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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » What magic lacks (Why MTV isn't Magic television) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Jaxon
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They say that magic is one of the oldest performing arts. They say they've even found cave drawings that suggest this. I don't know if that's true but I do know that magic has been around for a long time.

So why isn't magic as main stream as other forms of entertainment? Other forms of entertainment are so embedded in society that they actually divide people into social groups. One group of people like country music, another likes rock. This group are into horror movies and that other group talk about soaps and desperate housewife's. I'm not saying this is always a good thing but it is a big part of modern times. It seems magic will never reach that caliber in society.

This seems ironic to me because the idea of "magic" is one of the ultimate goals for other forms of entertainment. "A magical performance or experience" is a very good endorsement. "The magic of Walt Disney", "An enchanting song/movie". They all want to create a performance that can be compared to magic yet magic itself still takes the back seat to other forms of performing arts.

I think there are many reason this is the way it is although we who love magic don't always want to admit to them. One could argue that magic is more involved then other forms of entertainment but that's not really true. We try our best to be interactive. To make our audiences feel like they are a part of it all and they can be to some degree, but not near as much as other forms of entertainment. We can bring up audience members and give them a very unusual experience but no matter how strong that experience is they can't fully be a part of it because they don't know what's coming. If we try to repeat the moment with them then it's a different experience. Magic is heavily based on the fact that they don't know what to expect. They can't rewind and witness it again. Even if they could the second time would lack that initial reaction.

Take music for example. When someone hears a song they like they can sing it themselves or play it on a musical instrument. They don't even have to be a good singer or musician but they can do their best and relive the mood of the song. So they can experience that in ways they can never experience magic unless they learn how to do the tricks themselves. But if they learn the secret then they loose the experience of magic.

These are the reasons I think bars don't have magicians every week like they have bands (at most they'll have a strolling magician). On top fo that, music has a much larger variety. You can find a blues bar, a country bar and so forth. So it touches on that social dividing I mentioned before.

You can ask just about anyone to name a part of other forms of entertainment and they'll have an answer or two. Ask someone to name a country singer and they'll probably know of a few. Ask a person to name a horror or a comedy movie and they'll know of some. Ask them to name an actor or actress and they'll give you a list. They'll even be able to tell you what songs they sing, what shows or movies the actor played in and tell you a little about the horror movie they named.

Ask them to name a magician they'll probably only know one or two but they won't be able to tell you much about them. Most likely they'll say "David something" who made himself float or vanished the statue of liberty (They often name the wrong monument too). Many will mention Houdini but they won't know much about him or what he did other then escape from handcuffs.

So what do you think? Is there anything that can be done about this or will magic always take the back seat?

Ron Jaxon
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After regaining my ability to hear after 20 years of deafness. I learned that there is magic all around you. The simplest sounds that amazed me you probably ignore. Look and listen around you right now. You'll find something you didn't notice before.
Jonathan Townsend
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In person, magic takes front seat.
Our society has HUGE issues with magic.
From organized religions claims upon the experience to psychology's avoidance of subjective experience as a valid area of exploration to science's confused claim that explanation equates to meaning, there is not so much room in our normal lives to enjoy magic except in safe theatrical presentations.

To disagree would be to face charges of blasphemy, worship of "strange gods", madness or a naive ignorance of many things everyone should know as common sense.

That taken as obvious...

On TV the pretty dots make pictures we may or may not wish to embue with sentimental meaning. Magic requires that dimension of emotional engagement and enrollment.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Jerrine
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I second Jonathan's post, especially the religious aspect, he said from the buckle of the Bible Belt.
Jaxon
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I agree with Jonathan's post too but I feel that's only a small part of it. At least the religious aspect. It is there but it's also there in other forms of performing arts. People are against portions of other forms of entertainment for those reasons too. I saw a few sites knocking Harry potter for those reasons. That's a good example because it was the religious and cult aspect they where complaining about and it had to do with the use of magic and witchcraft (yet they have no trouble endorsing Santa and the wizard of Oz). Many music groups and even TV shows have been harassed for the same reasons. Yet they are still in the main stream of entertainment.

