Leveraging Your Artwork to Promote Your Theatre Show

If you are staging an independent theatre show or any form of ticketed show, there is no doubt that you will be investing in having artwork designed for a show. Along with the cost of having the artwork designed, other associated costs will likely include photography, make-up, costuming and printing if necessary.

So, with the investment made on your artwork, you should try to maximize your use of your custom designed promotional material beyond just posting it on your website. I will not go into a detailed discussion on graphic design or how to go about designing a show poster, but here are a few tips that have worked well for us:

1) Have good photos. Depending on the concept of your poster, you will need either studio promo shots or high quality live performance shots or a combination. You need professional photos to have a good poster. Good photos also form the foundation of a good poster and ensure the graphic designer has good material to work with. If the photos are of poor quality (composition, framing, pose, resolution etc), even the best designer in the world cannot create a killer poster.

2) Hire a professional designer. Unless you are a graphic designer, don’t try to put the poster together on Powerpoint. You are an expert in illusions, let the expert in design work his/ her magic.

3) Make sure visuals and photos are large and spaced out. Bear in mind, large format posters may be viewed from a distance and with the advent of the smartphone, many people will be viewing your e-poster on their phones. You want to ensure your poster is easy to read so that it does not get passed over because it is too difficult to read.

For a more in-depth look at graphic design for theatre show marketing, check out Clay Mabbitt’s, SoldOutRun.com, a theatre marketing blog. Specifically, read his post “The Role of Graphic Design in Theatre Marketing” and listen to his podcast on working with a professional designer here.

Here is some of the artwork from our past shows.

sexymagic

UMPosteriotm_preview-webUlitmate Magic Revolution

Mega Stunts

With this poster, we decided to go a different route and move from a photo-based poster to a hand-drawn artwork piece. One reason was that the two stunts we were attempting were in the vein of Houdini, so it was a throwback to old Houdini posters. However, we choice for a modern Asian Manga-style as it fit our image and heritage.

Which is your favourite? 🙂

Here are a few ideas to maximize the use of your artwork in multiple ways and on multiple platforms.

Promotional Channels

The most obvious and natural way to use your artwork is to share it on your promotion channels to market the show. The most cost effective way is to promote your show online:

Website

Your artwork will be featured prominently on your official website with clear links to info on the show and ticketing.

Social Media Platforms

Currently (in 2013), Facebok, Twitter, Instagram and blogs are the most popular social media websites. This will no doubt change over time as the next cool thing is embraced. Use your social media platforms smartly and do not flood them with your artwork. 

You might want to tease the artwork by showing different parts of the artwork first on different platforms, before finally releasing the entire artwork on all platforms.

For Facebook, create an “Event Page” and use it as your central social media channel for the latest updates, photos, press releases and videos.

If you have a blog, it will be one of the first places you announce details of your show. To get extra mileage out of your artwork, write a subsequent follow up post to explain the concept behind the artwork and the process of the design. This can include first drafts of the artwork as well. So, you get two different blog entries that feature your artwork.

Be sure to create temporary customized avatars, banner heads and profile icons for all your social media platforms.

Social media craves new content all the time. So, to get twice the amount of mileage, have two versions of your artwork. It will not cost you twice the amount but will get you twice the amount of promotional leverage.

Emailers

Insert your artwork (in e-mail friendly sizes) into your emailers that are sent to clients, friends and people on your email list.

Advertising & Event Listings

As most small independent theatre shows do not have a large advertising budget (if any), your choice of ad placement will be very selective and specific.

Targeted online ads such as Facebook, Google Adwords and Youtube are affordable channels that you can explore.

Contact social, entertainment and theatre magazines and websites to list your show. This is free but you have no control of whether your artwork will be published along with your listing. For listings, give the editors a “stripped down” version of your artwork. That is, it will only feature your graphics, title and names of the stars. Remove all other details as these will be stated in the event listing. The more attractive your artwork, the higher the chance that it will be used.

Contests/ Auction

A novel yet not uncommon promotional channel is to create an online contest where you give away free tickets to the show or merchandise from the show (if any) or set-up an auction (Ebay) where you auction off memorabilia from the show.

These promotional activities should be done towards the lead-up to the show, even though the auction item will only be given to the winning bidder after the show ends.

