I love Reader’s Digest. I forgot how much I loved it until a friend started giving me her copies when she was done with them. One of the regular sections I like is titled, “13 Things Your _______ Won’t Tell you.” I like it because you get useful advice, but the person dispensing said wisdom gets to be a bit snarky.
For instance, in the December 2008 issue they have, “13 Things Your Hairstylist Won’t Tell You.” The first one is, “I’m a beautician, not a magician. I can give you Gisele Bundchen’s haircut, but I can’t give you her face.”
Well, I AM a magician, and if I could wave my hands and make the world beautiful, I would’ve done it by now. That being said, I figured I’d rip off the Reader’s Digest Formula and give you, “13 Things Your Magician Won’t Tell You (unless he’s me)!” Of course, this list applies to entertainers in general.
1. Why his price can’t be found anywhere – Most magicians prefer to have you call in so they can fish about before quoting you a price. After a few questions, they guess at the highest price they think you’ll pay. If Magicboy sees an area code from Beverly Hills or South Beach, the price goes up before he answers the phone.
2. Most won’t tell you there’s a guarantee – Of course, the best entertainers stand behind their services just like a good company stands behind its product. If a magician isn’t willing to offer a refund if he bombs, keep shopping.
3. Magic contests are meaningless – Don’t get me wrong, some contests have more prestige than others. However, magicians like to watch different stuff than the average audience member. Magicians may think a performer is great because he’s unique within the community. Meanwhile, spectators are bored. So, if Joe “The Plumber Magician” tries to sell you his show based on the awards he got from his secret club, ask if he has any letters from past paying clients and if you can contact them for a reference. You’ll probably get some confusing response that leaves you scratching your head, kind of like talking to the real Joe “The Plumber.”
4. That they’re a kids show magician – There’s nothing wrong with your average balloon twisting, cape wearing magic guy for the little ones. However, sometimes unsuspecting people call these magicians for an upscale event and end up turning their elegant affair into romper room. So beware, that great price may not be so great.
5. You aren’t funny – When it’s time to pay the magician his fee don’t say, “Can you make this bill disappear?” As a matter of fact, whenever you talk to a magician, refrain from the, “Can you make ____ disappear” joke. I mention this as a matter of your safety. One day, and it might be me, a magician is going to snap from hearing this one too many times.
6. Your date isn’t guaranteed until you pay the deposit – If a magician, DJ, band, etc., are holding a date for you, get your deposit to them immediately. People like to shop around and we can usually tell when someone is just trying to cover their bases. A friend of mine once got booked twice by the same person through two different agencies at the same time. Luckily, when she canceled through the agency she didn’t want to use, it didn’t effect him, but the one agent got ripped off holding a date she could’ve used for a paying client. The bottom line is this. If we hold a date for you, we have to turn down other work at that time. If you’re slow in paying your deposit, we assume you’re shopping, and we will take another job if that person is prepared to send in their down payment right away. So, don’t be disappointed, reserve your date with prompt fee deposits. While I’m at it, it’s customary for entertainers to be paid immediately after the job. If that’s the arrangement, keep your word and have the performer’s check waiting for him when he’s done. We don’t have collections departments to track down these late payments.
7. Your event determines the type of show – If a magician only performs one type of show, he may be selling you on a performance that isn’t right for your event (see kids magician example above). For instance, if a magician strictly does card tricks, he can’t entertain an audience of 1,000 people for an hour. On the flip side, if the performer’s act requires a stage and elaborate lights and sound, he can’t entertain at your cocktail mixer of 30 people. Don’t be sold on a show that doesn’t fit your event. Find a performer that can tailor his performance to your needs.
8. Timing and time is important – Don’t have a magician attempt to entertain while people are having dinner. It’s a waste of your money. Also, when you hire a magician, you’re paying for his time. If he’s scheduled to work before dinner and you make him stand around until after dinner to perform, you’ll be billed.
9. The hard part is in the getting there – Most of the work we do as comedians and magicians is in the marketing, show prep, and travel. Once the show is booked and we’ve arrived at the venue, the hardest part is done. With that knowledge, if you hire a magician for an hour of strolling close-up magic and decide you’d like him to stay an extra hour, he’ll probably give you a great deal since he’s done all of the grunt work. You can get a better deal waiting to negotiate overtime like this, but you also risk the performer having another show scheduled after yours. If he does, he’ll have to leave to keep the appointment.
10. They have jobs – There’s a lot of magicians that perform part time. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s a big difference between somebody that entertains day in and day out versus a semi-pro. Here’s a clue. If you call two magicians and one is $200.00 and the other is $2,000.00. You found out who the hobbyist is.
11. Testimonials and demo videos are most important – Don’t get fooled by slick graphic design and gimmicks that make a person look like a star even though they’ve only done two shows. Look at their demo video so you can see them perform. Make sure they have letters from past clients and that they worked for them more than once!
12. Your guests may suck – If your guests are sourpusses, drunk, loud, obnoxious, or just plain jerks, it’s a waste of your money. Look, it’s your dime, but if you hire a great entertainer, you should let your guests know ahead of time. Put it in the invitation, and make sure they know it’s a big deal to you. If you tell them in the invite that, “Zach Waldman, an incredible comedian and magician from the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA is going to be entertaining,” and to arrive early or miss out, they’ll show more respect. Also, when you talk to them on the phone, tell them how excited you are about the entertainment and how great it’s going to be. When the entertainer arrives, make it a big deal, make it special, because if you hired somebody great, IT IS SPECIAL. If you convey how important the entertainment is, the entertainer will be treated better and in turn do a better show.