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Topic: “A” show or “B” show for repeat bookings
Message: Posted by: Ken Northridge (Sep 13, 2011 06:10PM)
When you get repeat bookings do you think it’s wiser, from a business standpoint, to do your “A” show which is much more polished but is exactly the same, or do your “B” show which you know is not as strong but is almost completely different?

And before anyone gets on their ‘it’s not the tricks, it’s the performer’ high horse, even David Copperfield must have material that he considers sub par.

I ask myself, ‘what will give me the best chance of being booked for a third year and a forth, etc.?’ I usually conclude its best to do half and half. That way I can do all of my best routines and still make the show seem different.

How do you handle this dilemma?
Message: Posted by: Donald Dunphy (Sep 13, 2011 06:33PM)
After the mention on the other thread, I just "have to" post these links:

[url=http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=116816&forum=17]--> Magic Café thread titled... Repeated shows...[/url]

[url=http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=372855&forum=17]--> Magic Café thread titled... How many different shows do you have?[/url]

Now, carry on as normal. :)

- Donald

P.S. Jim Snack covers this topic in his Success-in-Magic Course, I think. For those who have it. I think his approach was that half of show A goes into show B, for repeat customers.
Message: Posted by: BIGmagiclV (Sep 13, 2011 06:58PM)
With kids, they have seen the same cartoon or animated movie several times to the point of memorization. They enjoy the familiarity of it. So, in their eyes they wouldn't mind the exact same show. From a performer's standpoint, it's hard for us to know we are doing tricks that have been seen by the same audience. I try to strike a balance. Some new stuff mixed in with my polished show. I've even been known to ask the kids what they want. I would ask them what tricks they liked last time and if they want to make any requests. You would be amazed how many kids ask for their favorite trick.
Message: Posted by: TonyB2009 (Sep 13, 2011 07:12PM)
I repeat two of the routines, because the kids love those routines. I also include some routines that they did not see last time. So my answer is a mix of A and B.
I am normally asked to do an hour long show, and I have two hours of material I am happy with. So there is generally not a problem. I have a further hour of sub-par material, which I rarely bring out. It is only for occasions when I might do three nights at a summer camp for the same crowd. I tend to mix in the sub-par material with the good material from the two hours, and split it into three shows of equal strength, rather than leaving the weak material for the third night.
I would never do the very same show for the same crowd, unless a good deal of time had passed between shows.
Message: Posted by: iwillfoolu (Sep 13, 2011 07:50PM)
Your B material will never get to be A material unless you work it.

Message: Posted by: Sam Sandler (Sep 13, 2011 08:29PM)
I have one show that's it.

Now do I add to it or update or move things into it and move things out of it-- sure.
I pulled hippity hop rabbits from my kids show to do fraidy cat rabbit.

as as some one just before me mentioned your B material will never get to be A material unless you use it.

truth be told I spend several months if not longer working on a routine before introduce it and then I just introduce it here and there to work out the bugs. once I feel good I put it in but knowing that after 30 or so shows I will still be making adjustmnets

now I do have about 5 things in my show that I have been performing for well 3 of them for about 10 y ears and the other 2 for over 17 years and will keep perfoming them.

some one mentioned Copperfield having sub par magic and well I don't see that,

did you know that when he was touring right after the show that night they would pack down and then set up all the new stuff and work all night practicing the new show for the next tour. then sleep as they travel to the next city or where ever. he did this during the whole tour that way when he was finished the one tour he was already performing the new stuff perfectly and well rehersed.

but to answer your question Ken simply put. no I do not have 2 shows. for repeat customers (depending who it is)
such as daycares- kids change sure some are the same but some move away some now are in 1st grade etc etc. for schools same thing. now companies or churches where they have used you last year and want you back. yes you need to have a few new pieces in the show.

one of the things I do to make sure my B material is already A material is this

at least 3-5 shows a month I do my entire show but add the one new trick (bonus) is what I tell the client if I say anything at all. and right after the show I ask the parents and the kids what they though. yes mostly bringing it out at B-day parties. not afraid to screw up there or have a flat trick.

any way practice your magic often and have fun

Message: Posted by: wizardpa (Sep 13, 2011 08:41PM)
I would do about a 50/50 mixture. To make it easy to understand, think about your favorite musical performer.
What made him popular to you, was the hit songs that you really like. The next time you see him, even though he does songs you never heard before and you like a few of them, he does not do any of his older hits. You'd be disappointed.
Message: Posted by: RJE2 (Sep 13, 2011 09:29PM)
Don't do sub par.

Instead of working on one act with "A" material over and over for years, work on "A" material to fill all the acts you need. Once you can get each routine to where you want it, then putting together new shows will only have one real problem, what great routine do you have to leave out?
Message: Posted by: Gerry Walkowski (Sep 14, 2011 04:52AM)
Hi Ken,

I knew a performer who never changed his act and people loved him because of that. However, he worked mainly for adults.

