Billy Joel

Billy Joel performs at the Paramount in Huntington, N.Y. (Donald Traill / Invision / Associated Press)

Billy Joel is definitely still rock 'n' roll to the Madison Square Garden Co. -- so much so that the New York live entertainment venue is having him perform a show a month as long as he keeps selling tickets.

That makes the singer-songwriter Madison Square Garden's first music "franchise," a designation previously  shared only by sports teams. By making the Garden his home base, Joel joins the Knicks (NBA), Rangers (NHL) and Liberty (WNBA). 

The deal is off to a good start: The first four shows, starting in January, which were previously announced, are sold out. Becoming a franchise doesn't mean Joel will be required to return every month -- he can still go on tour. However, it does deepen the relationship between Joel and the Garden.  

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The Garden was already a key venue for Joel, who first played there in 1978 and has done so 46 times, including 12-straight sold-out performances in 2006, earning him a banner raised in his honor. 

"This new partnership will ensure that someone who has been such an important figure in our past will also be a major part of our future," said James L. Dolan, the executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Co. 

The just-announced show on May 9, the tunesmith's 65th birthday, goes on sale Dec. 7, after a presale for Citi card members. Tickets cost $64.50 to $124.50. 

Joel, who has sold 150 million records, is the sixth bestselling recording artist ever and will receive a Kennedy Center honor this month.  

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ryan.faughnder@latimes.com