(Close Window)
Topic: The Biz of Bizarre
Message: Posted by: Prof. Pabodie (Apr 9, 2007 06:46PM)
Unless I've missed some posts on this subject, I have never encountered a discussion here about the business side of bizarre magick. I am referring to marketing. What are your thoughts or experiences in marketing a bizarre show or act? I have read what information I could collect from people such as Docc Hilford, Jim Magus, Mark Edward and, of course, Eugene Burger. Does anyone have any suggestions, advice, stories to pass along concerning the business side of bizarre?
Message: Posted by: Marqus (Apr 10, 2007 09:33AM)
I think I tried starting a thread on this a few years ago & got nowhere.

Some posts may surface relating WHERE the performer has his/her gigs or WHAT he/her does at the gig but I haven't really seen anything about the MARKETING PROCESS (who to target, how to promote, etc.)

I also think that bizarre-type shows/gigs are area-sensitive.

The closest I came to figuring some kind of marketing program was this:
When I did a kid's birthday party (ages 4-7), I would ask any parents if they had any girls aged 10-13. If 'yes', I would give the parent one of my "Haunted Sleepover" brochures.

I only got about 4-5 of these sleepovers, though. This day & age I believe girls are more into music or DVD-movie type parties.

Just my 2 cents.
Message: Posted by: spidey_ak (Apr 10, 2007 10:14AM)
I don't have any specific advice for advertising a bizarre show, but I do have some thoughts based upon other marketing experience.

I think that, a la Edwards Bernays, you could sell anything to anybody given the right techniques. It doesn't create a marketing genius, but it does take some study outside of the genre, so to speak.

I am planning on creating a play bill that emphasises a night of theater where the unexpected is brought to life, visions will become reality, etc. My current thoughts are that I will avoid billing my performance as a "magic" show; however, this may change. And yet, if it does, the focus on the magic portion will still be secondary to the one-person play aspect.

That is what I am thinking for small stage sets, or, at least, that is how I am approaching my performance.

As always, I am open to suggestions, critiques, unadulterated adulation & more!

EDIT: Thought I would add some thoughts, maybe get some discussion going...

Define your show. Sit down and articulate, with the help of one or two other people, what is in the show and find its strengths. I would then write bullet statements of those strengths. Then, re-write them; continue that process until you have great one-liner propoganda pieces for that performance.

Define your audience. I would do this with a cautionary word: do not limit your results by following your expectations; however, there is a real return-on-investment to which you must, as a business person, pay attention. I would set my priorities according to target audience, and then account for outlying customers. My initial thought would be to invest 75% of my finances towards my target audience, and the rest towards others. 75/25 is just a (very) rought guesstimate...

Choose your marketing strategy. Unless we are very big names, i.e. Criss Angel, David Blaine, etc., our names won't sell themselves... also, unless you live in a small town, as I do! How will you reach your target audience? Airtime, T.V. commercial, local paper, play billets... there are many possibilities, and all of them come with a price.

Hopefully, this helped. I've had some experience in marketing for restaurants & a little experience in marketing for plays, I'd be glad to share what little knowledge I have.
Message: Posted by: Harlequin (Apr 10, 2007 08:25PM)
I believe that being a subgenre of magic, it is more difficult to market the bizarre side of the art, as you need to target a subset of the magic viewing audience. Someone who normally likes 'magic', may find bizarre magick to be too dark or perhaps disturbing (depending on the material and performer of course). After reading Chelman and his ideas about bringing more theatre elements into bizarre magic, I think that perhaps looking into the ways theatre is marketed would be a useful exercise as well.

I'd also say that many performers guard their own marketing strategies as jealously as their tricks, for fear of others stealing their clients.
Message: Posted by: magic113 (Apr 11, 2007 12:50AM)
First of all Great Topic!

I first started doing bizarre magik in the late 80's and through the 90's. Most of the shows I did were at Halloween and that's really the only time I pursue it now. I just really had a tough time trying to find a steady market for it.

This thread has given me a cool idea you might want to try though.

