Using Projection…

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about using projection in my stage show. I’ve been looking at how other magicians and performers are using it. It’s something that can make a lot of difference in how visible something is. For magicians, David Copperfield was the first that I was aware of to use in it … Continue reading “Using Projection…”

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about using projection in my stage show. I’ve been looking at how other magicians and performers are using it. It’s something that can make a lot of difference in how visible something is. For magicians, David Copperfield was the first that I was aware of to use in it his four ace routine. Currently using video is pretty common.


The best use of video that I’ve seen so far is Darren Brown in his Broadway show Secrets. Most people when it’s used, it feels like you are either watching the screen or watching the performer. When Darren did it, it felt like your attention wasn’t torn between two places. You were watching him perform and the video enhanced it.


That’s what I’m going for, using video to enhance what’s happening. Projection would be used for showing the signature of a card, but not the whole card trick. I think when the action happens on the table and the only way you can watch it is through the screen, then it stops enhancing the live show and becomes the audience watching TV.

Sometimes You Need To Take the Long Road…

Magicians love to take short cuts and be lazy. Here’s an example, I’m doing a trick where loose rubber bands turn into a rubber band ball. The easy way would simply be to do a shuttle pass during a hand to hand transfer. However I had some conditions that I wanted for the trick: 1: The … Continue reading “Sometimes You Need To Take the Long Road…”

Magicians love to take short cuts and be lazy. Here’s an example, I’m doing a trick where loose rubber bands turn into a rubber band ball. The easy way would simply be to do a shuttle pass during a hand to hand transfer. However I had some conditions that I wanted for the trick:


1: The change had to feel like it was a visual change
2: I needed to end with my hands empty
3: The trick needed to be able to happen at anytime in my show
4: The ball had to be able to bounce


The first and second conditions made something simple like a shuttle pass not the solution for me.


Ending clean made things a bit more complicated. An early idea was to use a gimmicked rubber band ball that was similar to a Silk to Ball Gimmick. However making one that could bounce and not look strange is something I have yet to figure out.


Here’s what I ended up coming up with:



What I ended up doing from a “method” standpoint was a lot more complicated than a shuttle pass, but I think it fulfilled my artistic vision better than a shuttle pass would have.


P.S. The method for this will be in an upcoming issue of Vanish Magazine

Zen and the Art of Not Counting Other People’s Money

I really need to get off the internet. I can’t believe the things magicians complain about. Recently someone was complaining about them quoting $895 for a 3 hour roving gig and booker claimed people were quoting $150 an hour ($450 for 3 hours). The magician was all upset because the other magicians were “working too … Continue reading “Zen and the Art of Not Counting Other People’s Money”

I really need to get off the internet. I can’t believe the things magicians complain about. Recently someone was complaining about them quoting $895 for a 3 hour roving gig and booker claimed people were quoting $150 an hour ($450 for 3 hours). The magician was all upset because the other magicians were “working too cheap”.


Here’s my thinking on this, when you stop worrying about what other people do, you will be a lot happier. You can’t control what other people charge for their services. When you do, there’s a term for it called, “Price Fixing” and it’s illegal.


In this specific example the person saying the people charging $450 for three hours was too cheap, yet someone chimed in and said the person charging $895 for the three hours was too cheap.


You will find its place and price point in the market. I honestly think someone starting out should be charging a lot less than someone that’s been doing it for a decade (and gotten better over that decade). If someone starting out charges the prices of established acts and they come in and don’t do well, it hurts everyone. There’s a lot to be learned at a $150 gig for someone starting out.


Think about the last time you went to buy a car. Let’s say you budget was $25,000. Did you buy a car that was $10,000? Probably not. I’m betting your purchase was in the $20,000-$30,000 range. You spent your budget. I think the same goes with party planners, you have been given a budget of money….money that’s not your own personal money. The party planner is going to spend all of it on the event, they don’t get a bonus for coming in under budget. The gig that’s going to hire the person for $450 was probably never going to book you for $895 this year. However next year they may put more money into their budget for live entertainment.


TLDR: Don’t worry about what other people charge.

