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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Perform for free? When and Why (4 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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ryansmagic
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Reading, PA
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Just reading around her a little and I have noticed some people suggest you should always be paid to perform or "never work for free". While I agree with some of that thinking when is it OK to perform for no pay?

Here is my deal. I am employed full time and do not rely on any magic income. I perform probably one a month, more aroud the holidays. My gigs are by word of mouth from customers, or other performers.

I think it is fine to volunteer your time for a charity event if you believe in it (see the post about Magic for Miracles in the "So happy together" area http://www.magicformiracles.com . However you should be careful. I have heard of events where the magician was talked into volunteering and when they get there, other entertainment is there and are probably getting paid, DJ's, moon bounce, stuff like that. That is not cool and something you should ask before volunteering.

What are your thoughts?
Ryan Parsons
[email]ryanparsons@comcast.net[/email]
http://www.magicformiracles.com
Skip Way
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I have three pet children's charities. Anything they ask of me is theirs without reservation or concern. Most other charities and nonprofits pay my full rate or look for someone else. A few select non-profits such as Scouting and Shriners receive a courtesy discount - but they do pay the bulk of my fee.

It's a simple business decision. Most benefits occur during my choice weekend hours. It's money out of my pocket every time I donate my services - so I have to be selective and stand my ground. Giving too generously also pegs you as an easy mark for other charities - organizers do talk and share information.

Give generously to the select charities you actively support. All others have to understand that you're running a business. Most will move on.

My opinion. Good luck! Smile
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

Magic Youth Raleigh - RaleighMagicClub.org
ryansmagic
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Skip,
That makes a lot of sense. I also wanted to make it clear that I do not make my living from magic. I know that can be tough, and you need to be a smart buisness person to protect yourself.
Ryan Parsons
[email]ryanparsons@comcast.net[/email]
http://www.magicformiracles.com
Dr. Delusion
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Ryan I'm like you, I perform magic as a hobby and side job. I have an Illusion show with 1 or 2 girls and a sound man. We have a local festival here. For the past 3 years they have called me and asked if I would like to be a part of it. The very first year they told me it was a non profit benefit type of a thing and they have no money for entertainment. I almost told them yes, but when I mentioned if the bands get any money I was told yes they do, but they perform at night for adults only and I would be performing during the day for the kids. Of course I asked what in the heck difference does that make ? I was never given a descent reason for it. So I politely told them forget it. But for some reason they still call me every year. I do have 2 events we perform for free at each year, a local food drive and at an event for low income family's at Christmas time. And odds are if the right type of charity event would call we would perform for them as well.
Bob.
ryansmagic
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Bob,
I think this is a common problem at the carnival/fiar type of event. They want the magician for free, yet clearly other people are being paid, bands, DJs, etc..

The excuse seems to be that either we typically perform for children, which to me is not right. In my experience even a show geared toward children the audience will still be almost 50% adults. The other issue I wonder about is the percieved talent and equipment differences between magicians and musicians. Maybe people feel they are getting more for their money if you run wires everywhere and take 2 hours to set up?
Ryan Parsons
[email]ryanparsons@comcast.net[/email]
http://www.magicformiracles.com
Skip Way
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Ryan, I appreciate your perspective as a part timer. As with everything in life this really comes down to your personal beliefs, goals and abilities. Pro, semi-pro, hobbyist, enthusiast or collector - we all have expenses associated with our level of involvement. If your wallet is as big as your heart, give all you like. I would and do. Otherwise, the non-pet charities and non-profits should, at the very least, cover your expenses and time. I guarantee that very few of the event organizers are working for free.

