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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Tricky business » » Skipping the Bottom Rungs and Going Straight for High-Paying Corporate Gigs (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Jay Jennings
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This is kind of a theoretical question, although I'm about 95% sure I'm going ahead with it (and I *think* this is the right spot for it) so I'd appreciate any thoughts on the subject.

When you start performing, typically you "pay your dues" and work your way up the ladder and eventually get bigger, better paying shows (assuming you do good work). But is there anybody here who skipped the bottom half of the ladder and went straight to the big money gigs? That's what I'm planning on doing.

Technically I'm not starting from scratch because I dropped out of school after the 8th grade and started performing full time until I was in my early 20s and then quit. It's now been probably 25 years since my last professional show -- so while I have a background in performing, I have nothing recent to point to as "proof" I know what I'm doing.

I'm working on putting my act together right now. I know I'll need to perform it in front of real people for x times to knock the rust off my joints and to solidify my choice of effects. I'm thinking of offering my act to non-profits in exchange for testimonials.

So I have two main questions right now:

1. Do you have any ideas on good ways to get testimonials in a scheme like this? Are non-profits the way to go? Something else?

2. Have you, or anyone else you know, skipped to the head of the line? What words of advice would you give someone who's attempting to do that?

Thanks.

Jay
Scott Burton
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Define "high paying corporate gig" please. "Corporate gigs" as a category have their own ladder with many rungs (some charge $300 and others $300,000 for example). Exactly how ambitious are you talking here?

Instead of the "skipping to the head of the line" (sounds like trying to cheat your way to success), why don't you aim for accelerated career advancement based upon your reputation, word of mouth, and strong skills? A talented performer doesn't stay unnoticed for long and the free market is pretty good at adjusting if you charge too low/high. No doubt you will find work at a level that you are currently qualified for (whatever that may be - high, low, or somewhere in-between).

My opinion: go for whatever you want but, ultimately, there is a progression needed to build yourself up - even if you happen to "climb" quickly based upon the results you produce at "lower rungs" (trying to use your terminology).
Dannydoyle
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Many have tried this. Next you will be here selling a course on how to do it.

What could possibly go wrong?
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Mindpro
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There is typically not just a progression as Scott mentioned but also the experience and education that goes along with the level of progression and growth that serve a purpose that will be skipped if doing it in the way you described.

We once had a very young performer, I think maybe 23-24 years old who was seeking representation from our agency. His family was very wealthy and well-known in our state. Very nice people. The father had spent tens of thousands of dollars for some of the best promotional materials I've ever seen - a five camera studio and location shoot, promotional photos from Paul Natkin and Anne Leibowicz (of Rolling Stone fame), beautifully printed and gold embossed printing on deep burgundy gloss folder, a fantastic business card and the excellent promotional pages. Absolutely stunning for the time period in the early 1980's. He had testimonials from Chicago's Mayor Richard Daly, comedian Steve Allen and two U.S. Presidents (Carter & Ford). This thing couldn't help but get my attention. He also had two versions of his promo materials including an a completely separate AF set as well.

It came accompanied with a letter offering a willingness to pay a 30% booking commission which was far above the standard 15-20% at the time. They wanted to target only Fortune 200 companies. They had one of the best business plans and marketing strategies I'd ever seen at that time. It too skipped the normal progression.

We were both very excited. We met the kid and his father in our office. We were able to book the kid on five bookings in the first month. About six weeks later the first booking arrived from one of our very top clients. It was terrible. Embarrassing. He was a nice kid, carried himself well, but just simply didn't have the performing experience, no literal experience in any aspects of performing (staging, blocking, stagecraft, audience management, relatability, believability, no performer's persona which comes from regular and continuous performance experience, and just an unnatural and inexperienced aspect in almost every area of his performance and persona on and off stage.

