From Ce­line to Queen, live mu­sic is draw­ing au­di­ences not nec­es­sar­ily in­ter­ested in bets

Variety - - Casino Entertainment Impact List - By ROY TRAKIN

For the bet­ter part of the past decade, Sin City’s ral­ly­ing cry has been “what hap­pens in Ve­gas, stays in Ve­gas,” but that has gone out the win­dow — along with the no­tion of mu­sic as a loss leader in a town built on gam­bling. Since Cae­sars Palace launched the Colosseum in 2003 for Ce­line Dion’s “A New Day” res­i­dency, such stars as Brit­ney Spears, El­ton John, Rod Ste­wart, Mariah Carey, Jen­nifer Lopez, Queen, the Who and Gwen Ste­fani have all un­der­taken high-pro­file multi- date casino en­gage­ments in Las Ve­gas. Spears re­cently signed for a re­ported $500,000 per show to leave Planet Hol­ly­wood’s Zap­pos The­ater, which is part of Cae­sars, for the ri­val Park The­ater at Park MGM, which also an­nounced Lady Gaga and Aero­smith for their own stays be­gin­ning later this year and next.

Former res­i­dent jour­nal­ist Corey Le­vi­tan points to Ge­orge Maloof open­ing the Palms Casino in 2001, fol­lowed by Cae­sars’ Planet Hol­ly­wood, as fac­tors in Las Ve­gas flip­ping the script to be­come a hip des­ti­na­tion.

“Mil­len­ni­als have no idea Ve­gas isn’t sup­posed to be cool,” says Le­vi­tan. “There’s noth­ing neg­a­tive about it for them. Of course, they don’t gam­ble as much, ei­ther. The casi­nos have to find a way to re­de­fine the city to cap­ture that mar­ket. And mu­sic seems to be one way that might work.”

As long­time area con­cert pro­moter Danny Zelisko notes, new are­nas in­clud­ing the Man­dalay Bay Events Cen­ter and MGM Grand Gar­den Arena in the ’90s pro­vided an al­ter­na­tive to the Thomas & Mack Cen­ter, with the T-mo­bile Arena open­ing in 2016 for the NHL Golden Knights’ in­au­gu­ral sea­son, and the much-bal­ly­hooed MSG Sphere from Jim Dolan and Irv­ing Azoff slated for 2020.

Per­haps the city’s top res­i­dency is EDM su­per­star Calvin Har­ris at Cae­sars’ night­club prop­erty Om­nia, where he makes ap­prox­i­mately $1 mil­lion a show in a re­ported $280 mil­lion deal. Elec­tronic mu­sic has been at­tract­ing younger au­di­ences to the desert since the Elec­tric Daisy Car­ni­val moved to Ve­gas per­ma­nently in 2011.

Seth Yudof is an in­de­pen­dent con­cert pro­moter whose UD Fac­tory books a num­ber of shows into Las Ve­gas, in­clud­ing “I Love the ’90s,” a ro­tat­ing lineup fea­tur­ing Salt-n-pepa, All 4 One, Kid N’ Play, Black­street and En Vogue, which plays reg­u­larly at Cae­sars’ 1,400- ca­pac­ity Paris Ho­tel & Casino. He iden­ti­fies some of the city’s break­out acts, in­clud­ing Imag­ine Drag­ons — which started out as a Strip cover band — the Killers and Panic! at the Disco, as rais­ing Las Ve­gas’ pro­file as a mu­sic cen­ter and mak­ing it a de­sir­able place to play.

“Las Ve­gas has al­ways been the home of new and emerg­ing artists do­ing new mu­sic in their prime, from Si­na­tra to Elvis Pres­ley,” Yudof says. “When Louis Prima was play­ing free shows in the lounge at the Sa­hara, it was the same year he won a Grammy.”

Rob Prinz, ICM co-head of world­wide con­certs, is given credit for Ce­line Dion’s ground­break­ing res­i­dency at Cae­sars Palace, a con­cept that re­versed the idea of tour­ing. “In­stead of trav­el­ing around the world putting on con­certs for your fans, they come to see you,” says Cae­sars SVP En­ter­tain­ment Ja­son Gast­wirth, who booked Spears at Planet Hol­ly­wood in 2013. “It takes a cer­tain kind of artist, one with a wide-scale fan base, a great mu­sic cat­a­log and who’s ca­pa­ble of bring­ing it ev­ery night. A good rule of thumb would be, they’re iden­ti­fi­able by one name.”

With Ve­gas’ book­ing carved out by Live Na­tion, AEG and Cae­sars En­ter­tain­ment — the three largest con­cert pro­mot­ers in the world — the land­scape has be­come in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive, with the high-pro­file res­i­den­cies be­com- ing a ma­jor sell­ing point. “They’ve proven a boon to both artists and fans,” Gast­wirth says. “We’ve formed a great part­ner­ship which has en­abled them to move be­yond the tra­di­tional tour­ing model.”

“What the res­i­den­cies do is mar­ket your brand through­out the year, even if you’re only per­form­ing a lim­ited num­ber of dates,” notes UD Fac­tory’s Yudof. “Your pres­ence in this city is greater than any other place you could go to.”

From Wayne New­ton and En­gel­bert Humperdinck to El­ton John and John Fogerty, Las Ve­gas has al­ways been a town of multi- date en­gage­ments.

“They didn’t call them res­i­den­cies back then,” Zelisko says. “The gen­res of mu­sic have evolved over the years, and so have the au­di­ences. Ve­gas used to be type­cast as a place for old acts. But that’s not the case

In­stead of trav­el­ing around the world putting on con­certs for fans, they come to see you.” Ja­son Gast­wirth

Just a Girl

Res­i­dent stars, such as Gwen Ste­fani, cur­rently per­form­ing at Planet Hol­ly­wood, has helped change Ve­gas nightlife.

any­more. ”

Casino en­ter­tain­ment is no longer an af­ter­thought, ei­ther. Ac­cord­ing to the Las Ve­gas Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Author­ity, it’s en­ter­tain­ment — not gam­bling — that’s the No. 1 rea­son peo­ple come to the city. And a new foot­ball team is on the way so the crowds are bound to grow.

“Ev­ery depart­ment and ev­ery as­pect of the casino has a bot­tom line,” says Yodof. “Back in the mo­brun days, the con­cern was just mak­ing money over­all, which is where you got the free mu­sic and cheap food. They just wanted warm bod­ies in the casi­nos. These days, the eco­nom­ics are as im­por­tant as the art.”

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