Besides promoting the show in an interesting way, your artwork will once again be seen on different platforms.

Physical Items

Posters

Even in the digital age, you will still likely print physical posters. The good news, is that with digital printing, you can print on-demand and print as little copies as you need.

Posters will be needed for the venue and any supporting physical outlets that are promoting the show for you. You can then recycle these posters (assuming they are in good condition) for your auctions or giveaways.

Merchandise

If you intend to create merchandise items such as program books, caps, bookmarks, postcards or T-shirts, aspects of your artwork will be on these items. Remember, artwork is part of your branding, so artwork seen on merchandise that audience members bring out of the show will be promoting your show beyond the show.

On the Tickets

If you are staging a ticketed event, you will definitely be issuing tickets, whether they are printed or e-tickets. Either way, this is an opportunity to feature your artwork once again.

In Performance

This is a unique way to leverage your artwork that is specific for magicians and illusionists. You can use your artwork as a magic prop or the subject of a magical effect. This highlights your artwork (branding) in a live show setting.

Here are some effects that you can create with your artwork:

  • Self-printing/ Self-Colouring Artwork ala Magic Colouring Book
  • Torn & Restored Effects. Poster-sized ala Axel Hecklau’s “News Flash” or namecard-sized ala Shawn Farquhar’s “T2P”.
  • Productions from a Rolled up Poster or Poster Cone as taught in Jeff McBride’s Magic On Stage DVDs.
  • An Artist’s Dream-type illusion
  • Any illusion prop that you can logically customize to bear the image of your artwork. For example, a mirror box that magically produces merchandise from the show
  • Card Printed on Poster. You can design your artwork with a magic effect in mind where a selected card magically appears printed on the poster. If you use Gaeton Bloom’s “Intercessor”, you can create an even stronger effect with a torn corner ploy.

Here are some avenues to showcase your “artwork magic”:

  1. Video Teaser for Show, Television Appearances, Live Promotion Events
  2. The Actual Show

The first few platforms are promotional platforms where you can showcase your artwork in the context of “branded content”. The audience watching you will be exposed to your artwork for an extended period of time and not just a 3-second flash on screen. This has very strong visual retention with the audience and is great brand identity building.

Presenting your “artwork magic” in the actual show(s) may not bring people to the show, since they are already at the show. However, think of the ways you can leverage off the performance with photos and videos that you can use to promote your next run of shows or simply use as post-show publicity.

If you have any novel ideas of leveraging your artwork for promotional purposes, please share it with us!

If you enjoyed this article, you can check out my original books/ plans/ DVDs HERE and use this Promo Code “5OFF2014” upon Checkout to receive a 5% discount off all books, sets, DVDs, plans & downloads.

5 Things Theatre Marketing Can Teach You About Promoting a Magic & Illusion Show by Clay Mabbitt

J C’s Note: I’m so pleased to have this article contributed by Clay Mabbitt who runs SoldOutRun.com, a theatre marketing blog & podcast. Bookmark his website as everything he shares on theatre marketing applies to promoting a magic or illusion show.

I requested Clay to write an article for magicians and illusionists. I think his insight as a non-magician but a professional in the arts & theatre arena is valuable and he highlights several key points that magicians often do not understand or accept; especially points 2 & 4. Enjoy!

When J C asked me to share some of my marketing insights with this audience, I was surprised at first. While I enjoy magic and illusion, I have no aptitude for them myself. I couldn’t even convincingly pull off the set of linking rings that I got as a birthday present when I was a kid.

I’m just a theatre guy. I act and occasionally sing. Marketing those type of stage productions is what I’ve been blogging about since 2010. But the more I think about it, the more I started to see a connection.

Whether an illusion show or a play, you’re still asking a roomful of strangers to buy a ticket, sit attentively, and suspend their disbelief in order to enjoy an experience that transcends the mundane world – even if only for an hour or two. The product we put up on the stage may be very different, but the process of enticing strangers to trust us with their money (and even more importantly their time) has some parallels.

With that in mind I give you some valuable principles of theatre marketing, and how (from the outside looking in) I think they might translate to marketing the art of illusion.