I've always said that the day I hit the mega lottery will be the day after my last paid show. Until that time, though, someone has to pay the bills. Good luck and follow your heart.
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

Magic Youth Raleigh - RaleighMagicClub.org
ryansmagic
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Skip,
I agree, I have my charties that I do things for and that's it. I don't want to go around and work for free all over my area because that cheapens the value of magic in the area and therefore hurts those full time guys trying to make a living.
Ryan Parsons
[email]ryanparsons@comcast.net[/email]
http://www.magicformiracles.com
Open Traveller
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Even if an organization doesn't pay you in money, they should be able to trade something for your services. It doesn't have to be much, but this gets you out of being seen as a guy who will work for free, and it will be mutually beneficial. No businessman works for free, and you probably want to be seen as a magician who's a good businessman. Even if a company businessman donates time or materials, he's going to take it off his taxes, and everybody knows it.

The only thing a truly free show will get you is another free show. If you don't want to negotiate for money or a reduced fee, fine. But have them give you something in return. That way at least, when the next people come along asking for a free show, you're not faced with, "Well, you did it for them..."
Donal Chayce
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I'm a longtime television executive in Hollywood, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that many other types of professional entertainers give gratis performances at charity events. Indeed, there's rarely a week that goes by that there's not at least one big industry-sponsored charity bash at which a major performer (singer, comedian, musical group) isn't performing for free.
Open Traveller
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I think once you're a major performer, it's different. People already perceive you as the entertainer you are, and if you do a free show, people won't expect you to do another and another and another. They know how much you're worth.

If you're not a major performer, though, and you do a free show, you're establishing how much you're worth. In the former case, the bar is already set. In this one, you're still setting the bar, and it's very low.

It's up to you guys, though. In the end, it's more important to be happy.
ryansmagic
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Just to be clear.....

The free performance I do are for charity purposes where EVERYONE invloved volunteers so there is no profit to be made anywhere, or at hospitals where we do bed side and small performances. I do not offer free birthday shows, and resturant work, that would lower your value. Doing the charity and hospital work increases my value as I have gotten work from these events.
Ryan Parsons
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http://www.magicformiracles.com
Mr. Mystoffelees
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Magic is a hobby I enjoy with my grandson.

We won't do any work for free or for a reduced rate if we feel it is taking a gig away from a working magician.

There are a lot of charity and community events, however, that don't "have it in budget" to pay. In those situations, we insist on being able to "pass the hat" and generally they agree to allow us to do so.

Get Jimmy Talksalot's new book on busking, and you can soon be making more off the "hat" than if you had been paid- seriously.

As to hospitals and such, we feel they should be done totally from the heart and absolutely free- and no tips accepted.

Jim
Also known, when doing rope magic, as "Cordini"
Skip Way
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Business is business and should be treated as such. Under certain conditions, a tangible cash or product donation can be provided as a business deduction on taxes. As Traveler suggested, you can also barter for something of value to replace your fee. Such a donation can carry a minor bit of prestige and promotion opportunities in programs, on posters and in promotional media coverage.

One such charity that I participate in locally is a children's charity annual semiformal Taste of the Town fundraiser where local top-end restaurants set up booths and offer samples of their top menu items. I perform roaming table magic during the event in exchange for comped $80.00 tickets for my wife, daughters and in-laws. In return I'm listed in their program as a donor. I've picked up several full-fee jobs from the restaurants featured at this event because they were able to "audition" me on the spot.

A charitable donation may also be a plain and simple gift from the heart with no strings attached. When I give to my pet charities, this is my way. The only things I want in return are the smiles and appreciation of those receiving the gift. My association with my pet agencies brings me little in the way of monetary gain or worldly fame...but, when I walk through their doors, I am a superstar and I am appreciated and this simply sets all things right in my world. Ya gotta give back...it ain't all business. Karma happens!
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