Another thought is that even though we try to create different moods and touch different emotions with magic. It doesn't really play a part in peoples day to day life's. A couple can snuggle up and watch a movie or listen to music together and those things can sometimes create an atmosphere. For example some background music with a candle light dinner. This is why we'll never see a section at the department store selling magic performances like we see the DVD and music section. It just doesn't have that drive because it can't be repeated like those other things. People have a favorite song, movie and TV show but must people don't get in the mood to watch a magic performance.

Like Jonathan said. Magic is experienced once and in person. When the show is over the mood doesn't stay very long and they can't completely go back to it. At most they'll talk about it for a little while but they won't run out looking for a copy of that performance.

So much to think about on this topic.. Smile

Ron Jaxon
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After regaining my ability to hear after 20 years of deafness. I learned that there is magic all around you. The simplest sounds that amazed me you probably ignore. Look and listen around you right now. You'll find something you didn't notice before.
bishthemagish
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First of all I am one of those people that doesn’t think that magic is all that popular with the public. I don’t think that it has ever been that popular here in the United States. Sports is the number one entertainment here along with music.

Magic or going to see a magician is way down on the list. In fact getting the mass audience to go to a magic show is like pulling teeth. The magicians that do get an audience REALY WORK to get that following and REALLY WORK to KEEP IT!

One of the problems magic has is that it is the only kind of entertainment that you can buy over the counter. Magic is also promoted in these places (like magic shops) to be easy to do. Just buy the trick and you to can be a magician. Just look at the old packaging of the magic tricks that were marketed to kids by leading manufactures of yesterday.

If magic is easy to do and cheep to buy why would a client pay good money or top dollar to book a magician?

This was the problem that was magnified by the magic specials of the masked magician. My problem with the masked magician specials was not the exposure problem. It was the fact that they (the producers) made magic LOOK easy and cheep to do. Just buy the effect, levitation, cutting the girl in half, etc. And anyone with enough money can be a magician.

If the public thinks, anyone can just go out and buy a show why would a client pay top dollar to book a magician?

Then we also have had the historical problem of magic fooling people. Some people do not like to be fooled because it makes them feel stupid and foolish. Fooling some people makes them feel like a fool.

Magicians as entertainers can get past this problem by adding something like humor to the show. The fooling of the spectator is more acceptable if the spectator is laughing at humor or laughing at a humors situation of helping the magician on the stage. No one enjoys being the butt of a joke by an unskilled magician or an unskilled entertainer. People used to go to shows to have fun. Now it is hard to get them to come and see a show no matter what it is. And that is not because television is taking the audience. Most television programming stinks.

Besides magicians as an entertainment movies are also having a hard time drawing that audience. The problem with movies is the same thing that killed vaudeville. And that was greed.

I do not like to go to a movie theater. They are often to cold, the sound it turned up way to loud, the eats and snacks are to expensive, and most often I have to watch 30 minutes of commercials before the movie picture starts that I came to see, that will be out on DVD next month anyway.

But getting back to magic and magicians and the “M” word. I don’t think that there really is a problem with magic and magicians that are selling themselves as magicians. I think that magicians THINK that magic WAS more popular with the general audience and IS more popular than it really is.

To look at this I think we need to look at it realistically. How many big name “STAR” magicians are there working today? Magicians that “ARE” big stars you can count on one hand. In the book about Jack Gwynne by David Charvet. Gwynne said at a table filled with magicians to George Johnstone, “You know America has always accepted just one “worlds greatest Magician” at a time. Harry (Blackstone Sr.) can’t last forever, besides I am younger than he is.

That being the point - we had Keller, then Thurston, Then Blackstone (who competed with Dante when he came back from over sea’s after Thurston passed on.) Then we had Mark Wilson who led the way to magic Stardom through TV. Then Henning, followed by David Copperfield. See what I am getting at? Magic Stars can be counted on one hand.

