Brian Edwards, SGPS ShowRig
Steve Dixon, Roadwerx Touring, LLC
Bobby Reynolds, AEG Presents
Luis Rivera, White Oak Music Hall
Nick Whitehouse, Live-Redesigned
A residency is “a series of concerts, similar to a concert tour, but performed in one location,” according to a definition given by Brian Edwards, who hosted a panel on the topic at Production Live! 2024. And he added another one given by the Pollstar Awards committee, which defines residencies as “a run of ten or more shows in a single venue.”
As Edwards pointed out, residencies have been around for decades, pioneered by the likes of Liberace, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, or Elvis Presley, who played 837 consecutive sold-out nights in the Las Vegas Hilton showroom between 1969 and 1976. At least according to the plaque at the feet of Elvis Presley’s statue at the hotel. It’s been widely reported that this number may have been exaggerated by about 200. It still qualifies as a residency by all definitions known to man.
Celine Dion changed what a residency could look like, when she set up shop in Vegas from 2003 to 2007, generating $385 million, which would be half a billion dollars in today’s currency.
Since then, the likes of Aerosmith, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Garth Brooks, Usher, and Adele have all played Las Vegas residencies, with U2 and the Sphere currently setting a new bar. And as this year’s Pollstar Award nominees demonstrate, Las Vegas isn’t the only place where a successful residency can be realized.
From the artist’s perspective, a residency allows for boundless creativity. As Whitehouse pointed out, some residency productions may come in just as many trucks as you’d expect to see on a major arena tour, because artists and their teams went all out when designing the show.
If a stage doesn’t have to be taken down straight after the show to be transported to the next city, it opens up completely new possibilities in terms of what kinds of structures and design elements can be built. Many of the stage designs used by residency shows would be way too big to be taken on tour. Plus, they’re custom built for the hosting venue.
As Reynolds summed up, residencies offer space for shows that would otherwise be too expensive, and too cumbersome, to take on the road. It obviously entailed much more planning and work being put into the actual show, but seeing everything come to fruition, and especially seeing the fans’ reaction to witnessing something truly special, made it all worthwhile.
A residency changes the game for all involved: the artist’s and the building’s crews are working together for weeks and months, bonding in a way that’s not possible on a regular tour. Generally speaking, the in-house teams take on much more responsibility than they would during a show that loads in one day, and leaves again the next.
Another big difference, according to Dixon: you have to come up with plans for non-performance days. It was all part of making the artist feel “at home away from home,” which is a question that doesn’t come up on a regular tour, where there’s no time to settle in anywhere. But with residencies, life outside of touring suddenly becomes part of all considerations, in order to make artists feel comfortable and prevent them from getting bored. To which Reynolds responded, that there were more difficult challenges than keeping artists entertained in the entertainment capital of the world.
A big advantage, once a show’s been set up for a residency, according to Whitehouse: the day begins at four in the afternoon for soundcheck, and ends at 10 at night.
It’s easy to see how a residency eliminates some of the more strenuous aspects of being on the road, and therefore contributes to the mental and physical health of all involved.
Rivera mentioned anecdotal evidence of artists not touring, because it has simply become too expensive, and explained how a residency saves costs associated with taking a show on the road.
Last but not least: the sound. Buildings set up for residencies boast state of the art sound systems simply not available inside arenas and stadiums. Aerosmith, during their 2019/2020 residency at Park Theater At Park MGM Las Vegas, worked with THX and L-Acoustic’s L-ISA to treat the audience to the best sound possible. As Dixon explained, an average 18,000-cap arena show averaged around 90 speakers. The Aerosmith show featured some 400 speakers pointed at 5,000 people from 99 axes covering almost the entire room.
All of this attention to detail is simply not affordable when setting up for one night only.
Whitehouse remarked that it didn’t always have to be an all-out spectacular production, taking James Taylor’s limited Vegas residency last year as an example: the set design was fairly modest, but it still made for one of the best concert experiences because of the intimacy of the building, the closeness to fans, and the stellar sound.
The panel was in agreement, that you had to have reached a certain status as an artist to be able to pull off a residency. After all, there were some 5,000 tickets to sell every night at most of these building.
Dixon said, you had to be an arena-level artist to make it work. If you can, the appeal was undeniable: swapping the rough road for a more relaxed residency schedule, which doesn’t require artists to leave their daily lives behind for months on end, but to actually enjoy the best of both worlds for a limited amount of time.