by Entertainment Writer and Alice Vincent, The Telegraph, December 20, 2017
The rumours have been confirmed: Lady Gaga will be embarking upon a Las Vegas residency. What fewer people expected, however, was that she would land the most lucrative deal ever offered in Sin City.
Some predictions had Gaga earning around $100,000 per show. She's actually going to earn several multiples of that: Variety reports that he deal is valued at nearly $100 million, with Gaga pocketing more than a million dollars per show, making at least $75 million over two years.
Even for Gaga, a star who has redefined the meaning of extravagant live performance during her career – the Born This Way Ball tour saw her cart a medieval castle around the world, and she was left £1.2 million in debt after splurging on costumes for The Monster Ball Tour – the deal has set a new precedent. The fact that Las Vegas residencies take over just the one space in a venue for several months, if not years, mean that stars have come to stage their shows in increasingly flamboyant – and costly – settings, with thousands of punters spending several hundred dollars to witness the stars belt out their best-known hits.
The deal also comes with some risk: Gaga recently rescheduled the UK and European legs of her Joanne tour due to problems with fibromalgia, the chronic pain condition she has long suffered from, as shown in 5' 2", the Netflix documentary about the star. Will she be able to keep up with the nightly demands of the job?
The inevitably eye-watering details of just how the Haus of Gaga will remodel MGM's Park Theater for her needs are yet to be seen, as are the ticket prices and costs of the various meet-and-greet packages. But as previous residencies have shown, Gaga's will take some topping:
Before Dion, Las Vegas residencies were where heritage acts went to play out the rest of their careers. Little touring, receptive (and, crucially, older) holiday crowds and a nice paycheck at the end of it made it an appealing option for those artists who couldn't land a gig elsewhere.
But Dion was at the peak of her career when, in 2002, she embarked upon A New Day..., her first Las Vegas residency which, after earning $444.69 million dollars (according to 2016 inflation rates) in five years, remains the city's most successful residency ever. Dion played to more than 3 million people in that time.
The Colosseum spent $95 million building a new theatre that seated 4,100 and was inspired by ancient Rome. It's since hosted some of the city's most high-rolling residencies, including Elton John, Cher, Rod Stewart and Mariah Carey.
The sun set on A New Day... in 2007, but Dion returned to The Colosseum in 2011 with Celine, her second residency, for which she takes home $500,000 a show. With Celine regularly ranking in the top-grossing North American tours of the year (making between $21.1 million and $85.8 million annually between 2011 and 2016), it's hardly surprising that Celine is due to run until 2019.
While acts such as Dion paved the way for Spears to land a residency, the arrival of Britney: Piece of Me in December 2013 was a demonstration of how far Las Vegas was changing as a holiday destination. No longer the place where, as Cher put it, attendees went to witness "the last concert they ever see", but an increasingly youthful party city where DJs including Calvin Harris, Afrojack and Tiësto having the luxury of choosing between trendy venues Hakkasan, LIGHT and the Wynn hotels for fees of up to $300,000 per night.
Spears also set a new bar in terms of fees: while her $325,000-per-show price tag wasn't as high as that enjoyed by Dion, it was no secret that Spears would be miming for a considerable chunk of her show, which was taking place at an expensively revamped Planet Hollywood. Furthermore, she set some of the highest ticket prices in the area, with some racheting up to $855 per ticket, and meet-and-greets costing $2,500. The contract reportedly earned her $30 million over two years.
But Spears proved a remarkable success: sold-out crowds and riotous praise meant she was given a payrise less than a year after the residency opened, to $475,000 per show. In that time, she had reportedly boosted the annual earnings of Planet Hollywood by $20 million. Britney: Piece of Me will end after four years on New Year's Eve, having grossed more than $135 million (February's total) and entertained more than a million people. In the process, she's proved that younger pop stars can more than hold their own in Las Vegas.
One of the results of both Dion and Spears's residencies was Mariah's entry into the Las Vegas fold, what with the city proving a savvy business choice for pop's established divas – especially with the added lifestyle for those musicians with young families, with the benefits of staying in one place (a key plus point for Spears).
Dion's hiatus at the Colosseum made a space for Carey to step into that glittering stage in January 2015 with the mathematically challenging Number 1 to Infinity residency, which featured all 18 of her chart-toppers. Few details were released about Carey's salary, aside from the fact it would be "much more" than what Spears was paid, some estimate a ballpark figure of $30 million.
Clearly, the gig worked for Carey: she rounded off her Caesars Palace stint with another, shorter residency at the end of the year, based around her smash hit All I Want for Christmas is You. Then, in November, rumours emerged that Carey would be taking on yet another residency in the Venetian Theatre at a rival Las Vegas hotel. So far, all we know is that it's expected to begin in March and her salary could sit in the "low eight figures" – meaning tens of millions of dollars.
Such pop stars have shown that being a diva in contemporary pop can still pay off. But before Mariah, Celine or Britney, (even before Elton or Rod Stewart, who have also enjoyed earning millions on The Strip), Liberace delivered the most fabulously indulgent show of them all.
The publicly closeted pianist entertained hoardes of Las Vegas's elderly visitors for more than three decades and was transformed the meaning of the city's residencies. Liberace started his career in Sin City, but it became his gilded bread-and-butter later in his career. By 1955, Liberace was making £50,000 a week by performing at the Riviera Hotel and Casino ($460,000 in today's money).
A decade later, the self-proclaimed "one-man Disneyland" was bringing "Mr Showmanship" to The Strip in gaudy jewellry and ludicrous fur capes, Rolls Royces to drive him onto the stage and animals to accompany him once he'd got there. Such flamboyancy was reflected in his pay packet, which multiplied to $300,000 a week during the Seventies and Eighties (around $1.4 million).
The Rat Pack
The men who arguably brought the sin to Sin City: Frank Sinatra and co dominated the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas after Sinatra started to stay and gamble there in the early Fifties. His first performance took place in 1953. By the relentless dazzle of contemporary residencies, Sinatra's was minimalist: he usually gave a show three times a year, sometimes for a fortnight a pop.
What's intriguing is that Sinatra's shows – which, by the end of the decade, had expanded to include Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford, who performed while in the city filming Ocean's Eleven, thus birthing the Rat Pack – were loss-leaders for the Sands Hotel. The performers were paid to lure in the oil money from Texas, and with it the big rollers, rather than sell tickets of their own accord.
Among those lured in by Sinatra, of course, was the future president John Kennedy. Kennedy was often a guest of Sinatra's at The Sands, where, it is said, he met Judith Exner, the other woman in the Kennedys' marriage.
This article was written by Entertainment Writer and Alice Vincent from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].