1) People are terrified of being disappointed and trapped

When it comes to entertainment, the average person doesn’t like taking chances. There are exceptions, but most people only want to commit to buying a ticket to a performance when they are absolutely certain they will enjoy the experience.

When we carve out a few hours to go to a live event, that time is precious. We got dressed up. We found someone to watch the kids. There’s an enormous pressure to have a good night. As professional entertainers the stakes aren’t as high for us. Even a bad performance is an opportunity for us to observe things not to do, and we can use that to improve. That’s not true for most of the people you want to come see you perform, though.

In theatre a big part of how we reassure people is to communicate in our marketing that the people involved in this production are skilled, and that they are doing their best work. Successful marketing conveys that the team behind this show are competent and committed. I have to assume that’s just as important for an illusionist.

2) Everyone wants to see something unique

Why do I need to see your show? Even if I love magic, why do I need to see your magic? If I don’t buy a ticket, what am I really missing out on?

These are the questions your potential audience is asking themselves, and you better have an answer. When I promote a play I comb through the script, the venue, the people involved, the costumes, the props to find reasons this production will be unlike any other entertainment option someone could choose.

It isn’t enough to promise in your marketing that you will amaze an audience. You can’t just say you’ll show them things that defy their understanding. You’re in the magic business, and frankly that’s just expected. The real question is how are you doing that in a way that no one else is? That’s what people want to know before they buy a ticket.

And if they’ve seen you perform before, what are you going to show them this time that they haven’t already seen. (Ning’s recent article on evolving is required reading.)

3) Marketing is entertainment

The second someone’s eyes fall on your advertisement, the show has begun. You don’t even know it’s happening. You could be miles away. But someone’s already being either engaged or turned off by the very idea of your show.

They’re forming opinions about what the experience of seeing your show is like. Now they may not have a sense of what sort of illusions you create or how you execute them, but they are already imagining with the tiny bit of information they have what they would feel like if they were sitting in the audience watching you.

Are you funny? Sexy? Lazy? Unprepared? They already have an answer if you ask them.

Which is more important to an illusion establishing the premise in the mind of the audience or doing that thing that breaks the expectations created by the premise? You can’t separate them, right? Both elements working together is what makes a successful illusion.

What if you thought of your entire show as a single illusion? The performance is where you delight and astonish the audience by showing them things they didn’t think they could see. Your marketing is where you establish your premise. One couldn’t exist without the other.

4) The quality of your promotions is a reflection of the quality of your show

Is that always true? Not always. Do people always believe that it’s true? 100% of the time.

Just like in the world of theatre I’m sure there are illusionists who spend all their time and energy crafting the product that they are putting up on stage. They ignore promotion because it’s somehow beneath them. All they need to do is create an amazing act, and word of mouth will spread. It sounds… almost noble.

The enormous problem with this approach is the false assumption that your promotions and your performance are separate. (See #3 above.) To the general public they can’t be distinguished. Someone who has only seen a cheap, thrown together flyer about your show forms an opinion. Based on that flyer, their opinion is that your act is cheap and thrown together.

Now they’ve never seen your act, but that doesn’t stop them from having an opinion. When their friends are trying to figure out what to do this weekend and someone mentions your name, what happens? “That show doesn’t look like much fun to me. I can watch my little nephew do magic tricks at home. Let’s do something else instead.”

5) If you want press coverage, hand them a story

The fact that you are an illusionist putting on a show is not newsworthy. The world is bursting at the seams with entertainment options, and the mere fact that you are one of them doesn’t warrant a mention in any news outlet. So if you send a press release with the date and time of your upcoming show and a list of places you’ve performed before, expect that press release to end up in the trash without a second glance.

Every publication serves a particular audience. Maybe it’s the people who live in a particular city. Maybe it’s a trade journal for people in a certain industry. Any feature that appears in those publications needs to have an angle that matters to that audience. Are you partnering with a local business? Is your show big enough to have an economic impact on this community? Did you invite local schools to a light version of your show the day before the big event?

I can’t tell you what “newsworthy” angle is right for you. That’s very personal, and it’s certainly different for everyone reading this. What I can tell you is you have to do something unusual and impactful if you want to get covered in the news.

Conclusion

I don’t pretend to know what it takes to create a successful illusion. Truthfully I can’t even claim to know exactly what it takes to market yourself as an illusionist. I promote theatre.

