It’s a good thing Britney Spears isn’t getting paid by the word. Her big reveal in Las Vegas Thursday night, at the end of a breathlessly narrated half-hour live stream on Ellen DeGeneres’ YouTube channel, was… the sight of Spears finally appearing amid some pyrotechnics, and then walking down to her limo without uttering a single breath herself about why she was there. After days of build-up, it was left to confused fans to piece together what their heroine had just telepathically spilled the beans on.
Actually, the truth was already out there, for those who’d been reading leaks about what Spears was up to. What it came down to was that she was moving “a couple doors down,” as one local news announcer put it. No longer will she ply her wares at Planet Hollywood, where this past New Year’s Eve she wrapped up a four-year residency that put long-term, live-in pop superstar gigs on the map in Vegas. She’s getting a raise by moving over to the 5,200-seat Park Theater in 2019, where, England’s Daily Mail had already reported, she will get a bump up from $400,000 a show to $507,000 per concert. Money talks, even if Britney doesn’t.
That doesn’t quite make Spears the highest paid performer in Vegas, but it does put her in a small, elite club of stars who can command paydays of upwards of half-a-million dollars per show. As previously reported, Lady Gaga’s 74 dates at the Park MGM are valued at nearly $100 million, with the pop star clearing a million-plus dollars per performance to lock in $75 million over two years.
Gaga’s post-Christmas residency is going to suck a lot of the media oxygen out of the room as it approaches, so it was incumbent upon Spears to get as much attention as she can now. That sense of urgency about getting the word out may or may not explain some of the more quizzically haphazard aspects of this week’s rollout. First, Spears went on DeGeneres’ show to say, “My announcement is actually that I have an announcement. I can’t announce the announcement until Oct. 18.” Then came the half-hour live feed on Ellen’s channel, which included a parade consisting mostly of a video monitor being pulled through a plaza, men in Britney T-shirts waving tiny flags, and “Ellen” correspondent Kalen Allen dancing to EDM and yelling, “It’s about to go down! This is something that has never been done before!” It wasn’t entirely clear whether the quick exchange Spears had with Allen on her way from the fireworks to the car were always intended to be off-mic or not, or if some critical element of the reveal had gotten lost along the way. Yet this seems destined to go down as a minor glitch in Spears’ ongoing Vegas-Centric comeback, which has made her the pop performer most associated with the Strip since the days of the Rat Pack and Elvis.
The three years Spears previously spent moored at Planet Hollywood brought in more than $135 million. Payouts get even bigger than that, though, at least if you’re willing to do as many shows as uber-DJ Calvin Harris, who is reported to have signed a $280 million deal to spin records every Friday night through 2020 at the Omnia nightclub in Sin City. His exorbitant paycheck for working in a more confined space than the ones being taken over by the pop superstars can be summed up in two words: bottle service.
Part of the key to commanding these prices is exclusivity. Harris doesn’t spin outside of Vegas, for the most part. If you’ve wanted to see Dion in recent years, you’ve had two choices: the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, or international airfare (Dion reportedly earns $476,000 per show). Shania Twain eventually got over Vegas and wanted to be seen in all of North America again. But Spears has only briefly ventured east of the Nevada desert since setting up in town in 2013: She did undertake an arena tour of the U.S. last year… and it was all of 12 dates — in other words, effectively an advertisement for her next Vegas run — and recently returned from a one-month jaunt to Europe.
How much will fans have to shell out to keep the Park MGM from losing its shirt at the roulette table in this deal? No one knows yet: Tickets for Spears’ “Domination” don’t even go on sale until Oct. 26 (something else we had to rely on a graphic projected on a building to learn). One thing we can count on: there are enough bachelorette parties in the world to let her direct deposit go through and still keep the lights on.