Friends of Magic (The Society of American Magicians)…

There are somethings in magic that confuse me and somethings that don’t. The big one that makes total sense is the decline of membership in magic clubs. There are several reasons why, but the main one is the internet. You can get you gossip, see new tricks, etc online. The second, closely behind the first is most clubs are d*cks to younger people. Old people telling kids who are into flourishes that what they are doing is wrong. It doesn’t matter how you get into magic or what you like, welcome them into the club.

Last night I saw this ad from the Society of American Magicians for the SAM Friends of Magic:

I’m trying to figure out why think selling this is a good idea. It’s all stuff that should be included in your membership! This is like a “light” version of full membership, but being sold as an separate product. Is this trying to generate revenue or increase the Society of American Magician’s membership numbers?

I think it’s ultimately going to do neither.

Releasing New Magic…

take up reel

Recently I released my Take Up Reel through Hocus Pocus and the response has been amazing. Honestly, I thought they would sell two of them, but they are selling as quickly as I can make them!

I just want to say “thank you” to everyone that has supported this magic release. It’s been several years in the making. From the initial development of it to me road testing and tweaking it…to having other people road test it and doing some more tweaking.

Here’s the next batch of Take Up Reels that are going out.

I wish these reels were easier to make, they take about a week from start to finish to make…and I can only do them in small batches.

Here’s some advice if you are thinking of putting out a magic product, actually put in the time to work it out. Don’t rush ideas out to the market. There’s soo much that’s put out that you can tell wasn’t really tested out on audiences in the real world…whether that’s an in person or virtual show.

Double Check Your Props!

When doing the full show it’s easier for me to be set up confidently than it is when doing bits of the show out of the full show context. Last week I was recording some bits for a TV show and it was really stressful making sure that I had all that I needed for each routine.

Unlike a live show, you don’t have the freedom to make a joke and then rummage through your case. Sure on TV you can do reshoots, but doing them because you forgot to set a prop is pretty unprofessional.

I only forgot to set one prop for one routine. It was a dry erase marker, and luckily I had a sharpie in my pocket. I used the sharpie and ruined the prop (or at least made it harder to reuse) but the only person who would know is me!

The Places We’ll Go…

I’m home now from a taping of a TV show in Burbank and sometimes there are moments when I reflect on where my dopy little show has taken me. The picture below was taken as I was about to leave my dressing room at the studio at the end of the day.

After having not really done the show in a year, to having done a few cool shows right out of the gate as things open up. It’s amazing where my stupid little ideas packed into that Pelican 1615 case have taken me. I think it’s important to look at what you’ve done with your art and why you do it. I do it to show people my ideas, and to see cool places. As a kid who never went anywhere, my show has taken me all across North America!

Support the Variety Arts!

In Seattle we have the legendary Moisture Festival, which is the largest and longest running variety arts festival in the world. You may see the posts about the podcast that I cohost on this blog as well. Previously you had to attend the festival in person, but his year they are doing a virtual festival.

The festival runs April 1-4 and you can get tickets at:

Each show is different and it’ll be a ton of fun! Here’s the line up:

April 1st: Ron W. Bailey, Manuela Horn, Georgetown Orbits, Roxana Küwen, Mathieu Bolillo, Charly Castors, Christine Lavin, Alex Feldman, Della Moustachella, Leah V. Jones, Avner the Eccentric, Frank Olivier, Bill Robison, Paul Morocco & Olé

April 2nd: Kevin Joyce, Doc Sprinsock & the SANCApators, Pam Severns, Hilary Chaplain, Gazzo, Carla Ulbrich, Benedikt Negro, Al Simmons, Circus Luminescence, Jody Poth, TAQUEET$!, Tempo Turn, Tom Noddy, Mik Kuhlman, Esther de Monteflores

April 3rd: Lindsay Benner, Naked Truth, Jack and Jeri Kalvan, Kenny Raskin, Junior Cesar, Steve Owens, Stevie Coyle, Martin Mall, Miss Ekaterina, Al Simmons, PJ Perry

April 4th: Caela Bailey, Fremont Philharmonic Orchestra, Wang Hong, Unique Derique, Ropeworks Interactive Jump Rope, Mr P.P., Amy G, Sylvia Rose, Mat Plendl, Uncle Bonsai, Michael Paul, Duo Rose, Godfrey Daniels

Quarantining With Props….

Yesterday I mentioned that I’m out of town performing. I had to fly to this gig and it’s been a while since I’ve had to fly. Here’s the gear I use to fly:

The Pelican Air 1615 carries my show props, then the suitcase holds my costumes, non show clothes and other personal items. The particular gig I’m out for right now required me to go from the airport to the hotel and quarantine for two days. Then I have to go direct from the hotel to the gig…in addition to passing several COVID tests over the course of about a week.

This has presented some unusual challenges. Normally I would buy a few of the “grocery store” props once I got to the city I’m performing in. That’s not an option for this gig due to the quarantine. I had carry onto the plane some items that are semi fragile.

