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Special user
Victoria, Australia
730 Posts

Profile of scottds80
Hi, I have a few questions about performing for the public in general.

For starters, I need to let you know where I am at with my magic career. I have drive & dreams of making this a full time career.

I am currently a self employed painter & decorator, 10 years in business and successful. I am a very independent one man show, and can handle business transactions quite well. I can handle bookkeeping & tax. Not a problem.
My magic as a hobby began nearly 4 years ago, and in the last year I have been increasingly getting word of mouth gigs at schools, community citizen clubs and home parties. I have often received strong encouragement to go further with this as a career, so that's a feather in my hat. I want to take the plunge (but carefully).

About me & my show: I am a one man gig, single 28 yo, I do not perform large scale illusions, I am totally family friendly, I do not have a flashy show with smoke & light effects. I am a parlour magician and I only perform magic shows 'commando act' style, where the effects I use pack small & fit into one box. I use a curtain backdrop for professionalism (great investment!) and a currently a portable sound system for music. My actual act is ready to perform, and that I am already doing.
I am yet to have a website done, get professional photos & literature created, and invest in a quality wireless microphone & sound system. I am not quite there yet.

I have a dream of not only performing for private bookings (which would be the main income), but also for the PUBLIC in halls/hotels/theatres that can accommodate 50-100 people. My target customers are smaller country towns. Travelling entertainers are a rare breed (especially magicians in Australia). In the meantime, I would like to be keeping busy performing for schools, churches & community citizen programs. This is targetting one shire (or I think 'county' for USA language) at a time over a couple of weeks per shire. This will satisfy my desire to travel Australia, too!

Back to specific talk about public shows, what are good venues to perform in? I have so far considered the following:

*Public halls - in country towns, usually at about $100 for the night.
*Hotel function rooms.
*Small theatres, whether it is a community theatre or hire a school theatre

My favorite idea is the Hotel function room. The promotion would be beneficial with this idea. Plenty of local diners & bar patrons will be exposed to advertising, all while it is in the best interests for the hotel management to promote it also. From my understanding, hotels offer cheap (and sometimes free) use of their function rooms as it brings in patrons for drinks at the bar. Would this be a good idea, to promote a show in local hotels with flyers 2 weeks in advance? Charging $10.00 per adult, $5.00 children, or families (2 adults & 2 children) for $20.00?
With around 50 people attending, this would turn over about $300 - $400. Any more people is a bonus. This is not to mention, the sales of small tricks for the kids at the end of the show.

The only thing is that I don't have somebody to travel with me to handle the door, selling the tickets. Is this easily dealt with by finding someone local willing to be paid about $30 for the evening to help out?

This is all just idea stages for me, absolutely nothing is set in plan yet. I feel driven & would love to entertain rather than paint. This idea may not be something to make me wealthy. This is just an experience aquisition. And with experience the money will grow to a more comfortable level.

As long as I had money in reserve to keep me backed up, I'm safe. Also, with my painting skills, I can ALWAYS fall back on that. It's extremely easy to find work anywhere. So there are backup plans..

All genuine advice will be much appreciated!

"Great Scott the Magician", Gippsland
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Inner circle
1429 Posts

Profile of Destiny
Hi Scott,

The problem with performing in licensed venues for family audiences is the alcohol. The venue wants to sell as many drinks as possible - and a drinkig audience is very different to a family audience.

In my experience restaurants are a better option - more family friendly than pubs - and more conducive to social drinks rather than a p!ss-up.

Regarding the monetary figures you're using - are you remembering tax?

Three or four hundred dollars isn't much at all by the time you pay tax, travel to the location, and pay accomodation. In rural areas you will mainly sell shows on only Friday or Saturday nights and if you intend a trip round the country that means you have to pay for food and accomodation for the rest of the week out of the weekend takings.

Taking the door is a nightmare with different problems at each and every venue. $30 is probably not enough legally to pay an employee for a one off two or three hour job. And sourcing someone locally will mean taking time to count the audience and then arguing with the person you've employed about the friends and relatives they've given free entry. If you let the venue take care of it - the same will happen - friends and relatives and every Joe Blow that's 'been a regular for 10 years and never pays to come in here - and besides he's not interested in the show - he just came for a drink'.