However, working for children can, at times, be a different animal. Let me explain.

I agree 100% that children love repetition and will watch the same cartoon over and over again. When I work birthday parties I have my # 1 show. It's rare for me to change that show because it has all the bells and whistles. Over the years, though, I have found some other very good effects that I have used for repeat performances.

If somehow I know beforehand that people attending the show have seen my act before,I'll change about 3 effects. This way my show has all my signature routines, plus a few new additions just to make things interesting.

When it comes to Christmas shows, however, I have some clients I've been working for almost 20 years. They love my signature routines (most of which are non-magic related). That said, I still feel I need to include about 3-5 new effects (or material from show #2) just to insure that I don't hear stuff like, "I've seen that before." The adults watch your show, too, so in my opinion you want your show to seem fresh to them as well as they're the ones who will rehire you.

I'm actually working on creating a 3rd show that will only consist of about 3-5 tricks that I can insert into my standard act. Again, this is really meant for those groups that hire me year after year.

Somewhere I read whereby it's good to have parallel effects. Are you familiar with this? If you have a spot in your show in which you perform a certain effect, you would just insert the same type of trick for your replacement shows. So if you had a spot in your program where you performed Hippty Hop Rabbits, perhaps next year you would perform Fraidy Cat Rabbit instead. Likewise, if you have a volunteer effect using a silk trick like 20th Cent. silks, perhaps next year you would insert sympathetic silks. So the show seems somewhat familiar, yet different.

Hope this helps.

Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Sep 14, 2011 01:56PM)
I have about 2 hours of my best material that I can use to perform several different shows.
Message: Posted by: RJE2 (Sep 15, 2011 04:46PM)
On 2011-09-14 14:56, Al Angello wrote:
I have about 2 hours of my best material that I can use to perform several different shows.

And that's the way the working magician should do it Al. It makes it a lot easier to adapt a show to a given audience as well as allowing you to do repeat shows with quality material.
Message: Posted by: kazam65 (Sep 16, 2011 08:21AM)
I think back to the way I felt after seeing Harry Blackstone Jr. or David Copperfield on multiple occasions. If Harry hadn't have done his Vanishing Birdcage, Floating Light Bulb, Dancing Handkerchief, Buzz Saw etc.... I would have been disappointed and loved seeing them again the second or even third time.

On the other hand, David Copperfield used to change his show quite a bit, and I remember the disappointment of bringing friends to see him the following year when he didn't do his Flying Illusion or Magical Snowstorm.

I think that in most cases repeat customers WANT to see at least a good portion of what you've done before, because THAT'S what they've bragged about to their friends! (kids and adults alike)
Message: Posted by: RJE2 (Sep 16, 2011 10:55AM)
Hey kazam, If I was a Copperfield or a Blackstone then I might keep a number of things in the act too. If I was known for a certain act and hired to do that act, then I would also repeat the act requested.

But most of us are not in that type of working relationship with our audiences. When company A hires us to perform at their company children's Christmas party, they MOST OFTEN ask if we can give them some new tricks for next year. Most often, we get repeat work out of a client by offering to give them more new material.

Most of us who work for years have had the experience at one time or another of trying to do a show that an audience has seen before. It usually isn't all that pleasant.

From an audience management point of view, when you repeat shows, you are often likely to get more disinterested adults who then break into small discussion groups to children screaming "I've seen this one before," or, "I know this one." All of which can be disruptive to your show.

On a similar note, if you were in a show with a line up of 3 magicians you would most likely try to avoid doing a trick or routine that someone had done just before you regardless of how well it went over with the audience. Listen to the pre show conversations back stage..."Anybody doing a cut and restored rope?...Ooh, you've got a Disecto. I end my act on the Disecto. Can you substitute something else for it just for tonight?...etc....

I would suggest that for repeat clients you give them the choice when booking, do they want the same show? A show with some of the same effects and if so, which ones, or a totally new show?

My experience has been offering a totally new show each year has given us some very loyal clients and regular bookings.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Sep 19, 2011 02:32AM)
I just did a birthday today where the birthday girl and her brother had seen me 3 months ago. I did some new stuff, but both kids yelled out the ending of the tricks that they had seen. I should have had a talk with them before the show I suppose. Doing repeat stuff can go well or go awkwardly. it's hard to predict (usually it's fine, but upsetting like today). I'm trying to have lots of new material so I don't get known as a guy who always does the same act, and also I'm always looking to improve.
Message: Posted by: anwpro (Sep 22, 2011 06:32AM)
Hi all. I haven't been going long (about two years now) but have had quite a few re-bookings, or more to the point, guests at one show wanting me for their birthday, and therefore it is usually the same kids. When this happens I do variations on the tricks they saw last time. Instead of sugar to lollies glass, I do this trick (can't remember what it is called) where I break an egg (insides removed) into a metal tube, and put it on a kids head with a card that says 'Do Not Remove' Of course I remove the card and the kid thinks he has egg on his head - we all do a magic spell to turn the egg into something else and I remove the tube to reveal the glass of lollies. Same with Robbie Raccoon, I do a different routine, still incorporating many of the same moves that they enjoyed last time. In general I play around with the routine fairly often, so I write down in my diary the tricks that I did that day so I can vary them on the chance of a rebooking.


