Posts by: Leif David

New Case Lid Organizers for your Show Case

A few weeks ago I posted this photo of my new Case Lid Organizer on Facebook. A lot of magicians were asking me about it so I thought it might make an interesting topic for a post.

NewLidOrganizer

No, it isn’t a DIY project that I made myself, and no, it didn’t come with the case. It’s actually a case accessory that’s available online. The Lid Organizer in the photo above is called the Explorer Cases PANEXPL48 Lid Panel for the 4820 Case (Black). Explorer Case offers a few different lid organizers, but if you look online you’ll find pages and pages of various lid organizers from other companies as well.

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Living a Creative Life With Magic

I just finished reading “Big Magic: Creating Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert is the same woman who wrote the massively successful book “Eat, Pray, Love“.

I’ll admit that I was drawn to the book because of the title and the awesome cover. Quickly I discovered the book was about one of my favorite topics, “Creative Living”. In it she discusses attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives.

I remember being a 10 year old magician and after my shows business-y adults would ask me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

I wasn’t too sure… I was just a kid after-all. But I would answer with things like:

  • “I want to be a famous magician on TV.”
  • “I want to perform grand illusions.”
  • “I want to perform on cruise ships.”
  • “I want my own show in Vegas.”

As I grew up, I realized those weren’t authentic goals. I just answered that way because I thought that’s what I was supposed to say.

I’ve realized that I don’t want any of those things. I don’t believe crossing those off my list would make my life feel more complete:

  • TV Magic? I don’t wish to spend my time in production meetings or rapidly developing TV only effects.
  • Grand Illusions? I don’t want to lug around tons of gear. I want to be a magician – not a professional mover.
  • Cruise Ships? I don’t want to be more familiar with airports than I am with the history of an effect.
  • Vegas Stardom? I don’t wish to chase after fame. Becoming famous is outside of my control anyway.

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Are You Performing Old Material Because It’s Easier?

Today I performed for a daycare client that I’ve been working with for over 12 years. Every Halloween I do two shows for them. It’s a perfect client because they re-book me year after year and the audience is always different!

I suspect that for many performers the temptation would be to do their regular show, collect the cheque, and never think twice about it.

In this article I want to urge you to not be one of those people. Instead, I want you to think twice about the material that you’re performing.

Are you performing your regular show because it’s the absolute BEST show that you can deliver? Or, are you doing it because it’s EASY? 

For my daycare client I decided to include material from this summer’s library show. Much of that material I haven’t performed in several months so it was a great opportunity to keep it fresh in my repertoire. But, it wasn’t easy. I had to spend extra time pulling out all the props, then I had to create a set-list that would work, I had to create a special playlist, and I had to quickly rehearse the lines for one of the routines since it has a lengthy story as part of the script. At 11:30 at night while packing everything up all I could think was “It would be so much easier to do my regular act!”

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The Trap of “Look How Much Money I Just Made”

Performing magic professionally means that you’re also a small business owner. That means that any of the money you make performing is actually money that goes into your business. 

It’s easy to think that after doing a magic show it FEELS like easy money. You can leave the house for a few hours, have some fun, perform a few tricks, and come back home $1,000 richer. Compare that to everyone else you know who needs to go to work for an entire week to earn what you make in a single afternoon.

This type of thinking is very deceptive though because what you make from performing is NOT what YOU personally earn. It is NOT your salary. Your performance fee is what the BUSINESS makes. The money is what you’ll need to operate on to sustain your entire business.

For example, let’s say you perform at a show that pay’s you $1,000. Let’s see how that would breakout into your business bank accounts and personal accounts.

Performance Fee: $1,000
Sales tax / Income tax (25%): $250
Business account (25%): $250
Personal savings (15%): $150
Rent (20%): $200
Your wage (15%): $150

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Pure Text: Copying and Pasting Text Without Extra Formatting

Here’s a quick tip to reply to emails even faster.

I find myself often copying text to pasting information into my emails. The problem with that though it that a simple copy/paste would also include all the additional unwanted formatting from the original source.

Here’s a sample photo where I copied text from my website and pasted it into the email. You can see it also pasted all of the unwanted formatting like the background color, font color, etc.

extraformatting

I’d constantly have to change the font, font size, and color back to the original. This meant that I had to manually reformat all the text over and over again. Every time it annoyed me and I knew there had to be a better way!

I went searching on the internet and I came across a lightweight tool called PureText. Here’s the program description from their website:

What PureText Will and Will Not Do

PureText only removes rich formatting from text. This includes the font face, font style (bold, italics, etc.), font color, paragraph styles (left/right/center aligned), margins, character spacing, bullets, subscript, superscript, tables, charts, pictures, embedded objects, etc. However, it does not modify the actual text. It will not remove or fix new-lines, carriage returns, tabs, or other white-space. It will not fix word-wrap or clean up your paragraphs. If you copy the source code of a web page to the clipboard, it is not going to remove all the HTML tags. If you copy text from an actual web page (not the source of the page), it will remove the formatting.

