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December 4th, 2013
08:26 PM ET

Mega musicians are now 'franchise players'

(CNN) - Bette Midler, Celine Dion, Elton John, Cher ... once they happen in Vegas, they often stay in Vegas.

It's called a residency – casinos pay big bucks to secure exclusive rights to a performer for weeks, even years. In turn, the headliner gets to build the show of their dreams, complete with all the Vegas pomp and plumage money can buy.

Tuesday night Sin City pulled out all the stops for its newest recruit – pop star Britney Spears.

Starting December 27, Spears will perform for two years at Planet Hollywood, 98 shows in total, for a reported $30 million.

"For Vegas we're always looking for top entertainment, right, so the value really is in having big name artists in the city, at our properties," said Kurt Melian, vice president of Caesars Entertainment, who helped negotiate the deal.

"The residency business is great for tourism for these cities, because people are making a specific choice to choose Vegas over another city, or another destination, because they want to see their favorite act," said Melian.

Spears has the strip, but that location doesn't suit everybody. As his hit songs prove, Billy Joel enjoys the East Coast.

Joel has played at Madison Square Garden 46 times. Now the piano man will make it a monthly tradition, for as long as his tickets keep selling.

"A month at the Garden, as long as there's a demand, means more opportunities to connect with music fans, and to provide a unique and memorable show every night," Joel said at a press conference announcing the deal.

New audiences without the hassle of new cities is a big draw for musicians looking for a change of pace.

In 2008 performers Donny and Marie Osmond settled into the Flamingo in Las Vegas, where they marked 50 years in show business.

Cher celebrated her fourth decade on stage by getting off the road.

"That's what I retired from, just having to haul myself all over the world," said Cher.

She, like many other big names, opted for Colosseum at Caesars instead.

"You're finding artists that are making this decision because they don't want to tour, because it's a lot of work," said Melian. "It's a lot of time to have to spend nights in a hotel room away from your families."

It's a safe bet for promoters too, if they play their cards right. Pop star Elton John's first Vegas show was so successful, Caesars invited him back for a second sting. Guitarist and singer Carlos Santana's show sales were so nice, he also did it twice, first at Planet Hollywood, then at the Hard Rock Cafe.

But the undisputed queen of Vegas success is Canadian songstress Celine Dion. Her original five-year residency earned a reported $400 million. Her second show began in 2011, and has just been extended to 2019.

As for rolling the dice on Billy Joel? His first four shows have already sold out.

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