Magic Youth Raleigh - RaleighMagicClub.org
MagicalArtist
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It’s funny, I have read on forums that if you do one free show, the next thing you know, you will be innundated with requests for free shows from every organization on planet earth. I think this is an old wive’s tale (or “old magician's tale”). I have done a few free shows that have gone over well, and I have not been “innundated” with requests to do more free shows. In fact, being asked to perform for free is rather rare. I agree that you should not overdo it in performing for free, and that you should ask if everybody else is providing their services for free, but if you do occasionally agree to do a free show you should not be overly concerned with being “innundated” with free show requests. Save your worries for something more realistic.
ryansmagic
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Quote:
On 2008-08-26 03:23, MagicalArtist wrote:
It’s funny, I have read on forums that if you do one free show, the next thing you know, you will be innundated with requests for free shows from every organization on planet earth. I think this is an old wive’s tale (or “old magician's tale”). I have done a few free shows that have gone over well, and I have not been “innundated” with requests to do more free shows. In fact, being asked to perform for free is rather rare. I agree that you should not overdo it in performing for free, and that you should ask if everybody else is providing their services for free, but if you do occasionally agree to do a free show you should not be overly concerned with being “innundated” with free show requests. Save your worries for something more realistic.


Well said, I would even venture to say I have been offered more pay shows then have gotten requests for free shows after a free performance.
Ryan Parsons
[email]ryanparsons@comcast.net[/email]
http://www.magicformiracles.com
Neale Bacon
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As has been said by others, I have a charity or 2 that I will do free shows for but that's it. This is how I make my living and I cannot afford to do a lot of freebies.

I have always hated it when they tell me "Oh you will get lots of exposure"

The only thing free shows have ever gotten me were more requests for free shows.
Neale Bacon and his Crazy Critters
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JackScratch
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Here's the trick. Performing for free devalues the trade. You should charge what your services are worth. Does that mean money should change hands every single time you perform? Yes and no. As long as something is done to ensure that the work that you and other magicians do retains it's value, you do not have to charge money. Exchange of something, or some service equal to the value of your service will do. Charities are fine, but again, add value to your service by making them rare. The value of your trade comes in the form of only donating your services to the charity or charities whom you most ardently support. If you are just starting out, and have not refined your art, then to be sure, your clients should get what they pay for, maybe if they don't pay, that's you. Even for a beginner, you should receive a pittance. Just remember, the most important thing here, is that charging nothing doesn't just effect your wallet. It effects our industries economy.
tommy
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In my opinion, and everyone is entitled to my opinion. If you want to be good, or let us say better, then do it for money. For the pursuit of money is what leads to great art, as opposed to the contrary and more traditional view. If you want to be an amateur, there is nothing wrong with that, except you will probably never be as good as you could have been.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
ryansmagic
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Quote:
On 2008-09-06 10:21, tommy wrote:
In my opinion, and everyone is entitled to my opinion. If you want to be good, or let us say better, then do it for money. For the pursuit of money is what leads to great art, as opposed to the contrary and more traditional view. If you want to be an amateur, there is nothing wrong with that, except you will probably never be as good as you could have been.

This is an opinion, but I don't fully agree. I think a magician who does not make a living from magic, but maybe does a few gigs here and there, can be as good or better than a full time paid magician. Of course this varies case by case, but to say if you want to be good you have to do it for money, I can't agree with. To be good you need to practice, both in private and in public, perfect an act and be able to present it well.

One other thing:
I have explained about the show our club does to raise money. If you think about it we are not doing anything for free. The audience pays for tickets. The performers do not get paid because we all agree to donate all of the money taken in.
Ryan Parsons
[email]ryanparsons@comcast.net[/email]
http://www.magicformiracles.com
Al Angello
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Ryan
I'm afraid you are mixing apples and oranges. What you do is organized by magicians, and controled by magicians. Of course you get a good feeling from it because you are not taking orders from an organization that doesn't care about you. If you did some charity work for organizations that make phone calls in order to get some kind of filler entertainment as an after thought to their fund raised you would get a taste of what it is that entertainers hate about charity work. We all should pick and choose our volunteer work carefully, as you have done so.

The we will take any kind of talent as long as you are for free, but don't look for me because I'll be in the VIP lounge eating doughnuts is the normal fund raiser phone call that I get.
Al Angello The Comic Juggler/Magician
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