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One of the questions that I am asked most often by the hobbiest wanting to break into the performing for cash circuit is, “How do I get the gigs?” We’ll assume that you’ve bypassed the point of putting your show together, and learning your part as an entertainer and dealing with the public. While lots of theory exists, I will share the methods that have worked well for me.
I. Word of Mouth
The thought of a free gig may erk most people. There are lots of places and venues where you can turn a trick that will lead to paying gigs. Assistated living facilities, hospitals, libraries, places of worship and charity events are examples of places where you begin your quest for living the magic biz. If you’re likable and your magic is good, you will almost always get calls for paying jobs from working a free venue. This is how I started working professionally at the age of nine. An old age home, as they were called back then, paved the way for many private parties.
II. Business Cards
These are your most powerful weapon! You never want to be without a pile of these cards in your posession. You never know who you’re going to meet at any time. I’ve seen cards that were so busy with cool graphics and unreadable font that I got dizzy from attempting to read them! I always put stock ino the KISS theory…Keep It Simple Stupid! A small readable graphic or logo is fine. A tagline or stage name is fine. Your name, phone number, email and website is mandatory; your address optional. Too much information is not necessary for a calling card. Your website, as you will learn is an extention of your business card.
This is the extention of your business card! This is the place where you have the ability to really sell. It can be done very right or very wrong. In most cases, I’ve seen the very very wrong. Yes…two verys; it was not a type-o!
Rules to guide you when building a site…
1. Purchase a domain and server space. Do not use a GeoCities type of free site site. It simply is far from professional.
2. Keep you URL simple. Try not to hypenate or get something so cryptic that no one will get to it.
3. If you cannot afford a web designer, their are many programs on the market, some that are free that will maintain a professional look and feel of your site. These are easy to maintain without the knowlege of html or coding.
4. Do not use heavy graphics, large flash files, or music on your site. It’s passe and simply annoying.
5. Navigation should be made easy.
6. Use only images that are shot properly and edited the correct way for use on the Internet.
7. Same applies to video. Flash Video is a format that every OS and browser can play. Other accepted formats for video are WMV, RM, QUICKTIME. AVI’S and MPEGS simply take up too much space and bandwidth.
8. Create your site like a resume or outline of yourself. The essentials should be a nice looking home page, biography, media (images and video), programs or service packages, your contact information.
IV. Agents & Agencies
There are many entertainment agencies in your local area that put entertainers in touch with clients and vise-versa. These agencies will either offer you an outright fee or take a percentage of what you charge. The booking average should be between 10-15% if the deal is based upon your fees.
V. Local Rag Papers
Every town has a local paper. Ads are usually cost effective. A simple well worded ad can generate lots of income. You can also get cheaper rates if you contract your ad for a lobger period of time.
VI. Yellow Pages
Either on-line or in the big yellow book will work for you! It’s not cheap, but it won’t break the bank either.
I have a set of magic friends who at one time or anothr can’t make a gig. These guys will pass one gig to another. Though they’re friends, they each take a percentage of the fee. This works very well for them!
VIII. Networking Within Other Entainment Avenues
Other entertainment avenues include disc jockeys, bands, jugglers, gaming companies, photographers, and the like. Where there’s a party, there’s entertainment. Networking with dj’s, etc. has always worked well. The same event where one type of service is needed will almost always have the use for another service.
I’ve always placed a high value on friendship, sometimes even higher than family. Good friends are always there for you through the thick and thin. I’ve been very fortunate to meet many people through The Trickery or magic throughout the years. Quite a few of these people have turned into very close friends. Life would seem meaningless without them. These friends inspire, guide, and advise me through the journies that life brings my way. Hopefully, I do the same for them!
A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with Leukemia (CLL- the lesser of the cancer evils!). While I feel absolutely perfect the tough part is like having a magical crystal ball in front of you and you’re seeing what the future holds in store for you. At times, that’s a complete mindfuck! Staying positive and focused became eaiser after the initial shock. I have my friends to thank for that. You know who you are! Friends at some point become a support team and a vital part of one’s survival.
Realizing it’s a Friday night and I seem to have gotten a bit spiritual, I’m ending this post! I have a full day of rehearsal tomorrow for a 3 hour gig on Sunday. Have a wonderful weekend all!
This is probably the most asked question we get as a magic dealer.
My two cents on this question…
When you choose to have a piece examined, it takes away from the magic and turns a beautiful piece of illusion into a puzzle which challenges the spectator’s intellect, not to mention gives them a chance to figure things out. To work the magic in a person’s hand without saying or prompting examination will in most cases eliminate the prop being suspect.
I really thought the refrigerator light that turns off when a player is voted off The Biggest Loser was lame…that is until Phenomenon aired tonight. I can accept American Idol and maybe at best one or two other reality shows. At least The Biggest Loser accomplishes something and reminds America that we have an obesity epidemic. Phenomenon succeeded at reminding America that magicians, dare I say mentalists, appear as a pathetic excuse for people that really need to spend more time learning how to make friends and socialize in society. Carmen held my attention due to her nice body and short skirt.
No doubt there will be someone asking on the Magic Cafe where to buy nail guns and a plank of wood.
I’ll indulge you…Ace Hardware. Morbid curiosity will have me mentally preparing for the next episode. My prediction? It’s days are numbered.