PureText is basically equivalent to opening Notepad, doing a PASTE, followed by a SELECT-ALL, and then a COPY. The benefit of PureText is performing all these actions with a single Hot-Key and having the result pasted into the current window automatically.

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Stan Kramien: The Show Begins When the Posters Go Up

This week Stan Kramien passed away. A magician who performed for over 70 years, and he spent 30 of those years touring with one of the largest magic shows of it’s time.

stan

I’m too young to have ever seen his show live but I did have a chance to attend the Magic Jamboree which was hosted by the Kramien family. During those conventions we got to hear stories from life on the road as well as see some of his performance footage.

My favorite parts though were when he would talk about business. Anyone who can make such a long career out of performing magic obviously has it figured out.

One thing that Stan said that will always stick with me was: “The show begins when the posters go up.”

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Mail bag question: What’s the best way to book more shows?

This week I’ve got a question from the mailbag. Billy asks…

I’m trying to get more shows but nothing seems to be working. What’s the best way to go about booking more shows?

My reply:

I imagine that whenever I get this question it’s because they’re looking at their calendar and thinking “I wish I had more shows, this month is kinda slow.” But whenever I hear that I always imagine the same quote:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

What does that have to do with booking shows? Well, the best time to book a show is 6 months ago. The second best time to book shows is today.

That isn’t the full answer though. There isn’t really a technique that I know of for getting more bookings today. It’s all about planting the seeds so that the bookings come in tomorrow.

How to get more bookings tomorrow

  1. I believe that the easiest and most effective way to get bookings is to perform as often as possible. When people see you at an event, they’ll imagine events for which they could book you. They’ll have that “Ah-ha!” moment when they imagine you performing at their kid’s birthday party, their upcoming fundraiser, or corporate event. These people are great to sell your services to because they’ve seen what your persona and your magic is like.
  2. Perform magic in your day-to-day life. Perform magic for your waitress, or the store clerk. At the end of your performance hand out a business card.
  3. Considering donating your services to charity events if you’re just getting started. I wrote about that in an article titled Why You Should Work For Free, but really it should be called When You Should Work For Free.
  4. Attend business networking events. I wrote an entire article on it previously. Make sure you follow up with the contacts you make.
  5. Attend showcases and conferences. I haven’t done much of this but others have used it to great success. In certain markets this is the major way of getting bookings.
  6. If you have zero bookings, no business, and nobody knows who you are; work for tips in a restaurant. There’s a lot of differing opinion on what you ‘should’ do regarding tips or getting paid. I say, do whatever you think is fair. I worked tables when I was younger for tips and a free meal and I got tons of paid work out of it. I hope you have a birthday party show ready – because you’ll get asked to perform at a lot of birthdays.
  7. Another way to get more clients is to mine your customer database. Follow-up with previous clients. Look back in your calendar and find out who you performed for around this time of year in previous years. You can go back several years and send out a quick email or make a phone call to see if they are organizing their event again this year.
  8. Send out a newsletter letting people know that you have dates available. This information keeps you “top of mind”. This is a great approach because these people know what your services are like. And more importantly you know that they are ready, willing, and able to spend the money to hire you.
  9. Have a better show. Improve your act by performing as often as possible. Hire a director or script writer to help you. Work with a video camera and make changes to your show.
  10. This is a long term strategy, but one way of keeping your calendar full is by working annual markets. This could include summer festivals, school shows, or theater tours. With these types of bookings it’s people that are going to hire you year after year. It takes a long time to develop, but if you can “get into” these markets you can develop a lasting career. Create a marketing calender and stick to it.
  11. Are you offering a show that people want or need? Try offering other types of show options such as fundraisers if you don’t already. If you only have a close-up show, you’re going to be more limited than someone who does close-up, platform, or stage. There’s a good reason that most people start off by doing birthday party shows – It’s because there’s a huge market for birthday parties! Depending on your business plan (you have one of those, right?) you can either broaden your services, or niche your services down. You don’t need to be able to perform at all kinds of events, but if you don’t you should be specializing in one specific type of magic and find people that can hire that act. Generally you’ll need to do more traveling the more specific you get.
  12. Get more aggressive with your marketing. If you need more bookings, start asking people! Pick up the phone and make calls to potential clients. Scour the interwebs and find emails of people organizing events and send them a personalized email message. Make sure that you aren’t sending spam to potential clients though.
  13. Provide a better service to your customers. Reply to their emails and phone calls faster. Include free giveaways with your show. Be easy to work with. Send thank you cards.

As you get new bookings it should be because of the groundwork you laid in the past. New bookings won’t just magically appear out of the ether. Consciously setup your business and implement strategies for getting more work in the future. As you implement these ideas always tweak and adjust as you move forward. Eventually there will be a point where it becomes automatic that you generate new bookings.

I hope that helps Billy.

If anyone has any other tips, please leave a comment below. As always, don’t forget to ‘like’ and ‘share’ this post with others.