He became one of the very first people I was ever asked to coach. I was paid handsomely. While the money was nice, the real reason I accepted the task was because I had him booked for four other of our best corporate clients over the next three months and I could see how this kid could cost me tens of thousands to maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business if he caused us to lose these top clients. While we were able to help him improve, I would by no means say he was ever a good performer. It just created a terrible situation with horrible ramification (stories for another day).

The bottom line is "paying your dues" is not a bad thing like many people want to think. There are MANY benefits that come from this, only one being experience - a place to fail, be bad, learn, grow, evolve, etc. To demand high fees has to be warranted and substantiated.

Can your idea be done? Probably. Is it a wise choice and a choice without consequence? No not at all. Performers have a hard enough time working the natural progression, your idea would become even harder. There are levels of expectation from an artist performing on the upper levels. These expectations usually come as a result of the progression, experience and evolvment.

I guess if you had a lot of money, hired a coach, mentor and great creative team, it could be done. You would learn the "hows" but you can't teach the "whys" - levels of experience that get one to that level. Very difficult indeed.
tacrowl
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Jay -
The quickest way to make the transition you are talking about is to:

A.) Have a huge budget to work with. You will need professional promotional materials, photos, web site, web copy, etc. The top grossing acts aren't making them on their home computers - they job this stuff out to pros. Likewise, marketing and advertising will cost you - as an unknown, it will take capital to gain traction in the market.

B.) Be mentored by someone who has actually achieved the results you want and has the track record to prove they have been in business for more than 15 years AT that level. (Which will remove the fly by night gurus.) Chances are this will cost you too - and it will be worth every penny if you find the right person with the right track record. Do your research before reaching out because you will get plenty of people who "want to help you" for a fee.

Having a honed act and some references is only one small part of the puzzle. High paying corporate dates don't hire your act. They hire someone who can provide a solution. You have to know going in that you can nail it or someone's job (not yours) is at stake. The upper end of the market is extremely service oriented, which most acts just don't understand. Reaching these planners and building the trust for them to request your services at the fees you desire is not a short term thing. Building relationships in the market is not a short term thing. High paying corporate dates don't just happen because you tell people you want a lot of money - you have to prove you are delivering at every phase of the relationship from introduction to follow-up.

Oh - and seeing Mindpro's post made me remember something Jay Johnson told me:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SkkHqD-Q0Q
Tom Crowl - Comedy Ventriloquist

ComedyVentriloquist.com

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Scott Burton
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Listen to the gentlemen above. That advice is worth $1000's.
charliecheckers
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I would think testimonials from anyone that they do not personally know would be virtually meaningless. Even at my level, most of my higher paying gigs come from those who have seen my show and then either directly hire me or know the person who hires and have them contact me.

With Mindpro's example, even with all the money and top notch promo material, it sounds like the performer needed the recommendation of someone like Mindpro, who the client trusted.
Mindpro
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Lunatik and Danny have had me laughing out loud. Hilarious!

Good to see we're all still here just waiting for the next BB mention. I'm beginning to think some have pre-written lines and responses just waiting for when it occurs.
Paddy
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Jay, yes I got carried away with the BB sideline but truthfully you are asking for "blue Sky" dreams. The ONLY way to "the big money" is to work your *** off making the "small money" until you break into the corporate markets. Every one of us working as full time entertainers will tell you it takes a lot of work to be successful. Even today I have yet to put in a "40 hour week." Try 60 to 80 hours a week. Writing new shows, practising, rehearsing, on the phone selling my show, on the road seeing prospective clients and performing, and PAPERWORK! Yep thanks to the U.S. Government we have to have documentation of our expenses and income.

But it is worth every minute of it.
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Dimitri Mystery Artist
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A shortcut is the longest way to get from point A to point B
Jay Jennings
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Okay, I feel kind of stupid because I wasn't at ALL specific in my initial post. "Big money" is a relative term and what's big money for one is chump change for another. My target goal is mid-4 figures. I also don't intend to work outside my state.