Subway Stradivarious or Bucket Drummer

A few years ago the Washington Post did an “experiment” where they had a concert violinist play a Stradivarius for people in the subway  (You can read the article here).  This recently popped up again on my Facebook feed and and I have some thoughts on it.   Here’s the video: You can be the best … Continue reading “Subway Stradivarious or Bucket Drummer”

A few years ago the Washington Post did an “experiment” where they had a concert violinist play a Stradivarius for people in the subway  (You can read the article here).  This recently popped up again on my Facebook feed and and I have some thoughts on it.

 

Here’s the video:


You can be the best musician, play the best instrument, but that doesn’t mean you are the right person for the job.  Street performing is a skill, just like playing in a theater is a skill, and those skills don’t necessarily translate.   I bet the guys paying drums on a $2 bucket were making a lot more than him.

 

So why didn’t the violinist build a crowd?

 

Years ago I was told by Tom Frank that before picking a spot to busk, you look the people’s feet.  Are the fast or slow?  The violinist picked a commuter spot.  Not a good choice and any experienced busker probably wouldn’t line up for that pitch.

 

Look at the location, you really can’t build a crowd without completely blocking the foot traffic.  It’s essentially between two doors.  If someone wanted to stop and watch, it wouldn’t be comfortable. They’d have people walking in front of them, or into them.

 

They also picked doing it at “rush hour”…guess why they call it rush hour?  People are in a rush!  You’ll do better before or after rush hour when people have more time.

 

Based on a Q & A I read from the author of the article, that place normally doesn’t allow street performers, so they had to get special permission for it.  So the place didn’t have a street performing culture, which is another big factor.

 

Look at the successful street performers, where do they go?  Do they go where business commuters go, or do they go where tourists go?  Spoiler alert, they go where tourists or people not on business are.  Those  people have more time.  I’m very curious how well the violinist would have done if you put him in a place with a street performing culture?

 

Even if you gave him a good time at a good spot, he wouldn’t have done as well as the guy playing the bucket on his first time out.  He’s playing “ambient music” versus “interactive music”.  Ambient music people walk by, stop for a bit, toss a buck in the violin case and go about their day.  Interactive music would be he says hi people, has little “bits”, sees a guy wearing a band shirt, calls attention to it and  plays the hook from one of that bands songs.  It’s a different style of performing, you can’t do you “theater act” as is on the street and expect the same results.

 

I guess the takeaway from this is that if you are moving venues as a performer, you should expect a learning curve!

Louie

Some Sound Advice…

In a facebook magic group someone asked about sound systems for bday parties.  I was kinda amazed by the response of the people. I think one of the interesting responses was , “you don’t need one for a dozen kids…”, i find this interesting because while a dozen kids in average, having 30 is not … Continue reading “Some Sound Advice…”

In a facebook magic group someone asked about sound systems for bday parties.  I was kinda amazed by the response of the people. I think one of the interesting responses was , “you don’t need one for a dozen kids…”, i find this interesting because while a dozen kids in average, having 30 is not uncommon.

 

Another factor is production value.  Having music in your show adds a lot to it.  It kills dead time and opens up other things to do, like musical gags and bits.  Whenever I do shows without music, I feel the show isn’t living up to its full potential.

 

Then there’s the core issue, having your voice heard.  I’ve seen too many shows where you can’t hear the performer and it’s a small group.  It could be because the show is outside and there’s a lot of background noise, or it could be the performer not projecting.  

 

Finally there’s the whole, 3 or 4 shows a day thing.  You can blow out your voice in a weekend. A $300 bday party isn’t worth it if it wrecks your voice for the $1K gig you have saturday night.  


Invest in the best sound system you can afford.  

You Gotta be a Boy Scout

When you are a performer you have to live by the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared I’m flying out today for a corporate gig and I have  a strange feeling that they venue’s sound system won’t work.  What I mean by that is that it won’t work for my show’s needs.   In banquet halls … Continue reading “You Gotta be a Boy Scout”

When you are a performer you have to live by the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared

I’m flying out today for a corporate gig and I have  a strange feeling that they venue’s sound system won’t work.  What I mean by that is that it won’t work for my show’s needs.

 

In banquet halls there are tons of reasons why the system won’t work. Sometimes they have systems that you can’t plug into.  The speakers in the ceiling sound like a tin can or make it so you can’t move around without getting feedback.

 

Honestly I don’t know why I have this feeling about the sound system, but my “spidey sense” is tingling.

 

So what do I am I doing?

