On May 2, Carlos Santana will begin a two-year residency at the House of Blues at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. It will be the House of Blues' first-ever residency in its nearly 13 years of operation and could open doors for other performers.
"We believe this will be the start of several new conversations because if it's good enough for Carlos Santana, it's good enough for an awful lot of people," House of Blues CEO Ron Bension told billboard.biz.
Santana moved to Las Vegas after he began a two-year residency at the Hard Rock's the Joint in May 2009. The new show, with the elaborate title of "An Intimate Evening with Santana: Greatest Hits Live - Yesterday, Toady and Tomorrow 2012," is booked for May, early June, September and November.
Bension spelled out the plan for the Santana shows and why the time was right to get into the business that has come to define other Las Vegas venues.
Billboard.Biz: When you create a schedule for something like this, where do you begin and what factors play into when you mount the shows?
Ron Bension: We got a commitment for two years and we worked out a schedule that works within the ebbs and flows of Vegas, conventions mostly. I think we've mapped out first 20 months. We're going up with shows (onsales begin March 3) to the end of this year.
How many shows to start?
First year is a little heavier. We have 45 in the first calendar year.
When an act already has a history at another Vegas venue, how do convey to the audience that this is a different experience?
We can't look at what the other group did. It was totally different show. Couple thousand people come into a room for 5,00 people. It's not exciting. We really are creating a different experience by creating a totally different vibe with tablecloths, candles, a dancing area. We don't use the word intimate lightly. This is something you just don't get that in a big box square theater.
When residencies started, the goal was to get gamblers in, create packages for tourists and build up the rack rates in rooms. Is that still in play?
That all comes with the territory. And we'll have that because there are customers who want it. They want to get close (to the artist) and have a different experience -- celebrate a special night. Come to our venue and we will provide you with a different experience. I don't think you can say that when you got to some (random) concert.
When you prepare marketing for this, will you go after locals or invest more in getting word out to non-locals?
House of Blues probably draws more than locals that any other venue in the marketplace. It's because the acts are relevant today to anybody. Because it is a destination venue, we are in the feeder markets -- San Diego, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco.
How long did this take to come together?
We started talking to Carlos…I'm going to say September-ish. We had talked to his agents because we felt House of Blues provided a unique platform. Carlos fell in love with the venue. He walked into that room and said this place is cool; I was right next to him. When you see that, that's a deal maker. You know they get it. Sure he could go play an amphitheater but this is a different vibe and I think he digs that.
How do you structure the deal? Is it a payday per concert or an overall dollar amount?
It's a two-year run and we'll all make a few dollars. It's good for us because we have other places - the restaurant, the Foundation Room. If you start thinking about the entire evening - you have dinner, you party at the show, then go upstairs and have one of the great nightclub experiences in town. That's what we want and we think Carlos will help us get there.