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Topic: So you want to make a living doing magic huh?
Message: Posted by: Jaxon (Nov 16, 2004 12:06AM)
So, you've been a magicians for quite some time. Or you haven't been doing magic all that long but you're getting great reactions and you're confident this is what you want to do with your life.

I'm very, very happy for you and I'm sure you're as good as your reputation with your spectators convey. I'm sure you're an excellent performer and I'm sure you have a mind to come up with great magic tricks that you can put on the market for other magicians to take advantage of.

I'm only writing this to warn you. I'm sure you'll reach your goals. No matter what they are. If you put your all into it. I know you'll succeed. The warning I'm speaking of is this. Magic is a very, very hard thing to make a living at. The desire, or even the ability to succeed isn't really enough. Oh sure, there are a few out there who have hit the right buttons and had the good breaks to make a living at it, but those are exceptions.

Stardom is a very rare thing and it almost always has an eliminate of luck involved. I remember watching the TV show "Inside the actors studio" (I love that show and I learn a lot from it). Whoopee Goldberg talked about the fact that if she happened to be at the laundry mat during the time she got the call to try out for the part in the movie "The color Purple". She wouldn't be known today as the Oscar winning actress she is. It was a moment of luck.

Why am I writing this now? I simply hope to warn others of making the same mistake I made. You see, I'm now 33 years old. When I was a teen ager I had this dream and as it turned out, many people felt this dream of mine was something I had the tools to accomplish. I dreamed of being a professional magician. Not only making it locally but I could be one of the greatest magicians in the world.
So I stopped caring about school. Who needs it? Schools don't have classes on sleight of hand. Or presentation skills or any skill I'd need to make it in the profession I so dreamed of making it in. I can learn these things out there in front of real people more then I could in a class room. As a result of this line of thinking I dropped out of high school in the 11th grade. Can you belive that? Only one year to go and I quit.

Like I said. I'm now 33 years old. I have 3 tricks on the market now and magicians from all over the world are buying them from me. I'm a known magician now. I've done a few lectures and I'd love to do more of them. I've performed on TV, in front of audiences with a couple thousand people. Had people wait in line to get my audigraph.

Guess what. I'm still struggling. The moments I mentioned above that seem like stardom are very rare moments. I still regret not having a high school diploma and almost everyday I find something I would have been better at if I would have finished my education.

I'm sharing all this in hopes that someone out there will read this who is in the same situatuation or the state of mind I was in thsoe years ago when I stopped out of school. If I could talk to you in person right now I would break your arm if that's what it took to convince you to go as far as you can in school as you can get. There are know excuses.

The greatest thing is that magic is really the art of knowledge. The more you know about anything and everything the more options you have. I honestly can't think of anything. Knowledge or material, that can't be incorporated in magic. So know as much as you can about anything you can.

Make magic the icing on the cake. Go for it. Do the best you can. Take some chances. Just remember that even if you don't have kids or a spouse. You just might someday. They'll need to be taken care of and magic won't be a regular income for most of us. you just might hit it bug, but that might not last forever. You also might want to retire someday. That's another issue that has to be faced early in life. So plan ahead.

I'm not trying to turn anyone from succeeding. Or trying there best to succeed. Just be sure you think it out before trying to make a living at something very few are able to do .

And also remember to keep it fun.

Ron Jaxon
Message: Posted by: Shane Wiker (Nov 16, 2004 12:35AM)
Hear hear!

Shane Wiker
Message: Posted by: Clifford the Red (Nov 16, 2004 04:49PM)
Excellent post Ron!

It sure makes it easier when you don't have to do magic, you get to.
Message: Posted by: gareth123 (Nov 16, 2004 05:06PM)
This is an amazing post , very good advice jaxon and very well presented.

Message: Posted by: Jaz (Nov 16, 2004 05:23PM)
Great post Jax!

I quit in my senior (12th)year to work a job. After that summer I knew I had done wrong. I went back for a fifth year of HS and graduated. Many, many years later I was given the opportunity to go to college and did so for a year.
Back 'in the day' a High School education had value. Today you need much more schooling.

For me magic is a challenging, creative and fun hobby along with art. When something good comes from either then great!
My ideal situation would to work a part time job with health benefits and use my hobbies as some additional income. Maybe someday.
Message: Posted by: Mike Walton (Nov 17, 2004 07:40AM)
Thanks for the honest and insightful post. I'm one of those idealists that believes you could still pull it off. Good luck either way.

In your post, you bring up two issues. The first is your recommendation to not drop out of school at an early age. The second is about the viability of performing magic as a full time job.

Do you think that if you would have built out a separate career and had a full-time or even excellent paying part-time non-magic job for security, that this security would have relieved some of the pressure and more importantly given you more time to succeed?

And if you would have more time, do you think you would become successful or do you think the market for magicians just isn't there anymore? If it's not, then why?

