Tuesday, April 22, 2008

To clarify...

It was brought to my attention that the previous post might seem ill-perceived by those who don't live inside my head (Which is everyone). So, just to make sure I don't get some bizarre backlash from anyone, allow me to say that I am not choosing any side in this debate nor condoning or condemning it either. Much like religion I tend to just sit in the middle, observe the amusement, and comment when I feel the urge. No hard feelings kids.

These are not the droids you are looking for.


PS: Next week after I get back from World Magic Seminar (If yer going, come say hello) I am going to have a "Guest Posters" week. If you have something that annoys or bothers you and wanna get it off yer chest, lemme know. If you want to offer advice, we're all ears.

I plan on getting five people to contribute. If I don't get five, I'll just dip into my pool or fiends and see what they have to say. So if you always wanted to say something, but don't want to start a whole blog to do so, now is yer chance.

Monday, April 21, 2008


So with the influx of technology made to rip, burn, and duplicate media over the last decade or so, is it no surprise that we here in the magic world are not exempt? I think not. I have talked about this before, but I do want to make some points.. neither for nor against. Just something for yer mind to chew on for a bit.

Tim Ellis, (Who I have no beef, chicken, or any other yummy dead animal flesh with), keeps tabs on people who are generally exposing and ripping off magic. Kudos to him. Stand up for what you believe in and alla that. However, in a recent post he tosses out some figures that, for the most part, are not wholly true. I would like to clarify a bit in the name of fairness.

"...don't forget the way the world works, after the cost of producing the DVD (which, when pressed and printed is between $3-5) all of these other people need to get a slice of the profit: (Now I don't know what it's like in Australia, but over here I can get DVD's for $1.13 to $1.25 a disc per 1000 units.)

* Magician who created and performed these effects.
* Graphic artist who designed the cover art.
* Composers who wrote the music or royalty fees if existing music was used.
* Production crew for camera, sound, lighting and editing.
* DVD mastering costs.
* Wholesaler/distributor of the DVD.
* Magic shop owner or online store who sells the DVD.

(In todays world, those first three people are one in the same sans people who use royalty free music such as Opus 1.)

If you work down from $40 (though most are closer to $30):

* Retailer sells it for $40, but buys it from the wholesaler for $25. (Standard mark-up is usually 70-100% from wholesale to retail)
* Wholesaler buys it from the magician/manufacturer for $15 (note, again I'm using a low percentage mark up in this example).
(Jobber pricing is ballpark 60% off retail price.)
* From that $15 the magician pays $4 in producing the DVD (as long as he has over 1000 at a time made at once - and he pays for that up front - $4000 before he sells a single DVD).
(See above.)
* He's left with $11 from which he pays his graphic and music fees, plus the production fees if he hires a professional crew to shoot & edit his DVD." (Also see above)

Here is what he isn't telling you. A lot of places do drop shipping, which means they don't ACTUALLY have the item in stock. Also, there are only a handful of Wholesalers and the biggest one is Murphey's Magic who almost has a monopoly here in the states. They will place an initial order which will usually cover your duplication costs (200 units) with some profit to spare. Now, if yer a relative unknown, they won't make another order for sometime. However, any sales you make off your website or lectures, etc are DIRECT profit. If you pay $1.25 per DVD, then you can sell that sucker for 2$ and still make money off it. (Not much but you get my point) You also have to realize that MOST internet stores sell UNDER the suggested retail price because they haven't lost any money by having the product just sitting around their place of business, unlike a brick n' mortar shop. (Who all of this tends to hurt more than anything else.)

Mind you, places like L&L publishing make 2-3 disc sets because that's the ONLY way they make money off DVD sales. (That's also why their stuff is so bland and cookie cutter most of the time.) One DVD isn't a money maker for them usually.

Think about this tho', why do magicians still sell DVD's for 30+ dollars when Hollywood can crank em' out for 10-20$. Well obviously sheer volume of course... but it's also because they cost almost NOTHING to produce. In magic, with more and more access to technology that allow us to "Do-it-ourselves", it is cheaper and easier to find the ways and means to create these videos and other various merch. Gone are the days of "Hiring" graphic designers, studio space, and equipment. (Sure some people still go about it that way, bit thaz not my point.) So why do we charge so much for a DVD? Is it to make a profit from our audience.. or is it to make money of the wholesalers?

If you charged 15$ retail for a magic DVD, you would get nil from places like Fun Inc. and Murphey's. Problem is a jobber price is usually reserved for orders of a gross or more. After their initial large order, you only get orders for 25-50 units at the SAME price structure which is actually very wrong, but us magicians don't complain. We're happy to make ANY money and get our product out there because we are filthy, filthy whores.