I do know there is a general principle that I believe holds true for marketing any kind of entertainment. People just need to know they’re in good hands. Whatever approach you take to your own marketing, make sure that message comes through clear.

Evolve Your Magic & Yourself Before it is Too Late by ‘Magic Babe’ Ning

J C’s Note: 3 years ago, I wrote an essay called “The Magic Evolution & You”. Ning has expounded on this issue with her own thoughts, mirrored by her ever evolving magic, style & image. Just check out how much her magic and image have changed in just the last 5 years. Here is the essay in her own words:

Question: David Beckham, Madonna, Ellen DeGeneres and Leonardo DiCaprio… What exactly do they have in common?

These stars are all hugely successful mainstream artistes who have kept themselves in the spotlight by creating their own unique brand of entertainment (sports, music, comedy/ talk show, acting, etc) that hold a wide mass appeal. These individuals have also put much effort and thought in constantly revamping their style, image and chops to ensure they remain interesting and current to their audience.

As fellow entertainers, we magic folk can certainly learn much from our sassy commercial counterparts. Magic performers need to do the same constant evolution, prob­ably not at the same radical level but it is so very essential for your magic to be current, relevant and mirror mainstream pop culture entertainment.

Shift and dare to change, or be left behind in today’s fast moving world where the Internet is a double-edged sword. Like with any art or entertainment form, the image of magic evolves over time. The trend of today’s magic is incredibly different from the style magic from just last decade. If you are still performing for today’s audience in top hat and tails, producing silks from a classic change bag, or making a rabbit appear, you are unfortunately behind about three decades.

The recent movie, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”, poked fun at magicians and showed how “out of times” and “out of sync” they are with modern pop culture. In fact, the movie showed how lame magicians generally are. Sad… but true.

The-incredible-burt-wonderstone

The only thing constant in life is change, and I’m sure that you would have noticed that the image of magic worldwide has always been constantly evolving. Every two decades or so, there is a dynamic shift in the presentation of magic. The look of magic is usually set by the most influential magicians of that particular time. Top performers like Robert Houdin, Harry Houdini, Channing Pollack, Doug Henning, David Copperfield and more recently David Blaine & Criss Angel have all been responsible for creating the image of magic of their time.

If you acknowledge your show is not in line with modern audi­ence’s expectations of magic today, there is hope yet because you see the possibilities of growth. Set aside your pride and ego for a bit and challenge yourself to explore what can be done better, since you are a living reflection of the image of magic as much as any other magician.

Now, I am in no way encouraging or even suggesting that you should be a clone of David Blaine, Criss Angel or whoever that may be the hottest flavour of the time. Jumping on the fad bandwagon will just make you look like a carbon copy and part of the indistinguishable ‘me-too’ crowd. So, bad idea to be a cookie cutter! You owe it to yourself to be your own person.

Consider for a moment, without pride or ego… When was the last time you revamped your act or added an act that elevated your performance so that it is reflective of current times? Have you been performing the same material for the past 10 years and not given it a commercial overhaul? And, I’m not talking about technical refinements or changing the colour of your cards/ silks/ birds/ canes/ parasols, so please, don’t even go there, unless you’re a jackass. Then I’ll personally come over to smack you in the face with your plastic appearing cane.

Thanks to globalization, our world is getting smaller and life seems to move faster every single day. Social media, the Internet, growth of new economies and countries influence pop culture trends and trends. There are fads and there are trends. Fads last months, trends last longer. Trends used to last around 5 to 10 years, now they last just 2 to 3 years due to the speed the world moves. Of course, this is dependent on your target market but I’m using international standards as a benchmark. People are easily bored and want to be wowed by the next ‘in’ thing.

What’s needed is to identify and pick elements, which reflect the current evolved image of magic as well as pop culture and infuse it into your style and/or act. Here’s some tried and proven things I’ve personally utilized in my commercial magic career, that you can also use to spruce up your unique image and brand of magic. Dedicate some soul-searching time to consider…

Choice of Material:

Is your choice of show material and props used considered current to your audience  If you are performing an act still using cassette tapes, Walkmans, old-fashioned bulky TVs, ancient typewriters, bulky mobile phones or other things that society has pretty much considered “retired”, your act will inevitably look dated. That is, unless you’ve structured your show to be themed in a “blast from the past” type of feel.

