of Live Nation Las Vegas, "Having a stable routine or a normal routine for anyone in any job is important, no matter what they do for a living. Having a place, having a similar schedule and a similar location is a good thing."

Las Vegas offers family-friendly opportunities for performers

Greg Parmley, chief executive of LIVE, which represents the United Kingdom's live music business, spoke of the perhaps ironic family-friendly benefits of a Vegas residency in The Guardian: "If they are at a point in their life, be it due to family or career, where they don't want to be on the road, Vegas offers an opportunity to have a stable base and still be performing every few nights."

Another benefit of a Las Vegas residency is the opportunity to put together a show particularly tailored to the performer's style and point of view. As reported by Us Weekly, Jennifer Lopez embraced her residency at the Zappos Theater within the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. That gig ran from January 2016 to September 2018 and was reportedly worth $350,000 per night. "This is going to be the show I've always dreamed of creating," she said, describing her vision as "high energy and multi-faceted." The residency obviously agreed with Lopez, who per The Guardian was offered a new Vegas residency and responded, "I've been offered that option ... I just can't wait to get back to doing that."

The opportunity to create the best show possible

Adele has delayed opening her Caesars Palace residency "Weekends With Adele" (per CNN), but eventually will be served well by the intimacy afforded by playing to just 4,000 people each night, once the residency finally begins. James Hanley, the news editor at live music industry publication IQ, told The Guardian in 2021, "Adele admits she doesn't like touring ... It wasn't like she felt out of place in Wembley stadium, but the more natural home of the music is the sort of environment you have in Vegas."

Greg Parmley, CEO of the U.K. live music umbrella organization LIVE (per Linkedin), elaborated on the opportunity for performers to create their dream shows when based at just one theater for months or years. Said Parmley, "It's much easier to maintain the quality of the show, as opposed to when you're touring and you're loading the production into a new building every night. [A Vegas residency] allows the production to be as good as it possibly can be."

Celine Dion can't stay away from Las Vegas

The residency craze shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. Even the original modern residency trend-setter, Celine Dion, is heading back, albeit to a new stage within the new $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas property. As reported by Casino.org, she has pushed back the opening of the residency to late 2022. Dion's "A New Day" residency remains the most profitable one of all time, but she will be challenged by the slew of performers with upcoming residencies, including the aforementioned Adele, as well as Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan all kicking off their own Vegas stays.

In a May 2021 interview with "Today" (available on YouTube), Dion exhorted her rivals to have fun and said she couldn't wait to be entertained herself. When asked by interviewer Natalie Morales how Las Vegas had become her home, Dion replied, "Vegas had given ... my family and I an opportunity for me to be a mom, for them to be kids, for me to perform for my fans and to practice my passion, and every night come home. That is rare."