I also won't be attempting to "buy my way in" because I don't have that kind of money. And I'm not actually skipping any of the steps -- it's just that there was a 25 year gap between the last rung and the next rung -- I'm just trying to figure out if I can NOT slip back down to the bottom before starting to climb again.

I'm not starting from scratch -- beside making my living for at least 5 years performing, I spent 6 years in radio, a couple years leading a church worship band, and have been in multiple community theatre productions.

Thanks to tacrowl and Mindpro for the good info. And Scott Burton, maybe "accelerated career advancement" is a better way to look at what I'd like to do.

Jay
misterillusion
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Quote:
On 2013-09-28 09:43, Mindpro wrote:
There is typically not just a progression as Scott mentioned but also the experience and education that goes along with the level of progression and growth that serve a purpose that will be skipped if doing it in the way you described.

We once had a very young performer, I think maybe 23-24 years old who was seeking representation from our agency. His family was very wealthy and well-known in our state. Very nice people. The father had spent tens of thousands of dollars for some of the best promotional materials I've ever seen - a five camera studio and location shoot, promotional photos from Paul Natkin and Anne Leibowicz (of Rolling Stone fame), beautifully printed and gold embossed printing on deep burgundy gloss folder, a fantastic business card and the excellent promotional pages. Absolutely stunning for the time period in the early 1980's. He had testimonials from Chicago's Mayor Richard Daly, comedian Steve Allen and two U.S. Presidents (Carter & Ford). This thing couldn't help but get my attention. He also had two versions of his promo materials including an a completely separate AF set as well.

It came accompanied with a letter offering a willingness to pay a 30% booking commission which was far above the standard 15-20% at the time. They wanted to target only Fortune 200 companies. They had one of the best business plans and marketing strategies I'd ever seen at that time. It too skipped the normal progression.

We were both very excited. We met the kid and his father in our office. We were able to book the kid on five bookings in the first month. About six weeks later the first booking arrived from one of our very top clients. It was terrible. Embarrassing. He was a nice kid, carried himself well, but just simply didn't have the performing experience, no literal experience in any aspects of performing (staging, blocking, stagecraft, audience management, relatability, believability, no performer's persona which comes from regular and continuous performance experience, and just an unnatural and inexperienced aspect in almost every area of his performance and persona on and off stage.

He became one of the very first people I was ever asked to coach. I was paid handsomely. While the money was nice, the real reason I accepted the task was because I had him booked for four other of our best corporate clients over the next three months and I could see how this kid could cost me tens of thousands to maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business if he caused us to lose these top clients. While we were able to help him improve, I would by no means say he was ever a good performer. It just created a terrible situation with horrible ramification (stories for another day).

The bottom line is "paying your dues" is not a bad thing like many people want to think. There are MANY benefits that come from this, only one being experience - a place to fail, be bad, learn, grow, evolve, etc. To demand high fees has to be warranted and substantiated.

Can your idea be done? Probably. Is it a wise choice and a choice without consequence? No not at all. Performers have a hard enough time working the natural progression, your idea would become even harder. There are levels of expectation from an artist performing on the upper levels. These expectations usually come as a result of the progression, experience and evolvment.

I guess if you had a lot of money, hired a coach, mentor and great creative team, it could be done. You would learn the "hows" but you can't teach the "whys" - levels of experience that get one to that level. Very difficult indeed.


This is some of the best advice I have read on the Café in a long long time. I am finding out what the "rungs" are like first hand. As a full timer myself I am just now breaking into the levels I have wanted for some time. I do not believe I could have successfully used any kind of short cut to get to this point.

--Charlie
May every day be magic!

http://www.misterillusion.com
Dannydoyle
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5 years is not really that much experience.

You want to make money and stay at home and skip all the learning curve.

If there was such a formula don't you think everyone would be using it?
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Jay Jennings
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Quote:
On 2013-09-28 19:49, Dannydoyle wrote:
5 years is not really that much experience.

You want to make money and stay at home and skip all the learning curve.