While some things may be respected as iconic and classic in magic, do bear in mind that while these are things magicians embrace, the rest of the world (i.e. mainstream public and media) may regard otherwise when they see top hats, canes, and rabbits. Don’t fall into this trap because when you follow the herd, you step on a lot of crap.

Structure of Magic:

Is the structure of your act just like everyone else’s? Certain acts have almost a template feel to them and the only difference (to the lay public) is just the magician performing it. At one time, everyone was doing doves, zombies and cards. Then it was the incorporation of canes, silks and snowstorms. Now, one of the magic fads is the CD manipulation act.

Can you honestly say you have a uniquely different product, or does your act/ show have the same formulistic structure that other magic acts commonly have? Can you change your act or show order, so it breaks the conventional rules or typical structures of magic shows? Award-winning mainstream movies like “Memento” and “Usual Suspects” did not follow conventional storytelling of film making and stood out from the norm. Use that for inspiration, to shine out!

Dressing:

What do you wear when you perform? Are you still in a 1990s Matrix-style black leather trench coat or god-forbid 1940s black tuxedo or even worse, painfully shiny 1970s sequined jacket? Are you in an obvious costume or dressed in something more normal? Where do you get your clothes from? A high-fashion retail outlet? A costumer? Does your mother/ wife/ girlfriend dress you?

Sure, I understand that magic attire has specific needs, but that is still no excuse not to have a current look that is fashionable or stylish. Consider what celebrities wear. Would they get their outfits from the same place that you do? I’m not asking you to shell out tons of money for designer wear and don’t be a wise ass about Lady Gaga’s Kermit the frog get-up *wink*

Hairstyle:

What do you sport? Does it feel dated? Is it the same hairstyle you’ve had since the 1980s? On the flipside, is your hairstyle too extreme for the general audience? If you are losing hair, do something about it! Comb-overs maybe only work if you do comedy, but you really don’t want your audience feeling sorry for you.

Grooming is important, and whoever said your hair is one’s crown­ing glory, really got that right. But! Here’s a tip from a female of the species. If you are seriously losing hair and can’t get a good wig or hair plugs, just consider shaving it all off. Grow a nice goatee, stay in good shape, tweeze your brows… You may just look sexy and badass. Women love that. Trust me!

Music:

Music is always an accurate reflection of the current time and a fitting piece of music for an act or routine makes a good act, great. Besides creating the perfect mood and feel for your magic, music also puts a time-stamp on your act. If you are do­ing a deliberate classical, themed, or period act to a time period, your music choice will be specific. However, if you are doing a general magic act or illusion, then your music needs to be up­dated every 5 years.

Please refrain from copying the music from other people’s per­formances, though you may find it perfect for whatever your intended purpose is (a similar act or otherwise). If I collected ten bucks every time I hear that particular soundtrack from string-quartet Bond blasting in a magic performer’s show or card manipulation act, and gave all the money to World Vision, I think my adopted kid in Mongolia can afford a PhD by now. LOL!

Script:

How do you write your lines, plan your story, and work on your all-important script? Where do you research jokes or lines?

Unfortunately, many magicians tend to use the exact same lines and this is evident if you attend magic conventions or magic production shows. It does get old quickly for an educated audience and that obviously, works against the performer. Ensure that your jokes are “fresh” and your script is topical. Throwing in current buzzwords are good if they are in context because people like that.

That’s something the most successful comedians and speakers use, so it’d be wise to follow in their footsteps.

 Case Study

As I think it is always important for one to practice what they preach, I thought I would share with you my own process that I have used to evolve my image and magic as my stage character, ‘Magic Babe’ Ning.

When I first started out professionally, I was pretty clueless about most things. Dressed in a dark trench coat, I wore a white long sleeve shirt and black leather pants.

Early Ning

Subsequently, I swapped my conservative top for something a bit more showy. It was a bareback silver sequined number that is held together only by 2 strings. One tied to the back and the other at the nape of the neck like a halter. Obviously, it sold sexiness much more than the previous costume and I used it because my skill sets to agents and bookers were already established. Every year, I changed my wardrobe to keep it fresh; from a sleek black corset, fitted with boning within to a sexy red vinyl corset to a black sequin bare-backed top, which I had professionally customized for a better fit.