Message: Posted by: anwpro (Sep 22, 2011 06:55AM)
Responding to the guy above me WAVES Kids like calling things out and feeling smart because they know or think they know, what is coming next. Sometimes when I am using the Magic Change bag you get a kid call out that a big colourful streamer is going to come out of the bag (they might have seen another magician recently), but that doesn't spoil the enjoyment for any of the other kids, and as I said before, they feel clever in being correct.
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Sep 22, 2011 08:25AM)
Hey Ken
When you do your "B" material do they get a discount?
Message: Posted by: Regan (Sep 22, 2011 08:47AM)
I have been doing some repeat shows for many years. I have enough routines that I consider to be "A" material to do several different shows. For instance, I have different openers, closers, sucker-type tricks, tricks with volunteers, etc. that are all tried, tested, and good. Sometimes I mix and match, and sometimes I do entirely new shows, depending upon circumstances.

Of course I have my routine preferences, but to the audience they are all good. The audience will pick favorites too, but most of the time one audience member will tell me they enjoyed a certain trick/routine the most, while another audience member will pick a different trick/routine as their favorite, etc, etc. I have gotten thank you cards from schools, etc. many times, and it is amazing to see how different kids remember or like different parts of the show. Usually most every routine is chosen by someone as their favorite.

If I create a routine that does not go over as well with the audience as I think it should, then I may try to tweak it and test it again. If it is 'untweakable', or still not getting the desired response after a couple of tries, then I scrap it. If the audience does not give an "A" response it must be "B" material.

A lot of my decisions on my show line up are based upon set up too. For example, some of my openers and closers require more props than others. I try to balance out my shows so I don't end up with too many props in one show.

The analogy that Wizardpa used is a good one. When we go to concerts most people do want to hear songs they are familiar with. However, its nice to hear some new songs too. That's why bands keep going back to the studio ever year or two to make new records. They have to keep generating....not just new songs, but new hit songs! So most successful bands can do concerts that include songs that everyone knows, old and new alike.

I am a musician, so it seems I like to hear new material more than most non-musicians. I wonder if the same applies to magicians and magic?

Of course, once a band or individual has created an iconic musical career, and have some timeless, classic hits to their credit, they can tour and repeat those same songs over and over and over and over and.....well, you get the picture. If you ever achieve that kind of status then you can do the same songs and nobody will ever tire of it.

I think the same would apply to magicians.

And remember, live situations can cause things to be different....whether we want them too or not! Bands change up parts of songs in live situations all the time. So even though they may play a song that is familiar to everyone, they may add a new part, or break it up with a solo, or audience participation, etc.

Live situations are breeding grounds for variance in repeated magic routines too!

My band plays classic rock, mostly from the 60s and 70s. We also throw in some folk, lite country, as well as original songs. We do some newer cover songs too, but mostly the older songs. I am always amazed at how people react to these classic songs. It hardly ever fails that someone comes up to us and tells how these songs take them back to their teenage years, or their youth, or to some important time in their life. We often get thanked for keeping these songs 'alive'.

Finding that connection to the past is not always easy, but I can tell you it can work with magic routines too!

Just some food for thought.

Message: Posted by: Ken Northridge (Sep 22, 2011 11:01AM)
On 2011-09-14 14:56, Al Angello wrote:
I have about 2 hours of my best material that I can use to perform several different shows.

To say you have two hours of 'my best' or “A” material is kind of dodging the question. Certainly within that two hours there are some routines better than others. Ideally, it would be wonderful to have three 45-mintues shows of “A” material, but that is not realistic. And of course its all relative. That’s why I brought up David Copperfield. His “B” material would make my “A” material look extemely amateurish.

Anyway, I agree with the consensus here that for repeat bookings the best solution would be to do half of your “A” show and half of your very best “B” show.

I like Wizardpa’s concert analogy too. People come to see the hits, but the show would get stale if there was never anything new offered. When The Police toured a couple of years ago, they did not play any new songs, but they rearranged almost all of their old songs and played them differently. This gave their performance a new fresh sound. That is another option, isn’t it? Rearranging your “A” material with new bits of business, new jokes, adding a kicker to them, etc.