Blatent Trickery Promotion…The Daring Spring Trap as seen on Phenomenon can be found here!
Putting together a show is much like writing a story. It needs a strong opener, a solid middle, and a wonderful finale. Assuming you have a vast array of effects to choose from, there’s one very important thing to remember. What you may consider a great magical effect may not play for your audience. The opposite also holds true. What plays for your audience may be considered lame by you and your magic cronies. This is a lesson you can only learn from trial and error. A true professional will value this way of thinking.
The Starting Point
The opening effect is something that will hold the attention of your audience no matter what venue you happen to be playing. It needs to be magical and strong. Your presentation will leave your audience either wanting to see more…or not! To be cliché, first impressions are a vital part of life. Sometimes you just don’t get a second chance. The trick here is to make friends with your audience. If they like you as a person and you come across as entertaining, they will more than likely enjoy your magic as well. Getting back to the starting point… While I cannot suggest names of props or effects to open to open your show, it is up to you as the performer and creator to decide what item best fits the bill. Depending on the venue and style of show or set, I have opened with borrowing money, sponge balls, fire effects, productions, or something off-beat to set the mood. In most cases the type of magic is quick-paced or flashy. Once you decide what works well for you and your audience, the next step is stringing your tricks together to form a routine for a good middle part of your show.
Routining your tricks together can be a very simple thing to do or it can be as complex as pulling fifteen random words out of the air to form a complete sentence. Here’s an example. I want to incorporate a rope routine into my next show.
The name of the tricks is as follows:
1. Knot Unexpected
2. Cut & Restored Rope
3. Professor’s Nightmare
Rather than just doing #1, 2, 3 one after another, I want to create a formula where I segue from one to another. Something like: 1+2+3=wonderful rope routine! Stringing tricks together to form a routine can either be done with physical tricks that have a similar property or it can be done through the verbiage you choose called patter.We’ll go back to the example for a moment.
Knot Unexpected uses two spectators to assist you and a ten foot piece of rope. The spectators hold each end as you cut the rope somewhere in the middle. You tie the two pieces into a knot, and then slide the knot to one end! When the knot is untied at its new position, the rope is now cut there as well! While it’s not a cut and restored type of effect, you can see how it leads into the premise very well. At this point, another spectator is called to the stage. The remaining long piece of rope is cut in half. The spectator takes one length of rope and the performer takes the other. Now you are ready to perform a comedy rope routine with the spectator doing as you do! The cut and restored effect is performed with lots of byplay between you and your spectator. You now make a couple of loops in your long rope and with a couple of quick cuts, you have now set up your rope to be a short, medium, and long rope flowing very nicely into Professor’s Nightmare.
You can see how the transition from one trick to another blend seamlessly into one beautifully flowing rope routine.
Sometimes, a series of completely different effects can be blended together to form a routine. This can be done though words and stories.
A trick list might be as follows:
1. Fantasio Vanishing Candle
3. Salt Pour
4. Drawer Box
5. Rising Cards
6. A Silk Scarf
It’s a list of tricks that really have nothing to do with one another. However, with some careful thought these five things can be blended into a routine that will play. The first thing that comes to mind is something haunted or spiritual, probably because it’s close to Halloween as I write this post. Looking at the trick list, the flow of events almost becomes apparent to me.
I will begin by talking about spirits and ghosts, perhaps the anniversary of Houdini’s death. Instantly a white scarf appears in my empty hand. Perhaps the entity of a ghost. I drape the scarf over my hand and a candle magically appears. I light the candle to add to the mood I’ve created. I set the candle in a candle holder for a moment. I tie a knot in once corner of the scarf. It begins to wiggle about, then becomes animated and floats down to the floor and back up to my hand. I walk to my table to pick open a box. It contains salt. Perhaps it’s the remains of a ghost. I sprinkle the salt into the scarf where upon the salt vanishes. I pick up the once empty box and open it to find all of the salt has returned. Puzzled, I clench my hands together and begin pouring salt from my once empty hands into the box until the box runneth over with salt. I pick up the candle and blow out the flame. It’s placed under cover of the scarf where it ultimately vanishes from whence it came.
It may not be the best routine, but it is there as an example of taking non-related props and working them into a concept. You’ll notice I didn’t make use of the cards because in this playlet, it just didn’t seem to work. The formula here is 1+2+3+4-5+6=bizarre spirit routine.While I chose parlor effects and concepts, the same principles hold true with coins, cards, mentalism or any other avenue of magic. Routining of effects creates a story line and takes the hobbyist to another level of entertaining. This would be a good point to discuss scripting, but I will not digress. I will leave this concept for another post.
The Ending or Finale
This will be your strongest effect known as your finale. This will be the one that will almost make them forget about every other magical piece of theatre they have seen. While the effect does not have to be physically big, it does have to be emotionally charged. You want to evoke a strong reaction, perhaps the strongest reaction of your show. This is the last thing they will see from you; it’s the thing they will remember.
Too many card tricks will bore your audience to the point they will want to shoot you, or themselves. It doesn’t matter because either way because they will be put out of their misery! Whether close-up or stage, mix it up a bit. Audiences today like to be entertained in a variety of ways. While we all might accel at once particular thing, the true professional will be adapt in the many diversities of magic.