Linking Coat Hangers

Earlier last year, I had my long tresses chopped off, a big sacrifice since most women regard long hair as a symbol of femininity, and instead I had my hair layered short with shocking purple streaks. I was completely comfortable being in my own skin. My attitude oozed that, and that gutsy part of me was reflected. FLY Entertainment, my artiste management company, supported the move and the media and fans loved it. Comments started coming in that they liked the fresh change. Now, my hair is actually hot pink! Something, I’ve always wanted to do at least once in my life.

coathangers

Besides my image, my material has also evolved over the years. The illusions I perform with my partner J C Sum are constantly being tweaked, whether it is a change in choreography, update in illusion design or update in music. We also add/ replace one or two illusions every two years to our show.

My favourite illusion “Crystal Metamorphosis” went through multiple changes over a 3 year period. An illusion we are quite known for “360 Sawing” has gone through two complete redesigns to make it even more deceptive. You can watch us perform the 2nd version in the recent NYE 2011 taping of Le Plus Grand Cabaret Du Monde in Paris and the 3rd & current version that we performed on Italy TV.

le plus2009 – 2011 Design

Italy TV

2012 – Present Design

However, my personal solo acts have also evolved since over time. I started with softer acts like a cut & restored rope performed under UV light and a linking coat hanger routine. Now, I perform more edgy acts such as a razor blade act, but with the addition of eating a torch of fire. I also added a “Human Block Head” routine (nail up nose) but with a 4” drill bit. This fits my more matured and edgy image.

For the longest time, I performed my “Straight Jacket Striptease” routine with a custom burgundy straight jacket. The routine has now been improved to a double straight jacket routine where I’m strapped up in two regulation-looking straight jackets. I still perform the “striptease” part but with two jackets “wink”.

straight jacket striptease

straight jacket striptease

For the sake of your pursuit in magic and for the sake of the art, please evolve!

Best of luck with your journey of evolution in magic!

If you enjoyed this article, you can check out my original books/ plans/ DVDs HERE and use this Promo Code “5OFF2014” upon Checkout to receive a 5% discount off all books, sets, DVDs, plans & downloads.

The Successful Illusionist

Anyone thinking of embarking on a career (whether full-time or part-time) as an illusionist will no doubt dream of bright lights, their own stage, in their own theatre or perhaps their television special. In short, making it big as an illusionist.

The ‘luck factor’ plays a significant role to becoming successful. For purposes of this discussion, let us suspend our belief and exclude luck as a factor.

So, what makes a successful illusionist?

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

Illusions

The basic techniques and methodologies of illusions, are less likely to be huge factors. But the presentation and application of the illusions will be. There will be new innovations and discoveries but that has always been the case.

One constant that I think (hope) that will come back with the next thing in illusion is motivation and good story-telling in illusion performance. (I don’t consider ‘cheesy’ plots where the magician is ‘captured’ by bad guys and put into a box etc necessarily good story-telling unless it is performed WELL in the right context and the right theatrical environment.)

Good close-up workers (not necessarily the new-age ‘Street Magicians’) strive for credibility and motivation for all the actions. There is story-telling, from subtle to elaborate, in practically every effect. All illusionists should read Darwin Ortiz’s ‘Strong Magic’ and apply it to their illusion performance craft. Of course, I recognize the need for ‘no-brainer’ visual bubble gum in the context of a larger show. But, I do not think 50 illusions performed in succession make for a good presentation of illusion.

Target Market

This is the single most important factor in making a particular style/ presentation the next thing in magic. If you are working only out of a small market segment, no matter how original and commercial the style is, it is unlikely it will catch on. The ‘next thing’ means it has to be seen by many and then perceived to be good and the rage.

Like it or not, mass media markets (Television, Internet, Movies, Radio?) are generally what make the style of today. If you are going for any mass media market, being right up there with the latest in pop culture and trends is a must. Predicting what the next trend will be a lot trickier. Movie and music genres/ styles can give an indication of what might work. Examining financial successes over the past twenty years might allow for some educated guesses. Entertainment trends, like fashion and business, are cyclical.