I would put together a really good flier about your program and then watch the paper for psychic fair/events in your area. Then I would go to the event and hand out the fliers. Better yet, if you have the ability to do a good cold reading I would actually rent table space, do cold readings or palm reading then tell them about your program and give them a flier. I would also get their contact info. so I could mail to them periodically.

Hopefully this helps a little. Let me know if you try this out. Would love to know your results. I'll have to watch the paper as well and try it myself!

Ted Peterson
Message: Posted by: Gede Nibo (Apr 11, 2007 01:14AM)
I lecture on SELF KNOWLEDGE and SELF AWARNESS in high schools, juvie halls, and group homes--this allows me to introduce the aspects of VODOU, and thus, bizarre style magic. It also allows me to deal with hypnosis demos and I often relate it to these so called bad kids and how they in fact have been hypnotized by tom dick and harry to carry out bad acts and wrong doings. Thus, by showing them that I can control (or seemingly so) their mind, I show them that they too are under the control of the environment and wrong crowds...

I leave the super duper bizarre stuff for intimate crowds, and personal people, and design my show around a fair share of mentalism and hypnosis. I have been known to bust out the Voodoo doll and Dark Museum, however on many occasions...

Message: Posted by: Sean Lough (Apr 11, 2007 07:44PM)
Making money as a performer in general is a daunting task.

I did table-hopping bizarre magick for the Jekyll & Hyde restaurants for many, many, many years. Private parties and the late-night (2AM) crowd got the blood.

The environment at the J&H lent itself to the dark and mysterious, but finding a venue like that was great as patrons entered expecting to get chills.
Message: Posted by: Sean Lough (Apr 11, 2007 10:06PM)
Reread my post and realized that wasn't the most helpful of info -- my experience is location-based and had a thematic tie-in. "Upselling the bizarre" was like shooting fish in a place where the fish are easy to shoot.

I would highly recommend taking a look at Todd Robbins' and Neil Tobin's personal/promotional sites. Both are highly-skilled in the promotional arts (in ADDITION to the performing ones).

Likewise, the marketing articles and message board of hauntedattraction.com is very helpful. One author in particular I highly recommend, though modesty forbids...
Message: Posted by: handa (Apr 12, 2007 09:40AM)
Ted and Baba,

Are you answering the question as to venues and methods by which you promote yourselves as bizarre performers, or how you perform as bizarrists?

I think that you have provided answers to the first part, but by all definitions that I know and despite the similarity of the toolboxes, doing readings and motivational speaking are not bizarre magic. Is this something that you consider to be a marketing tool for your other interests, what you are calling bizarre magick, or merely a way to get by in between those spooky bookings that you really want to do? It could be one, none, a combination, or all three depending upon your experience as a performer and framing of the event/booking.

Message: Posted by: gsidhe (Apr 12, 2007 10:14AM)
Personally, I find it much easier to find venues for my Sideshow stuff and Shock shows than the bizarre. The sideshow acts I can promote easily to Ren Faires, Comedy clubs, corperate gatherings, regular clubs. The shock shows get eaten up at music fests, metal, goth, fetish and punk venues.
The Bizarre? Because it is effective in more personal settings, ones where you have more control over the environment, the choices are much more limited. I can do some decent bizarre on stage, but it loses the personal touch that makes it so different.
So...I am currently trying to create a list of the venues that might be a little more appropriate.
Here is the list I am currently trying to promote the bizarre shows to-
Bed and Breakfasts- These types of establishments frequently host murder mysteries and other themed weekends. Their clientele is relatively well off, and likes things theatrical in nature. Just set up in one of the guest rooms, the parlor, the basement, the attic, and you have an environment completely under your control. They pay to have you haunt their house, then book in guests around it.

Old Historical Hotels- Usually privately owned. Same as above.

Trains- We are fortunate enough to have a local Steam Engine train ride. The ride on the train is about 2 hours. Already they have shows on the train (Western style holdup) and are booking my Murder Mystery troupe to do shows on weekends. Multiple shows per day with a unique ambiance. Imagine an old steam engine chugging through the dark, the smell of the wood burning, the movement of the car... I'm getting giddy just thinking about it.

