The World Famous Bullet Catch... IN MY OWN FOOT!
Let me recall a recent conversation with a magician friend of mine:
“Why do you keep promoting other magicians?”
And then, as we magicians have a very short attention span on certain subjects*, my friend changed what he was talking about to something else before I had an answer. Still, since then I’ve been thinking about it a bit and, having managed to get over the shock that another magician actually reads stuff I write, I thought it would make a pretty good blog.
Firstly, what did he mean by ‘promote’? He was talking about this very blog and my tweets, both of which will regularly highlight other magicians. Not just highlight, but actually speak well of and encourage other people to go and give money to them. I think that this comes from the inherent idea of competition. Though friends with other magicians, he would see them as ‘competitors’ for peoples business. As that is the case, why on earth would I want to promote my competition? A very, very good point, but one I have some fundamental issues with.
Love of Magic
If you are a working magician, I imagine that it’s because you love magic. This is a hard business to become successful in and there are way easier ways to make money. So clearly you are either in this for the love of the craft, or you’re a masochistic weirdo. One of the ways my love of magic manafests is in my eagerness to share what I enjoy with other people. If I hear of a good show I would want to go to, I instinctively want to tell others about it too. I get excited about what other magicians are doing, and I want others to be just as excited. Why wouldn’t I want to share this thing I love? Bluntly, there are some amazing magicians out there, and I think people should enjoy their work.
Very often I’m friends with the magicians I’m talking about. As hard as it may be to believe reading my bubbly, beautifully crafted blog entries, I find it difficult to get along with people. So with the friendships I do have I try to do the right thing. As I want my friends to be successful and I’m happy when they do well, it’s natural for me to push them where I can.
Competition is Good
Good magic inspires better magic which creates great magic. A lovely thing happened to me a few weeks back where someone came up to saying how seeing me had really gotten them into live magic. They had gone to a show but felt that it wasn’t any good. It turns out that they had become used to the kind of magic shows I present (I attribute this solely to the calibre of my guests) and had felt let down by what they had seen elsewhere. This helps good magic grow through word of mouth and other magicians will have to improve to keep up.
Other Magicians Aren’t my Competition
I know that this seems weird and in total contrast to my previous point, but I think it’s correct. Though it applies more for shows than hiring a close up magician for an event, I really do think it’s a fundamental truth. The reason I have to work hard to get people to come to a show I’m putting on isn’t because they are too busy going to *another* magic show. It’s because they are too busy not going out to enjoy live entertainment. My competition isn’t my friend who also does magic, it’s Netflix and Facebook, it’s Strictly and X-Factor. If it’s a close up gig, again my competition isn’t really other magicians, it’s that people think nothing of spending money on a glass of bucks fizz and a few bottles of bad wine, but don’t understand the value of a professional magician at their event. By promoting other magicians and their shows, I’m promoting live entertainment. I’ve already said that I love live entertainment - live magic especially - but it’s not who we are any more. Let me explain…
When television started it was pretty much a live medium. Most of the kind of shows you watched were what you would go and see live at a music hall or theatre. Even tv shows that weren’t variety were shot in a way that mimicked what you would see on a stage. But the medium grew into itself, people experimented and, as they did, the type of program available changed. But variety was still popular on television, and continued to be really until the mid-90s when the last bastion I remember – The Paul Daniels Magic Show, by then re-branded Paul Daniels Secret’s – was finally taken off air. The resurgence we’ve seen now in show’s like Britain’s Got Talent arguably focus a lot less on what the act does on stage than they do on the back story that act brings. The reason is simple and obvious: television can be used to show variety entertainment, but it does other things much better.
Why would I want to watch a juggler on stage when I can enjoy a story line I’ve been following for 6 months? What’s the point of watching a singer when I can just download the album? And why would I ever want to watch magic when special effects can transport me somewhere else? These things only become great when viewed live. Magic inspires the strongest reactions when it happens in the same room as the viewer. This is why I’m more than happy to help my friends promote their work, work that I love. Because in the end, it’s just better for everyone.
*Anything not about magic or themselves