Not like music that have lots and lots of stars and a lot of different kinds of music. Magic has very few stars that make it to the top and stay there.

Then there are magicians that pick on there helpers that come out of the audience. And magicians that do magic - even when people do not want to watch it in the streets and at work.

Magic was never one of the more popular arts or entertainment in the USA. In fact at times it is just tolerated by many people that feel that they are forced to watch it. Things go in cycles and a few years ago magic was on TV a lot and now it is not.
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Bill Palmer
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There are a couple of other factors that need to be considered in this discussion. One is that all of the major networks have very important reasons to promote music and music videos. The major networks own the recording companies. There are no magicians with contracts with the major recording companies.

People watch what they are offered. MTV and VH1 are outlets for the recording/broadcast/film industry.

As far as people being able to "buy" musical skill over the counter -- well, actually they can. It's not real skill any more than buying a DVD from YFD is real magical skill, but music stores sell this kind of thing. There are "teach yourself piano" videos, Esteban's "teach yourself guitar" promotion, etc. There are computer programs that permit the totally untalented to "compose music" in the style of their favorite composer. Since they are totally untalented, the purchaser doesn't realize that what they are "composing" is garbage. There are software programs that teach people how to play just about any instrument that you can buy in a music store.

If you want to understand why magic isn't promoted like music -- follow the money trail.
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EsnRedshirt
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Jaxon, you're right- only nuts like us go out and buy tapes of magic performances- and that's only because we're in the industry and like seeing the best ones perform. However, this is very comparable to another performing art- live theatre. People usually don't go out and buy videos of plays; they'll buy the movie version if one exists. That's because video/DVD isn't designed to be a medium of live theatre; it's a transference onto a different type of medium (one designed for pre-recorded performances), and thus it's lacking the true "feel" of a show. (Whereas movies are specifically designed to be viewed on video/DVD/film, and are edited and filmed to take full advantage of the medium. One may wonder if this brings up a chicken-or-egg argument... and it does, to some extent- movies as we watch them today would never exist without film, which brought about some of the new techniques, yet film never really exploded as a medium until "The Great Train Robbery", the first real movie made specifically to be a movie. Previous attempts were only recording bits of real life, and lacked the drama that a movie provided...)
Movies are viewed over and over, because they have a depth to them, fully conveyed by the medium, that (in a great movie) only becomes apparent after multiple viewings. They are similiar to books in this way- designed for the medium, and read and re-read (at least by some.)

Ahem, sorry, getting off track there; having a flashback or two to the cinema classes I took in college.

At any rate, magic, like theatrical performances (in a way, magic is a theatrical performance) is meant to be viewed live, and videos cannot capture the true nature of the medium (if you consider 'live' to be an actual medium.) This is especially true of 'street' or 'close-up' magic, where the magician engages the audience in a direct and personal way, which is completely impossible to reproduce on video. Certainly, one could see the same magician perform over and over again- just like one could watch a broadway play over and over again. But it's pricey to do that... and, in many cases, the magician's performance doesn't get any "deeper" with repeated viewings.
Is this because magic, as an art, just hasn't achieved the same depth as film or books? Maybe... or maybe not. If cost wasn't an option, would you see a broadway performance over and over again? How about a magician? A movie?

In many ways, MTV culture- as opposed to repeated viewings- is an indicator of society. As a side note, maybe you've heard of "anime", Japanese animation, which as a genre is extremely popular in Japan. There's a much higher ratio of animated-to-live-action television shows on Japanese TV than on American TV. However, in general, anime DVDs tend to do better in America than in Japan. It's a curious phenomenon, but in many ways reflects the culture differences of the specific niche for which the genre is designed, as well as the way they are marketed in each culture. Japan tends to value the "new" and the "different", hence anime DVDs don't sell as well- the fans have already seen it on TV. In a way it would be like buying a season of your favorite soap opera. For Americans, the sales are higher, since anime itself is a novelty, and often, buying the material is the only way of viewing it.

