***Warning! If you’re not a fellow magician or variety artist, please skip this post, as the information shared below will probably be of little value to you. Sorry about that.
To my fellow magicians. The purpose of having this blog is for me to share fun and valuable information with my clients. However, I know that there are a great number of magicians, hypnotists, mentalists, and variety artists that visit here with the hopes of trying to figure out some of the secrets of my success. I may not be famous and have my own TV show, but I have earned a good living doing this for over seventeen years, and in that time have learned many valuable lessons.
Here are ten “rules” that I live by each and every day. Many might wonder why would I give away some of the things that I find separate the men from the boys (or the women from the girls) in the entertainment industry. The truth is, there is enough work out there for everyone. More than enough work. There are high end corporate and private events going on every night of the week, all over the country. But there are also an awful lot of people that want that work, so the little details definitely matter. Also, when entertainers neglect doing these, it makes us all look bad. So part of me sharing this is for selfish purposes. Especially if you’re going to be charging a premium for your services, don’t forget the following:
Be fast. No, I’m not talking about your sleight of hand technique, I’m talking about your response time. On the phone, with mail, and email. Do you like waiting? Most people don’t. But the sad truth is, that not just entertainers, but MOST businesses have very poor response time. Entertainers just seem to be notorious for it. There are actually guys who teach marketing to entertainers, who recommend waiting a day to return a call, so that your prospective client thinks that you’re really busy! Absolute nonsense. If you can respond to a call or email within minutes… Do it! Your prospective client will be impressed with your response time and you’ll stand out from the crowd.
Be early. To all of your gigs and appointments. Very early, if possible. Your client doesn’t want the stress of wondering if you’re going to be late, or not show up at all. When possible, I get to all of my large stage shows hours in advance of my performance start time. This way, I can set up, relax, change my clothes, and rest up before show time. My clients appreciate my promptness. You’re the last thing that you want them to worry about.
Be clean. I really shouldn’t have to say this one. But I’m not simply talking about showering daily and using soap in all the right places. I hope that goes without saying. I’m talking about everything. Make sure, that at least before your gigs, you pay attention to your appearance. Wash your car… Shine your shoes… Dry clean your suit… Get a haircut… Get a manicure. (Yes, guys, I said go get a manicure. If people are going to look at your hands for hours at a time, you may as well give them something clean to look at.) All of these things matter. Also, if any of your props look like they need to be retired, please do so. Nobody wants to hold dirty sponge balls that look like they have been used in a thousand performances. Replace them.
Be polite and respectful. Even to the hecklers. You never know who you’re talking to. Of course, you can’t just let a drunk guy in your audience take over your show, and sometimes you must make sure they know you’re in control, but for the most part hecklers are not looking to hurt you. They’re just trying to be part of the show, but unfortunately, they just don’t know how to do it smoothly. So be nice. I was recently performing walk-around magic at a cocktail party, and had the pleasure of having a guy who did some magic in college, totally breakdown my ambitious card routine to the rest of the group, each step of the way. I nicely and calmly busted his chops a little for “breaking the number one rule in magic.” But I wasn’t rude. When I was finished he asked for a card. A week later he called and booked me for a job next year. You never know. So be nice.
Don’t eat at gigs. I can’t tell you how many performers I see hitting the buffet, right when they’re supposed to be working. To each their own… but I say no thank you. And if you’ve been performing for any length of time, you know that we get offered the best food all the time. Trust me… I love to eat… So I know it can be tough to say no sometimes. But it looks really bad to eat at a job. Your client isn’t paying you to eat their food. They’re paying you to entertain. The fact is, most of my clients GENUINELY want me to eat. They wouldn’t feel for a minute like they were paying me to eat. But I don’t want to look like a guest. And besides, you could stink up your breath, spill something on your clothes, or accidentally upset your stomach. It’s not worth the risk. (***The only time it is OK to forget about this rule, is when Grandma has something homemade, and if you turn her down she’s going to give you the evil eye, and curse you out in a language you don’t understand. In this case, take it to go.)
Don’t stop learning. The one thing I love about being a performer, is that there is ALWAYS something to work on. No matter if you do magic, sing, dance, play an instrument, juggle… it makes no difference. You will always have a “next level” to reach for. The moment you stop learning, you begin to get stale. And then you begin to rot. And trust me, when that happens… Your audience will smell you coming from a mile away.
Find great mentors. This is a biggie. If you want to learn how to do something, find someone who has done it already, and do what they do. Simple, right? Well, not exactly. Sometimes it takes a little time to gain the skills and experience that your mentor has. Your success may not come overnight, but find someone to work with who is better at what you do than you are, and try and keep up. It’s no different than if you were playing tennis. If you play with someone where the score between you is always 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 you’re never going to improve. You want to play with someone who can beat you 6-0, 6-0. That’s the best way to improve your game.
Quit negotiating. Seriously. Stop it. It hurts the whole industry. And performers are famous for it. Now don’t misunderstand. For long time clients, agents, fellow performers, and industry professionals… a little negotiating is fine. I will often provide discounts “up front” so that the client doesn’t have to ask for them, much like you get a coupon in the mail. I may also add value, at no charge, or at a reduced rate. This may include additional time, specialized customization, or free gifts. But don’t lower your fee, just because you want to work, and your prospective client asked you to. That’s not how it works. Treat this like a real business, because that’s what it is. If you went to the Capital Grille for dinner, and told them that you didn’t want to pay $50 for a steak, my guess is they would politely tell you to go across the street, where they might be able to help you. That is what you should do, too. If your prospective client can’t afford you, see if you know a performer willing to perform within their budget, that you trust to do a good job, and pay it forward! Your client will appreciate the help, and so will your fellow performer!
Take the ego out of performing. What do I mean by this? Stop performing for yourself, and start performing for your clients and your audience. This is easier said than done. It goes without saying that all performers get on stage to help feed their ego to some extent. But after you’ve been on stage so many thousands of times, you begin to work less for your own enjoyment, and more for the audiences. It can take a long time, and some performers can never get there, but once you do… your performances and relationship with the audience will improve dramatically.
Follow these suggestions and you’ll have a better overall experience for you and your clients!