Britney Spears was barely 21 when the idea of a Las Vegas residency first crossed her mind. It was 2003, shortly after wrapping Dream Within a Dream, her first full-blown U.S. arena run, when she and a friend stayed at Celine Dion’s palatial estate off the Strip to see how the French-Canadian star lived away from the touring circuit.
“I remember how beautiful it was — really cool, low-key — and her dressing room was great,” Spears, now a 33-year-old mother of two, tells Billboard from her family’s residential suite in Vegas, not far from her own dressing room at Planet Hollywood. “I was actually jealous, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, she gets to be in one place all the time.’ Everything clicked: To have your children and your family and that way of life, it just makes sense to have everything in one place.”
Dion’s Caesars Palace residency was a pioneering one. It was the first time an in-her-prime superstar (Dion, like Spears, was 33 when she first embarked) had set up shop in the desert at the peak of her touring powers, debunking the notion that Vegas was a pop-star retirement community. Her 4,100-capacity shows at The Colosseum pulled in $493.7 million in Billboard Boxscore receipts in the first 10 years, and helped lure Elton John, Cher, Bette Midler and Shania Twain to the same venue for a rotation of residencies totaling more than $1 billion in revenue, according to AEG Live.
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Las Vegas was transformed by the time Spears launched Piece of Me on New Year’s Eve 2013 at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas. (Caesars Entertainment Corp. owns Planet Hollywood.) In 2003, Vegas’ economy was just beginning to wean itself off gaming revenue, which accounted for 43 percent of total revenue on the Las Vegas Strip in that fiscal year ($4.5 billion from July 2002 to June 2003); hotels and entertainment made up the remaining 57 percent ($5.9 billion), according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Today, entertainment has hit an all-time high ($2.3 billion in fiscal year 2014), with non-gaming revenue accounting for 63 percent of the Strip’s earnings.
The electronic-dance boom of the late 2000s hastened the shift. A-list DJs attracted a younger, livelier demo than the middle-aged couples who might see a Dion or Cher show, hit the tables for an hour and call it a night. Spears, who has amassed 17 top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (including four No. 1s), was already on her fourth album when many of Vegas’ fun-seekers were in middle school.
Continue reading Billboard full interview: Britney on Why Her Vegas Residency ‘Clicked,’ Being Inspired by Celine Dion and a New Album Not Being a ‘Full Priority’