Interview with Christopher Cool – Clipped Card Trick

This week I’ve talked about this Benefits to Using Giveaways In Your Show as well as Different Types of Giveaways To Use In Your Show. Discussing these concepts was all inspired because this year Christoper Cool just released a new promotional giveaway item to the market called the Clipped Card Trick.

leifclippedcard

If you’re not familiar with the classic effect it’s quite simple: You show a card with five playing cards on it, both front and back. Four of the cards have black faces. The card in the middle is the ace. The goal is to place a paper clip on the ace while the cards are face down. Sounds simple? Surprise! The clip is always on the wrong card!

As soon as I saw Christoper’s Branded Cards I knew I needed to pick it up to use in my library shows this summer. What’s great about this giveaway is that it’s so inexpensive, it matches my other marketing materials, and it’s self working. Plus they look awesome— look at that handsome guy!

paniniLeif: For those who don’t know you, Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Christopher: What do you want to know? I like my panini maker! Seriously though. I am a full time Magician out of Calgary, AB, but I was born in Winnipeg, MB. Most of my work is split between birthday party shows and educational programs at preschools/daycares.

Leif: What kinds of giveaways do you use in your shows?
Christopher: I’ve used coloring pages, activity pages, funny money, invisible magic dust, roll-up wands, magic wands and other small magic tricks.

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Different Types of Giveaways To Use In Your Show

In my last article I discussed the benefits to using giveaways in your show. In this article I’ll discuss the various types of giveaways that I’ve used before. This isn’t just theory on things that I’ve seen or heard about. All of these items I’ve used in my performances. For each item I’ll discuss the context in which I used it, along with sources and examples.

Balloon Animals

A giveaway could be as simple as giving away a balloon dog. In the case of balloon animals there’s lots of ‘bits of business’ that you can include to make it entertaining. There’s the old gag of ‘accidentally’ snapping the balloon into your face while attempting to blow it up, or accidentally letting go of the balloon before tying the end off so that it flies away. These old gags have stood the test of time for a reason. On Gary Dunn’s DVD “Keep them Laughing” he does about 10 minutes worth of material just by making two balloons animals for a couple volunteers on stage. It’s a great way to get lots of entertainment out of a minimal amount of props. Watching Gary work is a masterclass in children’s entertainment. I highly recommend it!

IMG_1628For small shows you can make balloon animals for everyone at the party, and for larger shows just make balloons for volunteers on stage. Be aware though, that if you’re at a birthday party and you start making balloon animals – you’re probably going to get suckered into making one for each child. So, plan accordingly. 😉

There’s also the option of charging extra for making balloons animals for everyone at the party. Personally I’m better at magic than balloons so I stick to simple balloon sculptures like the dogs, swords, flowers, and hats. I find that by doing simple balloons I can make each one in under a minute. Making them quickly is important if you have another show to attend that same day.

Balloons are a great giveaway but they don’t carry any brand information and they don’t last very long. Let’s look at some other options…

Ball and Vase Trick

ball and vaseMy goal was to use the Ball and Vase as a general giveaway and then pitch them as an inexpensive back of room sales item for $2. They didn’t sell very well though. People were more interested in purchasing my Magic Wand and DVD so eventually I stopped selling the Ball and Vase.

I found that it was too difficult for kids to learn on their own from the instructions. I think that this trick is better suited to be part of a magic class or workshop.

Even though I don’t offer any magic classes I’ve still found a way to make use of the Ball and Vase trick. I’ll use it as a  special giveaway in a 1-on-1 situation for a child that’s interested in learning the secrets of magic. It’s a great trick for that 9-12 year old range where they can execute the basic handling and presentation. The magic of the ball and vase is quite deceptive, the secret is clever, and it can be taught in just a few minutes. I’ve found that using them in this way can create a very special moment that goes beyond just a normal giveaway and can be very rewarding on a personal level. For the right person in the right setting, it’s absolutely perfect!

The Ball and Vase sets are a bit more expensive than other giveaways plus they aren’t branded so I only use them in those 1-on-1 situations.

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Benefits to Using Giveaways In Your Show

For children and family performers using giveaways for audience volunteers is quite common, and for good reason too. They make a great souvenir to remember the show long after it’s over. But these innocent looking giveaways can be an important tool in your branding and marketing strategy. They can be used to build your brand, generate future leads, and promote back of room sales.

There are lots of different types of giveaways you could use in your business include colouring sheets, bookmarks, fortune telling fish, ball and vase, and coin slides. For many of these giveaways the actual cost is far less than their perceived value. Giveaway items aren’t going to give you an instant return on investment like a direct mail campaign would. However, they do help establish you in the marketplace and are a long term investment in building your business.

Personalized Branding

clippedcardIf you decided to use a printed giveaway such as a colouring sheet, bookmark, or a printable magic trick such as the Clipped Card or the Two Card Monte there’s a huge opportunity to match them to your existing brand.

Normally there would be no way to get a child to take a business card home from the show to their parents, but with a personalized item that’s exactly what they’ll be doing. You can include extra information such as your name, logo, photo, website, and phone number.

It’s a great technique because while you’re creating added value for your clients, you’re simultaneously marketing your services to generate future business at the same time. Getting your name and contact information into the homes of potential customers is key to getting more bookings in the future.

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