Paddlewheel Steam Boats- Yes...We have one of those too. It does 3 hour river dinner cruises. If you don't have one of these nearby, but have a decent body of water, there are all sorts of boat cruises that might be interested.
The paddlewheel is the coolest though.

Historical Parks/Museums/Lighthouses- In Michigan, we have Greenfield Village, an 1800's era town. They are always looking for events to draw in people. There are lots of these parks and historical districts looking for a hook that would bring in new people.
So...This is my list as it stands so far.
Any other creative adds?
Message: Posted by: Gede Nibo (Apr 12, 2007 11:37AM)
On 2007-04-12 10:40, handa wrote:
Ted and Baba,

Are you answering the question as to venues and methods by which you promote yourselves as bizarre performers, or how you perform as bizarrists?

I think that you have provided answers to the first part, but by all definitions that I know and despite the similarity of the toolboxes, doing readings and motivational speaking are not bizarre magic. Is this something that you consider to be a marketing tool for your other interests, what you are calling bizarre magick, or merely a way to get by in between those spooky bookings that you really want to do? It could be one, none, a combination, or all three depending upon your experience as a performer and framing of the event/booking.




Message: Posted by: StrangeMagick (Apr 12, 2007 12:07PM)
I'm lucky that I live the City just next to Salem, MA and usually perform a Bizarre a few weeks in October (mainly weekends, but LOTS of 30-45 minute shows for the paying public). We don't have to do much in the way of marketing, except for having a barker or two outside the gig, as Salem is chock full of people looking for stuff to do at Halloween time. This can be VERY lucrative (unless the building inpector shuts you down ... but that's another story). We've even had a successful run of a theatrical seance, but then again we only had to put up signs in the shops in Salem.

I say to perform a Bizarre Show, find a place with an interesting story ... haunted house, site of UFO abductions, etc. and tap into that local history. Maybe even approach the owner of this location and pitch a show. Then try to get a spot on local readio, and send out press releases. You CAN make money at performing Bizarre Magick, but sometimes have to be creative as to your market and venue. Can you be a full-time Bizarrist ... yes, but you have to research your market and venue. It ain't gonna be easy. I have a full-time day job as a software engineer, so I don't perfrom full-time. If I wanted to do it as a living, could I ... I think so, but it'd be tough. I'd have to really keep marketing myself and know my market.

Also, talent doesn't equal success. Look at how many excellent musicians, artists and migicians are out there who are really trying, but struggling to make enda meet. Look at all the bad magicians who are making money.

Most of my other Bizarre Magick done during the year is limited, except for my Wizard act (which I do consider Bizarre Magic).

Hope this helps a bit.

Dave Birtwell
Message: Posted by: handa (Apr 12, 2007 12:32PM)
I'll stop trying to define bizarre magic (I didn't know that was what I was doing, but whatever) and provide my answer as to how I market myself as a bizarre performer:



I tie myself to events and venues that allow me to promote myself as a bizarre magician. My goal is to get people to think: "Hey creepy magic stuff that is not kid's birthday party magic. I should book him instead of that guy who pasted cardboard skeletons on his prop table when I want something a bit weird and different."

So far, it has worked with the agencies that book me. When they need something a bit offbeat, I get the first phone call. The nice thing is that it has taken me or gotten me an invitation to some interesting locations over the past few years.
Recently, it also kept me very busy in non-kid venues during what is normally a very dead time for entertainers in our area.

Message: Posted by: Gede Nibo (Apr 12, 2007 12:34PM)
ALL I KNOW IS when I'm walking down the street, some kid will pull away from him madda and say "Hey theres that crazy guy who did magick for us, look!"

Message: Posted by: Clifford the Red (Apr 12, 2007 11:06PM)
On 2007-04-12 13:32, handa wrote:
My goal is to get people to think: "Hey creepy magic stuff that is not kid's birthday party magic.