However, it is also highly possible to establish oneself in other mainstream markets first, then crossover to mass media markets. This is generally the route many have taken as well.

What is your target market for your type of illusion show? Cruises, Showrooms, Music Concerts, Resorts, Special Events? What are the hottest shows (out of magic) in your respective market? Can magic emulate those formulas or use magic to elevate that formula?

Take advantage of the medium to create something different. In recent years, that is what has happened with magic on TV. The medium has been used to great advantage (or deception) to create an apparent new type of magic.

Many successful magicians all over the world have become the best because they created the ‘next thing’ within their respective market segments.

Differentiation

This will help narrow what the next thing will be; as it is a certainty that the next thing will not be a ‘me-too’ act. The ‘me-too’ syndrome is just as prevalent in magic, as it is in other entertainment forms. The true fact is; there are so many illusion clones out there. I personally do not understand the phenomena but I accept that it happens. Ethics aside, I find it difficult to see how one can except to get wide success by being a dime out of a dozen. It think there is a market for one clone of another act but multiple clones?

Again, please understand that I’m speaking from the point of view of working outside a small market – as this is relevant to the quest of creating the next thing in grand illusion. If you are working for laymen within a fixed population threshold, yes, it makes no difference if you look the same and perform the same stuff as another person outside this market. However, if you are looking to make an impact at a national or international level, you will be judged by experts in the entertainment field; world-class talent brokers and show producers. Trust me when I say that good agents/ producers have literally seen it all… or at least, anything worth seeing.

Just to illustrate this, here are some specific illusions/ presentations that make informed individuals thing we ‘magicians/ illusionists’ are just the same.

Packing Crate-style Sub Trunk – 9/10 illusionists feature this. Origami and Interlude are close seconds and thirds as well. I’m not knocking the illusion, it is a brilliant illusion but everyone does it and not all well, unfortunately. I think it is fine to do it in your show amongst other illusions but don’t put it in your promotional material. (Again, I stress, I’m not knocking the illusion. I’m just stating this in the context of the discussion).

I don’t perform the Sub Trunk for this reason – because everyone is doing it and it will be too embarrassing for someone to point this out. How do you answer this question: “Why do all you magicians perform the same ‘tricks’?” I guess a possible answer is: “Just like musicians, we perform various classics with our own interpretation. While they look the same, they do feature our own unique styles and presentations.” The problem is, not many see magic as a mainstream art as we do, thus would not take that answer as a credible one. Another ‘problem’ is inherent with the magic art. Secrecy is a what separates magic from any other art form. The thing is, most laymen also think that the secrecy is kept among magicians as well, especially in the area of grand illusion. They do not naturally assume we know each other’s secret methods. Thus, it is surprising to them that we can perform the same illusions. But, I digress.

Kevin James Snowing Routine  – Specifically, the tearing of the napkin paper into the snow flake, his story about a child’s first impression of snow and snowing method/ effect (animator). Or Peter Samelson’s Snowing Presentation with the traditional snowstorm & fan. Again, both a beautiful, logical and motivated piece but has lost its novelty. For the record, I’ve personally seen the exact presentation performed on videos and live performances by magicians/ illusionists in the UK (3 performers), US (12 performers), Singapore (3 performers), Hong Kong, Australia and several from Europe. I’m sure there are many more out there.

The ‘Copperfield’ Look – The tucked out shift over T-shirt can be seen on many performers trying to look the same. Sigh…

The Sentimental Grandfather Story – Everyone has a grandfather who inspired them with the first magic effect they learnt etc. Some can pull it off, most cannot. Not because they are incompetent but it is just not their style. They are doing it because others are doing it.

Are the above examples only apparent because we are learned students of the illusion craft and are aware of all that goes on in magic. Not really, because these examples (except for the last one) were highlighted to me by an international show producer.

To understand the business/ commercial upsides of being different, Jack Trout’s ‘Differentiate or Die’ is a very easy must-read.

Longevity

This does not really answer the question but it is something to consider. While working towards being the ‘next thing’, which can be a hit & miss thing as mentioned above, it is wise to consider longevity in the business. Translating a short-term fad into a sustained success can be a challenge given today’s ever-changing world.