If there was such a formula don't you think everyone would be using it?


Wasn't 5 years total, it was five years after moving out on my own where I was paying all my own bills. Started doing magic in grade 5 then getting paid for parties, schools, fairs, etc., in my mid teens. My point was I'm quite happy on stage, I can work an audience.

Forget how old you are now -- if you stopped performing for 25 years and then started up again, do you think the climb back to where you are now would take as long as it did initially?

Jay
Mindpro
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Quote:
On 2013-09-28 17:36, Jay Jennings wrote:
My target goal is mid-4 figures. I also don't inten

And I'm not actually skipping any of the steps -- it's just that there was a 25 year gap between the last rung and the next rung -- I'm just trying to figure out if I can NOT slip back down to the bottom before starting to climb again.

I'm not starting from scratch

Jay



While I see your perspective, I must say I disagree with most of your perceptions. 5 years is not all that much experience in the first place unless you were performing full-time a couple of shows a day, five or six days a week. I'm guessing you did not or you would have probably been more active all along.

Much as changed in 25 years. Almost every market has changed, they way entertainment business operates, the way entertainment is marketed and sold, the way customers and clients approach purchasing and shopping for entertainment and even the performances themselves and expectations in many markets has changed greatly. Many of us here have been doing this for over 25 years and can speak first hand of the differences.

I also think it unrealistic to even think you can simply just pickup where you left off 25 years ago. Then a mid-4 figures is a quite advanced level that requires far more understanding, market experience and level of performance than I'm sure you enjoyed 25 years ago. Even if not, this level of performing and business operation is much more advanced and evolved than ever before. Many of the things that impact this were not even created 25 years ago.

In many ways, you are starting from scratch. Performing at this level has extremely little to do with your performance material and has much do with all of the other aspects and components. It's also extremely impractical to think you are going to earn mid-4 figures as a national performer, let alone a local performer. Unless you are in LA and maybe New York, it would still be hard to do this in just your home state expecting to perform regularly.
magicofCurtis
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Midpro and Scott stated some very valid points.

Besides those comments.

Here is a plan of action:
I would suggest doing a few shows to freshen your act and skills up a bit.
Easy to get performance for chamber of commerce events and fund raisers (which could be a good current resume builder)

Utilize your old quotes from clients and older promo photos... BUT freshen it up as you go.
It is simple to get a current head shot, start creating new photo and news quotes from clients.

I would suggest playing on the fact- POOF You vanished for xx years from magic to star on xxx radio station and now magically appearing for corporate events.
Or, if your radio show was comical -- Play on that concept--- Talk show host for xxx now provides comedy magic...
Get the concept?

Be prepared to spend money on a nice website, printed material and start producing a quality DVD.

Go to some chamber mixers and find a business coach to start creating your material. So it will look high end.

HMMM.... Other magicians should do this as well! lol

Cheers
Jay Jennings
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MindPro, thanks for that info. Sure, my perceptions and ideas are probably unrealistic -- which is why I posted here. I figured I'd get some snark but also thought I'd get info from people with more current information than I have. I appreciate the way you schooled me. Smile

Curtis, thanks for the plan of action. I was thinking Chambers of Commerce might be a good stepping stone once I've shaken off the rust.

Jay
MickNZ
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What you're speaking about was popularised as, if I'm remembering correctly, the Leapfrog Theory in "Winning Through Intimidation" by real estate agent Robert Ringer, which was a classic business book some decades ago.

While it certainly does have applications business-wise for performing shows for a living, the stage-time and experience needed for the performance side of a magic business is much harder to "fake" than promo material is.

Do you have any video footage of your act? Assuming you do have an act of course Smile
Eldon
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I pretty much agree with what everyone is telling you. That being said, I have a close friend that did go directly to the top and started out doing four figure shows. It worked for him he is doing very well, so it is possible.
lunatik
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I would say that is NOT the norm and most should never get their hopes up.
"Don't let your Dreams become Fantasies"
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