The current trend in magic is to call yourself or strive for being called a ‘magic consultant’. People who make a living creating tricks for, or advising other magicians.
Truthfully there are only so many performers to consult for, but MANY claiming to have ‘consulted’. Like seagulls on cold chips, some are fed and others are just making noise.
The lie then is that most are not paid consultants, even though you assume they must be.
Naming no names, some have been caught out in their deceit. Selling their lectures as “consultant for Dynamo and Criss Angel” – neither hired them as such.
Jet-setting here and skype session there. The online image draws in admirers who seek to replicate those rewards for themselves. Impressionable young magi tell their parents it’s a guaranteed career path.
Dream jobs are real jobs, but there’s an inverted pyramid of interests in magic that ensure you are MASSIVELY unlikely to achieve it. Believe me.
The majority express their interests in being a creator. The minority express their interests in being popular performers. There isn’t room for everyone.
“Geraint that’s a lie, more people perform in magic than create” I hear you cry.
Correct, but Wedding/Event Magicians don’t require consultants for their acts. They’re responsible for their own output and rarely hire help.
The disparity is between the number of people who want to be the kind of performer that would require a consultant, and the number of people who want to be a consultant.
I constantly receive messages on social media from ambitious young magicians who ask for tips on creating, as they want to be a creator when they grow up.
This over-abundance creates a ‘race to the bottom’. Let me explain…
Put simply, in business you’re either:
- The First
- The Best
- The Cheapest
When you’re the first you have a monopoly on the industry. Some of Blaine’s first consultants have gone on to be VERY successful. (As they should be, they’re extremely talented) They paved the way for the industry as we know it today.
When you’re the best, your reputation speaks for itself and you’re called upon by a number of artists for your expertise. Calen Morelli for example has consulted for a number of top performers. His reputation speaks for itself.
When someone decides to be the cheapest, it immediately opens the door for someone to be cheaper. Then someone who’s slightly cheaper. Then someone who is FREE.
You can’t get cheaper than FREE, and now only ‘the first’ and ‘best’ are the ones likely to make a good living.
FREE labour is attractive. One TV Magician once called me to help him with a campaign that a marketing agency had screwed up.
The budget = nothing. So he got paid, the agency that made the mistake got paid, the brand selling the product got paid but somehow my time was expected for free.
I said no, but others don’t.
In fact I’ve witnessed many people in this industry have dinner with a popular magician and sell the idea that they consulted for that person to other companies.
Usually I’d be proud of such devious actions in an industry based on lies, but I can’t help but think that newcomers and determined youngsters need to know the truth.
CREATOR vs TESCO
So forget consulting, you’re going to make yourself rich by selling magic to the masses? WRONG.
Some will, but most will be disappointed with their return.
On average a great selling trick will sell about 5,000 units. I know because i’ve published on Theory11, Penguin Magic, Murphy’s & Ellusionist personally, and have friends with similar experiences at the top & bottom of the charts.
Most companies buying power starts at 500 units. So as an independent magic creator, that’s your baseline. (Ellusionist is more, but I could be seen as biased to use their figures, so I won’t)
Suppose you’re selling it for $20 RRP. The price the consumer pays.
Let’s average out your royalties on this at 50% (Some companies offer less, some offer more). That’s $5,000 on average for you.
If you’re creative you’ll have one big trick per year. Anything more than 3 and you’re joining the Jay Sankey leagues of putting out any old shit these days. He’s gained a reputation in the industry for that.
Personally I choose to be considered and only release material infrequently. It’s about once per year or less.
In the Queen’s Great British Pounds that’s £3,853 or £321 per month. Take out Tax and that’s now £256.
Comparatively if you had a full time job you’d have to work 35 hours (less than a week) at UK minimum wage to earn that.
WOW! 1 published trick or a week in Tesco on the checkouts? I know which one I’d choose.
Because that’s a favourable scenario. I’ve seen ‘famous’ magicians sell as little as 27 units total. A far cry from 5,000. They’ve pocketed $135 which barely covers rent anywhere in the western world.
My Murphy’s royalties are about $0.96. Enough for a 3 sips of water in a swanky New York corner store.
I’ve earned way more from other effects, but it’s worth being honest and showing you the harsh reality that some aren’t winners.
Screenshot above taken from Paypal email dated 8th March 2017.
With the top 50 new releases per week on some magic sites, it’s a crowded pool and unfortunately most don’t break the mould.
It’s hard for some good material to break through the noise and hard work gets lost.
You need to stand out to be a best-seller. To be someone people invest in. You need a company’s marketing strategy to be behind you, and to invest a lot of time developing your brand too.
THE SOLUTION FOR CREATORS / CONSULTANTS
So how do you do it? How do you become a successful creator or consultant?
The simple answer. Diversify.
With a full time job I was winning twice publishing early tricks to the industry. I had regular royalties and a regular pay cheque. My original magic was used to supplement my income.
Rory Adams & Lloyd Barnes filmed my content on weekends and I’d give them a split of my earnings. Throughout the week I had an office job. Some evenings and weekends I’d be performing.
The creators winning in this industry are the people who diversify. They do a lecture, publish a download, perform throughout the week at residencies and get called once per year for consulting jobs.
Jack of all trades used to be a dirty term, for someone who lacked expertise in one area. Now it’s a compliment, for someone who can adapt themselves to the changing tides and constantly be relevant. That’s why I started branding myself as a freelance polymath.
I do Marketing/Strategic consulting for Ellusionist.com & MagicStream.com now, but I also blog for myself, sell apparel on my store, consult for others and do voiceover work for corporations.
Like investing in the stock market, diversification is key.
Hell, I even built two websites for my uncles’ firms last year.
I’m not looking to squash your dreams. I’m looking to turn them into a certainty by shining a light on the darkest parts of our industry and allowing you to create a realistic action plan.
My advice would be to supplement your income with publishing magic and enjoy financial freedom, instead of relying on paypal funds to come in each month for rent. Be a jack of all trades.
Outliers exist in any field. Some push the envelope and seem to succeed despite the odds, but that chosen few doesn’t represent the majority of amazingly creative people I’ve been lucky to meet in Magic.
Sustainable success for the masses in this industry isn’t found by being a consultant who’s required twice per year, or a creator who has one good release per year.
Don’t be sold a dream from someone’s Instagram feed. The reality is far more mundane and your career depends on more than luck.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this blog are solely mine and do not reflect the opinions of any company I professionally represent.