It is possible to do very well with a ‘safe’ style that has a long shelf –life with sustained appeal but is unlikely to be the next BIG thing. But, that is not the topic of discussion anyway.

I guess the key for all is to present good magic, preserve, work hard and constantly innovate. Remember, what is often an overnight success or tomorrow’s trend has actually been in development for the past decade.

Related article: Why do Illusionists Perform the Same Illusions?

If you enjoyed this article, you can check out my original books/ plans/ DVDs HERE and use this Promo Code “5OFF2014” upon Checkout to receive a 5% discount off all books, sets, DVDs, plans & downloads.

Selling an Illusion Show

As an illusionist, how do you get shows? How do you sell your magic and make your show commercial?

I am aware that many budding illusionists are interested to do paid shows. Here is a selling point which you might find useful when you are pitching your services to a potential client.

I am assuming the following things first:

  • You have some form of illusion act that is suitable for your target market.
  • You have rehearsed this act diligently in front of your faithful mirror, friends and family. You may even done a few shows.
  • You are mentally prepared to give a full show to entertain an audience.

Understanding Magic as a Service

You must first realize that what you are selling is invisible. It is non-tangible. You have no fancy hardware to show, no buttons to press and the prospect cannot examine it before purchasing your service.

Imagine, you have to convince and assure your prospect that you will do a good job – all she has is your word that you will do a good job. We are use to be able to test products and even try them out for 30 days if we like. In our over populated product market and skeptical society, your word may not be enough. We need another approach.

The traditional way to sell your show is to tell the prospect how happy it will make her guests, how the show is value for money, how your show is self-contained and relieves the worry from her etc.

This is fine but may not be enough. You must try to penetrate the mind of the prospect. Marketing and selling is about communication to the mind.

When selling a service, which is intangible, try as far as possible to attribute it with tangible qualities. Spawn by the product era, we are conditioned to judge things by its tangible qualities.

For example, when you buy a new car from a new dealer. The main factor influencing your choice would be the car. The design, colour, motor, CD player etc. After sale service may not seem like a big factor initially, right? However, after you buy the car and receive excellent after sales service and treatment, you would most likely recommend the dealer to friends and would probably buy your next car from them as well.

Well, the same type of strategy can be applied to magic and specifically your illusion act. So, what tangible qualities does magic have?

Tangible qualities can be things like the props you use, costumes, stage setting, magic furniture etc. Have action photographs of you performing for a live audience with your props. Do not just have a picture of you smiling and standing on stage. Have tangible items such as illusion props, stage settings and costumes. Photographs and descriptions of these tangible items help sell the show. How often have you been more impressed by a photo of a magician with a cage and tiger than a magician just smiling and posing?

Your show descriptions should detail elements that the audience can visualize – impressive modern props & sets and elaborate colourful costuming. Also, when writing your show description, ensure that you describe visual effects that can summed up in a single sentence. For example, ‘a girl vanishes in a blink of an eye and reappears in the audience’ or ‘the illusionist levitates and vanishes in mid-air’!

arena stage 1

At this point, many must be yelling their heads off. “What? Props, costumes, what? You are in the business of selling you, not your props and costumes! The client should book you for who you are, not what you have!” I would agree with you in an ideal world but the truth is, the psychology of buying is very different from what you would want. Marketing is perception and often people buy what they perceive is good. So, it is important o make them perceive you are good and not reply on them forming their own conclusions. You have often heard the term ‘packaging’ when it comes to the marketing of music stars – YOU are no different.

Understand this: What you market, sell and make money from are different things.

MacDonald’s advertises and markets their burgers heavily and sells fries, but makes money on their drinks. Likewise, you can advertise and sell your props, costumes and other tangible qualities to your client during the point of sale. But during the show, they will receive much more in terms of entertainment and the intangible qualities which were harder for them to perceive or fully understand initially.

So, getting bookings is not just having a good act! To get more shows, you need more than just to improve your act. You could have the best act and still not get shows. Fight fire with fire. A marketing problem must be solved with a marketing strategy.

Understanding that your magic is a service and using methods to sell a service such as attributing tangible qualities to it will allow you to penetrate your prospects’ minds.

Recommended reading:

The Event Magician