The market is flooded with merch and videos because it is so easy to do so. The opposite end of this is the kids who distribute the videos on websites and torrents do it because (Drum roll please).... IT'S SO DAMN EASY!! It's like inviting your friends over to watch a DVD you purchased. (If you have a few hundred friends that is) The argument is, you are sharing secrets and charging people lots of money to learn such secrets. Once that info is leaked out for free in ANY way shape or form, it's an honor system that if they liked it, they will buy their own. (Tho' that way of thinking I feel is going the way of the Dodo.) This is the danger of living in a world that movies like Lawnmower Man 2 and The Matrix have tried to warn us about. Instant gratification society.

To wrap this tirade up, I am going to quote from above again. ""...don't forget the way the world works". No matter what steps we take, no matter what new technology comes out, there will always, and I wanna repeat that for clarification, always WITH WINGS be people who are better and smarter who hate the establishment more than the people who get paid to sit behind a desk thinking of ways to make our technology "Safer". (Hell sometimes, they are the same people.)

Piracy and exposure is like a Hydra. You can cut off one or two heads, but more will always grow back to replace it. I salute those people fighting their fights. You kick it's ass. Just don't forget that things may not change anytime soon. If it does, it will do so on it's OWN volition and not your will alone. THAT is the way the world works. As it has been, as it shall always be.

As above... so below.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Whoooo are yooooo?

Who who? Who who?

Ahem, sorry. This will be my last post directed in my series on business advice from my side of the fence where the grass is not only greener but also a burnt orange colour.

I was once told something by Sylvester the Jester as it was told to him. He said, "Get out of magic". Now what he meant by this was not the tactful way Dai Vernon meant it. What he is referring to is to not refer to yourself as a magician persey. He has started taking the moniker "Visual Comedian". (Which if you seen his act, you understand.)

There are others who have tried to have a bit of a crowbar separation from the term magician by calling themselves other names such as Unusualist, Astonisher, Optical Illusionist, etc. Rudy Coby once said being unique or not using a common label can help you work more. If someone is looking for a magician, an agent can say "I have a magic act like nothing else" and if someone was looking for something that WASN'T a magic act they might say "Does this look like any magic act you have ever seen?"

The term magician does have a certain stigma attached to it because of the influx of asshattery in magic. (You know who I am talking about, and if yer one of them... die.) So by not using the term "Magician" exclusively, you might actually increase your chances of interest and hiring. On the other hand, the term magician is the ONLY term that accurately describes what we do.

We ride a fine line, and it's up to you to decide what is best for you in the long run. You must choose... but choose wisely.

Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Breaking news...

We interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast for this special bulletin.

As performers, we place ourselves in a very unique position. We set ourselves up in a situation where people will generally pay attention to us and what we have to say. Now think about what we fill their heads with. We can actually take the time to say something poignant, but we usually just make lame jokes about being naked and wearing watches. (Don't ask)

Think about this... why not use that time to sneak in a few lines about something YOU believe in. There are many performers who "Sneak" their messages into their shows. Non-magi and mages alike. The message can be positive or maybe just thought provoking. Perhaps it's subconscious and hits them after the show is over.

The point is you have the opportunity to stand up for what you believe and a great medium to do so. Don't let the chance pass you by to voice your opinion. You have a captive audience after all. Of course if your ideas are too "Left field" for the populace at large, you can run into resistance. If your message is about kitty porn, I'd maybe re-think your approach. No one wants to hear about that... and those who do, prolly won't be watching magic shows. Thaz what the internet is for.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.. already in progress.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Down time...

I don't mean the 10 minutes of pity your wife gives you ever other week. No, I refer to the space of time between your shows. I am sure many times you have heard "Perform as much as possible!". This is true, especially when you first start out. To quote a fantastic performer, Keith Bindlestiff, "Expect yer first 100 shows to SUCK". (Some say that is being generous) How do you get those shows under your belt? How do you find places to perform? Well, this entry will hopefully point you in the right erection... er.. direction.

I was discussing this theory with a friend of mine, Misty Lee. We discussed the longer dead time between shows, the more important those shows become and how much HARDER they can hit you when something doesn't work properly. However, if you perform constantly, it becomes easier to brush those rough spots off and even maybe *GASP* learn from them so it won't happen again.

I hear what yer saying tho'.. "Those shoes will never go with that dress" well yer wrong and I'll prove i.... no wait, yer asking, "How do I work when there is nobody hiring or willing to pay my high prices?" Simple... take what you can get. If you truly, TRULY want to be a better performer, sometimes it means sacrifice. Goats, children... or yer time.