Just some thoughts.

On 2011-09-22 09:25, Al Angello wrote:
Hey Ken
When you do your "B" material do they get a discount?

Of course not, they are still getting an “A” magician! :)
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Sep 22, 2011 11:15AM)
Having the "A" magician is the most important thing.

The core of my show is part of every show, and the rest of my stuff is material that is suitable for different audiences which I mix, and match. There are effects that I can present several different ways which only a magician would be able to spot. In conclusion I have a big bag of tricks, and I always try to stay one, or two step ahead of my audience.
Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (Sep 22, 2011 01:42PM)
It's a complex subject. I did a show last weekend, that was the 3rd bday for this girl. She is now 8. I did about 50 to 60 percent new stuff. She missed seeing one of the old effects. I also think having a different show is more for the parents than the kids. Since they're paying you, that matters.

Also, I have different packages. Like a magic class, games, etc. that will make it different as well.

Message: Posted by: RJE2 (Sep 23, 2011 05:35AM)
Hi Ken,

I don't think having 2 or 3 hours of "A" material is being unrealistic.

I think what happens is some performers ride their "A" act for years because they have never been forced to go beyond it that often. If you have clients that wish a new 90 minute show to run 10 to 12 weeks each year for 10 or more consecutive years, you learn to develop quite a few hours of "A" material. If, on the other hand, you only do a few repeat shows each year, then the need to build and create new quality routines isn't as pressing.

So yes, I guess it is all relative, but you don't have to be a Copperfield to have 2 or 3 hours of "A" material. It all depends on what your market needs are.
Message: Posted by: TheGreatNancini (Sep 23, 2011 10:09AM)
I agree with RJE2 that having 2 or 3 hours of A show material is not being unrealistic. Since magic is how my son Matthew and I make our living, we are constantly rehearsing and developing our two 45 minute school shows, as well as our two 60 minute corporate and family shows where none of the material overlaps.

We also have several polished acts that are not regularly in our shows that we rotate in on occasion. These are usually the more delicate props or extremely cumbersome ones that we reserve for special events or situations.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, which I totally am not, Matthew has several mantras: "Every show every time" and "God is in the details." We are constantly rehearsing new script and always looking for ways to make each show better. We would be very disappointed in ourselves if any of our shows a year from now look exactly like they do today.

With that said, we have a client that has partnered with us 40 times over the past 10 years and always expect us to have something new each time we return. Of course there are those favorite acts they have come to love and we work hard to rotate those each time so our client always gets a few of our classics. Because they are a repeat client and a very friendly audience, they make a wonderful testing ground for new material. If they do not give it an "A," it actually ends up for sale to one of you here on the Café. :)
Message: Posted by: TrickyRicky (Sep 23, 2011 10:55AM)
Always take your A show to a performance.
The customer re-booked you because of the impression you/ve made on your first performance.
The customer will be disappointed that there won't be a third time.
Tricky Ricky
Message: Posted by: Mystical Matthew (Sep 23, 2011 11:50PM)
On 2011-09-22 12:01, Ken Northridge wrote:

To say you have two hours of 'my best' or “A” material is kind of dodging the question. Certainly within that two hours there are some routines better than others. Ideally, it would be wonderful to have three 45-mintues shows of “A” material, but that is not realistic. And of course its all relative.

I wrote out a lengthy response to this thread, but realized I could consolidate my thoughts down to one sentence:


Seriously... What the heck?

We're constantly creating new content. That's part of the DNA of our business. We create something new, then kill whatever's weakest or the most stale. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Every year about a third of our show is killed and replaced with new material. I've never worried about repeat clients because the show's significantly changed between bookings anyway.

Over time we discovered the result of our relentless innovation was a lot of really good material that had been killed to make room for other really good material. Instead of letting it decay, we created targeted shows for various audiences and now repeat the process of Darwinian innovation with each of those shows as well.

Is it a lot of work? Yeah... Definitely. The point isn't to stay fresh though. The point is to make us better [i]ENTERTAINERS[/i]. We take what we learned from the last creation and roll it forward to the next. The result? Each year we get radically better. I look at video from two years ago and cringe, not because it's bad but because I'm so much better now. I hope that in another two years I'm cringing at what I do today.

I know most guys spend entire lifetimes doing the same half dozen acts. Good for them. The thing is though that just because you get [i]really good[/i] at that those six acts doesn't mean your show gets better.

Imagine if Apple had stopped at the original iPhone. They might be really good at making iPhones, but it still would be an original iPhone. Instead the take they lessons learned from the previous model and use them to make a new creation.

That's the point I'm trying to make here... If we're really pushing our shows forward then we should never have to worry about them seeing a B show, just our A shows in various stages of its growth!