In conclusion, I think I went off on too many tangents and now have no clue what point I was originally trying to make. But magic isn't a soap opera, and it isn't anime. I don't think a magician should strive to have a performance where the audience wants to go out and buy a copy. But, maybe, they should strive to have a performance that makes the audience want to see more magic...
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Bill Nuvo
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As stated before and implied, we are of a society whose culture is dictated by what we view. I have been seeing more magicians/jugglers/circus performers on tv in the past 5 years. And thus I have noticed (at least here in Canada) new festivals/fairs popping up or just expanding. And because of this there are more magicians performing. With this exposure, accumalated with all the videos of magicians performing on the internet, magic is gaining some much needed "respect".

But having said that, I don't think we will ever achieve sport or music status. That is, unless we can create more of an emotional connection with people and be easily accessed.

I beleive we can achieve to be more popular than theatre, which loses it's feel when put on video (unless it is adapted to that medium as in the movie RENT), through more exposure with the help of the likes of Blaines, Copperfields, and Angels.

I also beleive that our secretive nature is the cause of some of our problem. As time goes by, and when we educate our audiences that it is the journey we take them on and not the trick, we will see magic being more universal. But by being secretive we can sometimes cause angst (look at some of the attitudes on exposure sites/forums "they won't be able to rip us off anymore...it's so simple...those high and might magicians...")

We need to be more like teachers to our audiences. We have to teach them magical art appreciation. Just like some buskers take it upon themselves to be teachers to the public about busking performing art appreciation.
Al Angello
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Jaxon
If magic was as popular as professional wresteling, or Nascar, it would be both disgusting, and cheap.
MY OPINION
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That's a great point Al. Value is sometimes in rarity.
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When everybody had to put their names on a waiting list to buy a Harley Davidson the sales went through the roof. Look at all those Texas Holdum tournaments on TV. Can anyone name one of those pathetic loosers who star in those made for TV extravaganza?
NOT ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD
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bishthemagish
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Quote:
On 2006-04-14 16:48, Al Angello wrote:
Jaxon
If magic was as popular as professional wresteling, or Nascar, it would be both disgusting, and cheap.
MY OPINION
Al Angello

I agree with that Al and that is I think what happened with the masked magician specials. And I think another special about outrageous escapes. I think one of the problems is that magic is looked upon somewhat as a geek art. There has been a lot of negative press in movies and on TV about magic and we are not represented in a very classy way.

About 10 years ago I was living in Chicago. Blackstone Jr came to town with his full evening big show. Two shock jocks on the radio took this opportunity to knock Harry Blackstone who has years of success and a great show. And to knock magicians in general as sort of this group of sub human geeks that do magic tricks, and birthday party shows like we were the all time losers of show business.

I would like magic and magicians to have a good image. One of the better things that has happened and has helped magic has been the Harry Potter books and movies. Now there are more kids that think magic is cool and special. I think the Harry Potter books and movies have done a lot to help magic's image for the muggles.
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RandyStewart
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Quote:
On 2006-04-14 13:45, Jaxon wrote:
So why isn't magic as main stream as other forms of entertainment?


You would actually want that? Why!?!

Quote:

So what do you think? Is there anything that can be done about this or will magic always take the back seat?


Well you mentioned music, musical artists, and bands as an example but what does that matter in my performance art other than the fact that it's all done to music?

Don't forget, some acts are so unique we, they, anyone who lays eyes on 'em don't know where to put them including foregoing the backseat.

