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The Changing Face Of The Las Vegas Strip Residency

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The Las Vegas residency has changed through the years from a hot spot to a dumping ground and back again.

The performer residency is a decades-long tradition in Las Vegas. 

But from the days of the Rat Pack to today, the lineup of acts Las Vegas has to offer has broadened significantly. 

The Las Vegas residency has been viewed as a career pinnacle, a comeback tool and everything in between.

But what is it now?

Ken Miller, the editor of Las Vegas Magazine, told KNPR's State of Nevada that residencies have gone through several phases.

When Liberace did the first one at the Riviera in the 50s, he was at the height of his fame and power. It was seen as a smart thing to do, but over time, that opinion changed.

"Somewhere along the way the residency in Las Vegas came to be seen as where stars come to end their careers," Miller said. "That perception has changed incredibly over the years." 

Miller said the incredible success of Celine Dion at Caesars Palace opened the door to other stars.

When the casino industry in Las Vegas first started, the shows were seen as a side enterprise that were really going to lose money, but now casinos realize they can bring in guests with a great show. 

"They now realize the marketability of someone like a Celine, a Mariah, a Britney," Miller said. "Someone who you hear the name and you immediately associate it with these hits."

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The definition of a residency has also changed to include top DJs at nightclubs, well-known comedians in showrooms and so-called mini-residencies where artists stay for just a week or two for top dollar.

"The properties are realizing this can work and they don't need to sign a multi-year contract," Miller said.

With all those changes, the idea of a Las Vegas showroom being a place where careers come to die is over.

"To dismiss Las Vegas as a place where you come to end your career is a huge career mistake," Miller said. 

Despite the changes, successful residencies have something in common, according to Cindi Reed, the former arts and entertainment editor of Seven Magazine. 

"I think the formula for success is based on a person with recognition who still has some sort of universal appeal," Reed said.

A big name entertainer who has a string of hits over the years is a sure thing, Mike Prevatt, the music critic for the Las Vegas Weekly, said.

"Harkening back to one's childhood seems to be a surefire way to draw people and make money," Prevatt said.

He does think that more shows at Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Hotel are skewing younger and he thinks the planned theater at the Monte Carlo hotel-casino should feature a performer or band to appeal to Generation X.

Reed said the acts bringing in the rich, famous and fabulous are the DJs at some of the top clubs.

"The people audiences want to see today are the EDMX and DJ residencies at the night club because they are the most cutting edge," she said.

For casinos, they have to walk a fine line between seeming current but not too cutting edge.

"I think it is all about the dynamic between the sure thing and the creative risk and a casino with so much money invested into a major show and a residency, they have to go with a sure thing," Reed said.

Guests

Cindi Reed, assistant director, Black Mountain Institute; Ken Miller, editor, Las Vegas Magazine; Mike Prevatt, music critic, Las Vegas Weekly

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