 

I’m packing my street show PA in my suitcase:

Magic show sound system

Since I’m only away a short period of time, I don’t have a lot to pack, so the speaker fits easily in the in my suitcase.

 

The PA I’m using is the Roland Street Cube EX.  The great thing about this is it’s small enough to put in the overhead bin on the plane but has enough power for a gym.   I’ve got the proper cords with me to use this as a mixer and/or monitor if they have a system I can plug into.

 

Hopefully I won’t need it, but in case I do, I’ve got it!

Louie

Special Requests at a Gig…

When you’ve been performing long enough, you will get requests for things outside of your normal show. These can be simple things like “can you use the CEO in a trick” to more complex things like can you write a whole show on a specific  theme/topic.   I’m not going to really talk about the … Continue reading “Special Requests at a Gig…”

When you’ve been performing long enough, you will get requests for things outside of your normal show. These can be simple things like “can you use the CEO in a trick” to more complex things like can you write a whole show on a specific  theme/topic.

 

I’m not going to really talk about the writing a whole show, as that’s really a specialized thing and either you do it or you don’t.  I don’t.

 

I’m going to talk about smaller requests.  Recently I had an request at a corporate gig where they asked me to make a small gift appear and give it to someone.  I could do that, however I talked them out of it.

 

Why?

 

 

Simple, the gift will have more meaning from someone the recipient knows than from me.  I could make the gift appear while doing a trick with the event organizer, then present it to the recipient, which would have a lot more meaning.  However that ends up being the end of the show, I don’t want to follow that.

 

I want the show to end strong, not on something I really have no control over.  If the person who is helping me with the trick where the gift appears is a clunker on stage, then it drags my ending down.

 

The way I see it, for a corporate gig I’m hired to do the show I’ve done a thousand times (and my pricing reflects that), not to do a something I’ve never done before.  I just don’t get enough of these requests to make it worthwhile to having as a part of my show.

 

Probably the number one request I get has to do with costuming.   The organizer will call and say, “our event is yellow themed, can you wear all yellow?”  My response is to explain to them that, “I wear certain things because it makes things more visible, so if I use a yellow handkerchief in the show, you won’t be able to see it if I wear yellow.”  However I ‘ll gladly wear it, if they provide the clothes (the must meet certain requirements like pocket space, etc), the tailoring, and I must have them a month before the gig so that I can practice in them.  Also there additional practice time is billable, and if something doesn’t work with the provided clothes (like yellow on yellow) then we can either drop it from the show (shortening the show) or they can pay for a new prop in a different color.

I’ve never had anyone agree to the paragraph above, however if they did, I would gladly make it work. I think that people who aren’t performers don’t realize how much effort goes into something as simple as wearing a different pair of pants.  If a pocket is too narrow, or the cut wrong, I can’t sneak something into or out of my pocket smoothly.  Then I may stumble on it, drop it and people think I’m not a good magician, when the reality is that it’s not me, it’s the costume.

 

So the moral of this post is:  Do your show the best you can!

Louie

 

The Curse of the Opening Act…

Recently I did a gig where I MC’d a bar comedy show.  Normally I’m the feature or headline act.  It was fun, however as the first act, it’s really had to “crush it”.  There are a few reasons for this.   First, as host, it’s not your show.  It’s your show, but it’s not your … Continue reading “The Curse of the Opening Act…”

Recently I did a gig where I MC’d a bar comedy show.  Normally I’m the feature or headline act.  It was fun, however as the first act, it’s really had to “crush it”.  There are a few reasons for this.

 

First, as host, it’s not your show.  It’s your show, but it’s not your show.  Second, the audience is COLD and you need to really get them to switch from hang out mode to show mode.  This is made harder by the fact that the room doesn’t change into show mode (i.e. lights don’t dim, etc).  The final thing is that everyone is still eating, so it’s harder to get them to laugh with food in their mouths.

 

Add the normal first act in a bar show challenges to the place having a PA set up horribly and the stage in the darkest spot of the room.  All of this made it a challenging room.

 

I opened with a verbal bit that’s goal it to unite the room, it did it OK, then moved on. This is one of those gigs where as the first act you really have to just keep moving forward until they finish their dinner.  That’s what I did.  And about minute 11 of 15 I finally got them warmed up and they were a great audience for the next two acts.

I guess the lesson here is don’t bail on your audience, always give it 100%.  Eventually they’ll come around…

 

Louie