I know what ya mean. I try to say, "it's adult magic" but then that has the wrong connotation! I mean it's like NC-17....without the sex. But that sounds disappointing too!

So I describe it more as theater...and theater will make you laugh, weep with joy and chill you to the very bone.
Message: Posted by: gaddy (Apr 13, 2007 01:02AM)
I think you really need to work outside the box to make Bizarre into a "biz". I look at such performers at Neil Tobin (Supernatural Chicago) and Jim Fasbunder (San Francisco Ghost Hunt) and see magicians who have found a new niche in the world of magic and exploited it well!

Both of these guys have looked at a situation and essentially pointed their ships in a direction perpendicularly to the huge majority of other performers out there. They carved their place out from the bare rock.

Would that we can do the same...
Message: Posted by: spidey_ak (Apr 13, 2007 10:37AM)

I completely agree. Lately, all across the globe, there has been a surge of interest in the occult & the bizarre. Which is great for me, because, like Baba, I am bizarre!

I know that I'm personally planning on marketing my routine for around Halloween. One, it will give me plenty of time to prepare & secondly, I know it will be a welcome break from the normal festivities in the village.
Message: Posted by: ptbeast (Apr 13, 2007 01:06PM)
There is some really good advice above, I will add just a few more comments.

Treat your art as a business. Form a business entity. Have business cards, a separate phone line, bank account, etc. Keep good records.

Determine your target audience. When I was doing a bizarre stage show a few years ago, Rick Maue told me that I had targeted the wrong audience. I was playing to the same people who go to haunted houses, he said I should be after the theatre crowd. And he was right! Figure out who you want to target and focus your marketing there.

Determine your strategy. Gwyd listed some great venue ideas above. How do you want to make money? Be hired by the venue? Rent the venue and sell tickets yourself? The strategy you choose will guide many of your other decisions.

Don't price yourself too low! Too often we don't put enough value on what we do. Especially if it is your goal to make a living at bizarre magic, you must get a reasonable return on your efforts.

I know some of this may seem rather obvious, but my day job is as a business attorney, and I see people in many fields who don't think through these kinds of issues before they get started. Hope my ramblings are found useful by someone.

Message: Posted by: handa (Apr 14, 2007 10:49AM)
Listen to Dave...he's sold out multiple bizarre shows on single nights.

Message: Posted by: egregor (Apr 15, 2007 02:47AM)
I guess you guys are going to suggest that we pay taxes too, How bizarre.
Message: Posted by: Gede Nibo (Apr 15, 2007 03:11AM)

that's right--darned squares--WE'RE the only SQUARES here, heh Frater? :.

Message: Posted by: Black Hart (Apr 16, 2007 05:14AM)
My prime advice:

Concentrating on finding audiences - venues are easy to get.

Keith Hart
Message: Posted by: magic113 (Apr 17, 2007 09:18PM)
Hi Chris...Sorry it took a while to get back here...I was busy all this past weekend with programs...I thought my original post was self explaintory...I'm a magician...I've done magic, mentalism and at one point bizarre magic...I was simply pointing out that psychic fairs might be a good place to promote you bizarre magic program...As I said, I think it would be a good idea...I'm planning to try it soon as a way of promoting my Halloween program and possibly a bizarre program...That's all...I wasn't talking about venues or how I promote myself...

Hope that clears things up...

Message: Posted by: handa (Apr 18, 2007 10:09AM)
Thanks, Ted. Yes that does.

Message: Posted by: spidey_ak (Apr 18, 2007 04:03PM)
Nobody has mentioned one aspect of the business & that's writing material, creating props, etc.

One thing I've noticed on this side of magic is the ability of the bizarrist to create their own demand. For example, Stephen Minch could probably have made quite a killing, at first, for 'Lovecraftian Ceremonies' but chose to release it as a limited edition; this drives up interest for his other works, which may or may not be of the same caliber. I've noticed several other writers & prop creators release their art as a limited edition (as is their right).

Supplying the bizarre magician is also part of this business, and I would love to hear from a few of those people who visit the forums and who have successfully supplied us with such awesome material.