The best approach is to have a good show and good publicity material. You make a trip around a target area at least 4 months in advance and approach suitable venues with a price. Have a time frame within which you are available for bookings in that area. In my area for example there is only 400 kilometres between Cairns and Townsville so you might choose to be available for one month in Far North Queensland - that would give you two cities, each with over 100,000 people and a dozen substantial towns to pull bookings out of. Make sure your promotional material mentions a successful Australia Day booking if Australia Day falls within the time frame you'll be visiting that area - or Easter - or Halloween, Christmas, a horse racing carnival - anything that shows the venue they can tie in with what's happening and make extra bucks. (Make sure your show can have some relation to all of these things - not a complete retheming but just a change of a prop or even just patter)

Two weeks after your visit ring round venues that seemed interested but haven't contacted you and ask if they are still interested because you are finalising your itinerary. In towns you will only be able to accept one booking but in bigger centres you could take more, conditional on the venues being some distance apart and catering to totally different markets.

If you have no luck with venues in a town you need to phone the local service organisations and clubs and attempt to sell the show to them - they put on a fundraising night and hire you as entertainment for the drawcard.

Once you have the bookings decide when they wish to start promotion (I wouldn't think more than a month before) and have the promotional material to them on time.

Once you are based in the region for shows you have booked - take cheap classified ads in the local papers in the towns you did not get bookings - try and sell some private shows. If I was your age again, and starting out, I would get a busking act together - on your free days, rather than practice in a hotel mirror - get out in the city centre and make some more dollars as you hone your craft.

All the best

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Special user
Dargaville, New Zealand
929 Posts

Profile of MagiCol
"My target customers are smaller country towns." What size towns? How much attendance are you likely to get? How can you figure out how willing people are to come out to a magic show and part with their money? I wonder how well visiting sideshows/circus do in the area? That may give you a guide, but I think you would have to downsize the expected turnout considerably. It doesn't sound like what you have in mind, but how do school shows during school time go in thse small towns? Almost everywhere has a school. Why not phone some school principals and see how often such a school show magician visits, and what the attendance/support is? Here in NZ small town area I live in, a magic show gets booked about once every two years - oh, yeah, you can't hit a town more often than perhaps that. Lots of things to think about, gestimates, Scott and I wish you well whatever way you get to share magic with others.
The presentation makes the magic.
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Inner circle
Arlington, Virginia
2432 Posts

Profile of rossmacrae
This idea might fly better linked to a fundraising-for-the-locals partnership.

You provide the show, posters, ad formats, tickets, etc - they provide the facility, publicity, sales, staff. You split the take.

Problems arise of course when the locals don't do their job, or do it halfway.
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Special user
Victoria, Australia
730 Posts

Profile of scottds80
Thanks very much for your replies, there is a lot of food for thought in what you suggested. I will certainly be keeping this all in mind. Especially the fees which might not sustain a full time thing of it.

"Great Scott the Magician", Gippsland
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Inner circle
Milford OH
1571 Posts

Profile of Paddy
Scott, a way to break into the business is by going to the pedestrian areas of a new town and start busking. Look into the forum titled "The Sidewalk Shuffle" for further information on busking.

Tedb, a contributor in that forum is also known as Kozmo and is a full time busker. He was here in Cincinnati OH 2 this week and did very well.

Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis

I reject your reality & substitute my own
Signor Blitz
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Elite user
419 Posts

Profile of Signor Blitz
My advice is to get off the chat rooms and DO IT!! You will make mistakes and you will lick your wounds but you will be better off for you efforts!

Just make contacts and say what you gotta say to book yourself and deliver more than they expected. Your career is in your hands!!
Al Kazam the Magic Man
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Special user
Living in Perth Western Australia
992 Posts

Profile of Al Kazam the Magic Man
Hey Scott,

What part of Aussieland are you in matey? I'm in the west in Perth. Knowing where you are may help the many other Aussies here to pitch in and give you more specific advice. Plastic has given you some great advice in my opinion.

All the best,

Al Kazam --> Magic guy in Perth Australia
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Special user
766 Posts

Profile of aukt
Would love to hear more on where you are with this scotts.
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