One of the hard things was travelling with bananas that I intend to use several days later was finding green bananas (that would be nice and yellow in three days). I ended up having to go to a restaurant supply place and had to buy a box of green bananas!

I could have had the production provide the bananas, however in the past when I’ve had them provided for me, they always give me the worst bananas. Same with the crackers…I rarely get exactly what I ask for. The trick is pretty specific to what I need. For example, I use unsalted crackers as they are easier to write on than salted crackers. I’m just trying to eliminate a headache before it happens.

Three Inches Too Long…

Yesterday I was back home briefly before flying to Los Angeles to record a few routines for a TV show. While I was packing up to fly, I learned that the speaker stand that I’ve been using in my virtual shows as my table base didn’t fit into my case, it was about 3 inches too long! I switched to using a speaker stand early into doing virtual shows because I was able to raise it higher than a traditional magician’s table. That made it easier to frame my face and table in the same camera shot. You can read more about that here:

The solution was pretty simple, I unscrewed the attachment at the top, then cut off a few inches with my Dremel. Also if you don’t have a Dremel or similar tool, you should get one, they are super handy!

While I was out there I also noticed the smaller bar that moves up and down didn’t need to be as long as it was, so I chopped it in half. That will reduce weight for future trips if I fly with this again. Ideally I’ll just use a speaker stand provided by the venue.

Luckily it was a simple solution to shorten the speaker stand. I’ve always said that being a professional magician is 90% problem solving!

Adding Production Elements

While I was on the road last week I ran the production for my buddy’s in person show. I’ve been running the production for his virtual show, so I know his show well. I can’t imaging having to run tech for a show I’ve never seen off of a cue sheet!

One of the cool things about doing virtual shows is that it’s taken a bit of the mystery out of using production elements in my show. Typically I’m a one person operation, so one of the challenges for me was how to use video projection.

Here’s what I did the other night:

The ATEM mini camera switcher that I’ve recently added to my virtual shows, I used for the camera feed in my in person show the other night.

I simply used the Fade To Black (FTB) button on the right to turn the video projection on or off. This was on the floor and luckily due to the placement of the button, it was easy to tap with my toe!

This allowed me to add the camera and be able to easily control it without adding a laptop and running the Media Star software to the mix. I’m not opposed to using a laptop as part of my show production…but this is a lot smaller and more convenient for smaller shows.

Virtual Road Gig…

A couple days ago I got to do my first virtual gig while performing on the road from a hotel. I was in Lincoln City, OR performing at a festival. Here’s the set up I was using:

There’s not much to it, and I think I could eliminate using the ATEM mini to simplify it. I did over pack, I brought more stands than I needed.

Here’s what I’m using:

White: laptop running OBS

Green: Soft box light:

Yellow: Sony FDR-AX33 (could pretty much be any camera

Orange: Yeti Blue snowball:

Red: ATEM mini:

Blue: Stream Deck:

Purple: Old iphone running camera vision app, attached via HDMI with:

There’s probably a better/more efficient way to set this up. some of my gear and gear choices have been selected due to what I already had on hand a year ago

Keep it Unique!

Oh man, so I’ve written about how crowd sourcing advice on Facebook is pretty much a bad idea as everyone has an equal position to give their opinion. Now everyone’s opinion and “taste” is different and yes their opinion is valid, but you also need to know their background. Especially when getting advice about your show or the marketing of your show.

The other day Katrina Kroetch posted a picture on Facebook asking if it was a good promo pic. She got many people telling her it didn’t “scream magic” and that should should have a top hat, cards, or rabbit in the picture. That’s horrible advice, but before I tell you why, here’s the picture:

This is a fantastic picture, there’s a lot going on in it. Now Let me tell you why:

  • There is a story happening: She is doing something with the string/rope, but the cat is attacking it without her knowing. If I saw this pic in a program I’d think, is she a cat trainer…I don’t know, but I want to know more.
  • It’s not a generic magician picture: People won’t be bringing a mindset of the stereotypical magic show when they see this. If I saw this pic in the program, I’d expect a light hearted, fun show.

Now let me tell you why everyone that is telling her she needs to have a top hat, doves, or that the pic doesn’t “say magic” are wrong. No one goes and sees a magic show based solely on a picture with no context. They days of a venue having a sign in the window that says “now appearing” and just a headshot taped below it with a showtime are long gone. You’re marketing or advertisement will always have context with it now, it’s not 1990 and hasn’t been for two decades.

Personally I think if I saw just a pic of a guy holding a top hat in the window of a venue, I’d think it’s a children’s magic show and keep on walking. If I saw just Katrina’s pic I’d probably want more information. However, I like I said before in 2021 you’ll rarely encounter just a headshot without context.

The more unique pictures you use, the harder it is for someone to put their “box” of preconceived ideas about your artform around you.