Don't worry about it. Stay focused on what you do as you're outnumbered by those who can't do as you and it is they who'll be part of your next audience.
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I think another part of magic is that it doesn't happen to be as 'trendy' as most music is. I mean, seriously, name the last most spectatular effect that you've ever seen that has shaken the timbers of the magic world as well as the laypeoples world? Well, whatever it is that people think, we as a whole aren't cranking out these show stopping effects, month after month, or even year after year. Musicians are recording new albums every six months to a year. And really, how many times can one see the cups and balls on television before you start thinking 'Yeah, I've seen that before.'
Jonathan Townsend
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The good news is that most folks don't recognize magic when they fall under its spell.

Gotta run, they are going to announce the lotter results now and then there are some really cool programs about how to get rich on TV.
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RandyStewart
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Quote:
On 2006-04-14 23:36, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
The good news is that most folks don't recognize magic when they fall under its spell.

Gotta run, they are going to announce the lotter results now and then there are some really cool programs about how to get rich on TV.


Jonathan, you have no idea how hard you make me think and now, laugh. Those words up against your avatar made for some very hard laughing. Oh man! that's funny!

I actually got dizzy for a second there. Now that's some heavy laughin'!
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Awwww, man, here it's Friday night, I've had a very long week, I'm sitting here trying to unwind, Donna is sick with some kind of stomach flu, my 94-year-old Mom has the same thing, and my glass of wine is running out... and you bring up this subject?????

Yes, I'll take some cheese with that whine... Smile Stilton, please, with a nice Port on the side...

I think we need to look outside of magic for the answer to this one. Actually, I was saying almost exactly the same thing back in the 80's when I really liked Borland products but Microsoft was getting ahead in the market. Borland was pushing the products and Microsoft was pushing the company. Borland was pushing their steak (arguably, at the time, a much better cut of meat than the competition's), but Microsoft was pushing the sizzle.

We bought the sizzle. And a lot of us miss the good steak.

MTV isn't about the songs: it's about the spectacle. It's about the in-your-face lifestyle suggested by the videos. It's about the dreams you can have, the escape from daily life, the fantasies, the alternate reality.

Look at modern commercials. The AFLAC duck doesn't tell us a thing about insurance any more than the bunny told us about the details of the batteries. Coke and Pepsi commercials? When was the last time they pushed the benefits of drinking cola? Nike is a classic. That new FedEx commercial with the cavemen doesn't tell us a thing about FedEx. And these commercials are paid for by huge corporations with bottomless pockets who know exactly how they want to be perceived by the buying public.

Yet the average magician still wants to show the public how a card goes from here to there? With that type of competition? What's wrong with this picture?

Time for a refill on the wine. And please don't forget the Stilton.
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RandyStewart
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Quote:
On 2006-04-15 00:32, George Ledo wrote:
That new FedEx commercial with the cavemen doesn't tell us a thing about FedEx. And these commercials are paid for by huge corporations with bottomless pockets who know exactly how they want to be perceived by the buying public.


George, I'll have to go back and re-read your post on 'Spectacle' as I think I've overlooked a few great points.

Forgot about that one since I've only seen it once. One caveman hollars at the other: "But there is no Fed Ex yet!" while the other says "That's their problem".

The caveman is also being used in the GEICO commericals. Remember the annoucer? "It's so easy even a cave man could do it" or something like that.

Gee, use of cavemen in such a modern and capable society. I wonder if they intended that for people like me who at any moment may feel 'not with it'. Hey, to suddenly see a caveman struggle with my fears or better yet as we see in the GEICO commercials, having roast duck and mango sauce, may give me inspiration to rise to the occasion.


I am man! and I'll have whatever George Ledo is having! Yes!
George Ledo
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Hmmm... Meg Ryan's line in When Harry Met Sally strikes again. Smile

Those cavemen don't do a thing for me either, but they do keep the company's name out there in front of the muggles...
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RandyStewart
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Quote:
On 2006-04-15 01:44, George Ledo wrote:
Those cavemen don't do a thing for me either, but they do keep the company's name out there in front of the muggles...


Yep, enough so that I talk about them even here and I can't, for the life of me, think of one connection between cavemen and the Café. Great minds at work there somewhere. Good point George.
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