There are open mics and places you can find that will pay next to nothing, BUT if you have no shows planned, next to nothing is better than nothing at all. (Kinda like how a cactus is not much better than no cactus.) As long as yer not passing up the opportunity to make real money, there is nothing wrong with handing out some free samples to help work out a routine in front of a REAL audience. This will help you keep your material fresh in your mind and work out all of the kinks. Practice in front of yer pets and stuffed animals can only do so much.

So between your booked shows that pay the bills, don't be afraid to swallow your "Professional-I'm better than this" pride. It will help you technically, mentally, and personally. There are plenty of venues if you just look.

You'd be surprised what you find when you look.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Look into my eye....

Yesterday I talked about diversity and mentioned that if you have many skills to make sure you keep your focus. On this subject I would like to elaborate.

I know a few people who are fantastic artists. They can sculpt, draw, paint, do make-up, etc. They have a portfolio of exquisite work. Problem is there is no focus on any particular area. When you have many talents and want to sell yourself and your skills, you need to know not only what you wanna do but WHO you wanna do... er.. sell to.

A good example is the special FX make-up business. There are many areas of this job. Prosthetics, mold making, animatronics, sculpting, etc. Now most people in the business can do many of the skills previously listed. However, there is usually one they prefer and are the BEST at and therefore, they go with that. If we apply this model to magic you have different levels of magician. Wizard, mage, paladin... wait.. that's Dungeons & Dragons.. sorry. Close-up, stage, illusionist, comedy magic, and so forth. A lot of guys can do one or the other, but they push one more and prefer it.

When applied to business and putting together a promo package, focus on what you LOVE and are GOOD at. Now you can be good at multiple areas, but there is one you would rather do obviously. You also have to know the audience in which you are selling yourself to... much like a hooker. (hmmmm)

Now this isn't to say you can't sell multiple skills, but have a different approach and promo for each one. Now your website can show the various skills or shows you possess because a website should be an online promo package for who you are and the skills you can offer. This site can be used as an example. It displays the different shows and characters he has to offer and includes videos and whatnot. If you want more info on a particular one area, you request it.

I'm not saying you can't send out a brochure or info sheet out of the blue similar to the website, however, you don't want to have too much text, video, or other propaganda that muddies the waters of your skill set. Same goes for you business card. Have separate info for separate shows. Using the previous website as an example, having a video that combined all of those various shows would seem a tad confusing and not show a cohesive unit, but a confusing smattering of character and focus. Too many times I have seen magic promo videos showing someone doing close-up magic and then illusions and then juggling and then some stuff that appears to be.. well nothing really.

What I think I am saying here is aim for each target separately and know the area where you are firing your bullets. A direct hit is easier when you focus on a particular spot.

Make sense?


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Risky Bidness...

Over the next few days I am going to be touching on things that are important questions to ask yourself and things to think about. We'll be dealing with advice and concepts on the business side of your show. (Show business is two words. Sure it's trite, but it sure is true.)

Today I'm going to touch on little boys.. no wait that's Michael Jackson... I meant on Diversity. Over the course of the rest of the week I will also talk about where and how to focus you efforts and what you should do between shows. Even a little theory about the best way to sell yourself. However today we will talk about Diversity.

What I mean about this is the more you can do, the more you can work. If yer a stage guy, learn some close-up. If you're a close-up guy learn some stage stuff. Pick up those juggling balls and actually learn to use them. Dabble in fire eating. Are you any good at puppets? Nows the time to find out! If yer desperate, learn mime. The more you can do, the more you WILL work.

There is nothing wrong with being a one-stop shop for certain skills. However, never EVER mis-represent what or who you are. If your love lies on the stage, promote yourself as a stage magician, BUT let the local agencies and bookers know there are other things you are capable of. Don't let your business card look like a contest to see how much text you can fit on a 3.5 x 2 inch piece of paper. Also never promise more than you can deliver. IF they are looking for a 30 minute juggling show and you can only fill 10 minutes, don't say you can do it. You will hurt not only yourself but professionals who actually perform those skills for a living.

Diversity also expands your magic into other realms. By combining fire manipulation or marionettes into your act, you can appear to have a broader appeal and and helps break up the monotony between dove productions. By offering more, you will work more. If you are a stage illusionist that has three assistants, four tigers, and a poodle you might want to consider having a solo parlor show for when they can't afford the bigger acts. There is a reason there are three rooms in the Magic Castle and the same guys tend to work those three rooms. They are capable of entertaining those three specific venues because they have diversified their skills and translated them across the venues.

In the end, you will work more as you have more to offer. Like I said, don't lose your MAIN focus of who you are and what you wanna do, but be CAPABLE of delivering on many levels.

Tomorrow I will discuss how to do that... maybe.