What are the biggest obstacles? I'm interested in understanding how the market for those doing magic has changed and why it seems to be more difficult these days.

Jaxon, thanks again for your post.
Message: Posted by: Reis O'Brien (Nov 17, 2004 08:28AM)
This post brings up many great points and should give a lot of us something to think about.

I imagine that magic, like any entertainment art, is incrdibly difficult to break into, much less become famous doing it. I mean, it's not like many magicians become household names. Well, maybe in our households, but I'm talking about real people!

I know a gazillion guitarists (myself included) who scrounged together a decent band, played some dives and then immediately began nurturing dreams of being the next Led Zeppelin. Then comes the jaw-cramping mouthful of humble pie that lets you know just how realistic that dream really is. One mintue you're a rising star with CD's and press interviews and the next, you're just a guy with a beat-up Stratocaster on a stage that smells like old beer with some hick yelling "Freebird!" at you.

I'm curious to know how many of us take on magic with hopes of becoming famous. It does seem like a silly notion, but then again, that's what dreams are for.

So what's really more important? Obtaining the goals of the dream? Or maybe simply being proud of the fact that you're the kind of person that isn't afraid to dream?

I don't know... this makes my brain hurt. And now I'm late for band practice.
Message: Posted by: Jaxon (Nov 17, 2004 10:19AM)
Yea, there is a lot to this issue. On one hand no one wants to be told that they shouldn't put there all into a dream. Of course one should if it's something they realy want. The important thing is to know what "your all" involves. It's not just learning all the tricks you can. It's not just going out and performing as much as you can. It's not just about creating your own original tricks and routines.

If that where all it took we'd have as many rich and famous magicians as the music industry does. I know hundreds of magicians who have already accomplished a lot of the things I just mentioned. So there is a lot more to "giving your all" then those things.

Think about any magician who has "Made it" in your opinion. Chances are they have other skills they advance in other then magic that helped them along the way. I'm sure there are examples of magicians who "Made it" who are basically the average jack magician. I can think of a couple right off the bat. But most have spent years mastering other crafts. Some of them took dancing and acting lessons. Some are electrisians, doctors, professors and so forth. I used these examples in the last sentance of magicians I personally know are making a living in magic but also using the skills of there other profession. Sometimes combining the two.

I'd say that the person who learned another craft or profession. The one who took the acting and dancing lessons. These are the ones I feel "Gave it there all". even if making it in magic was the thing they where aiming to succeed in. They thought ahead to realize that these other professions will give him the resources to succeed in the feild he dreams of making it in. A feild that will have a lot of ups and downs.

One more quick comment. You may have some magicians you see on TV that you really idolize. I'm sure you'd imagine those guys are living in big mansions somewhere. I got news for you. Not all of them are. There are some in that living style but not many. You'd be surprised to find out that many of them live in average homes and often struggle themselves.

Ron Jaxon
Message: Posted by: mormonyoyoman (Nov 17, 2004 10:24AM)
On 2004-11-17 08:40, Mike Walton wrote:
I'm interested in understanding how the market for those doing magic has changed and why it seems to be more difficult these days.

I would say that that live entertainment, overall, has become more scarce. Except for music concerts, people just don't show up in record crowds. The best venue for live entertainment, vaudeville, died long ago - and began the pattern of extinction which has continued to this day.

Clever entertainers have found new venues (such as restaurant magic) but we need to find more.

Message: Posted by: Yfirum (Nov 18, 2004 12:22PM)
Thanks for your good post jaxon.

I'm exactly in this situation now where I have to decide about magic. I'll finish school in about 6 months so I won't quit now. But what after? But as you said it seems to be more intelligently to get a higher education than just finish school and go for magic.
I think I'll study rhetoric. This seems to fit me and magic perfectly as I am seriously interested in and because I can use the knowledge when performing.

Message: Posted by: rmoraleta (Nov 19, 2004 11:19PM)
This is really an excellent post!
Message: Posted by: andre combrinck (Nov 19, 2004 11:30PM)
Reis,I would've yelled 'Enter Sandman'!
Message: Posted by: snap (Nov 20, 2004 09:16PM)
Thanx for the advise! I'm going to be applying to colleges next year, and I had wanted to apply to a "magic college" (there are a couple here and there), but this post might make me reconsider that.
Message: Posted by: Jaxon (Nov 21, 2004 09:46PM)
Those magic colledges can be pretty good. I know a few who attended them. The only trouble is they often teach there style. So many of them end up performing alike. Some technique can be learned there though. I'd imagine a very small percentage of thsoe who graduate go on to be pros just because of what they learned there.

It's nothing compaired to real college though. plus while you're there you can take some other classes such as acting, dance or what ever.

History, scieance, math, public speaking, psychology. Now days even computer programmers and electronics are becoming more and more needed in the magic world. These kinds of things would be a big help in being a performer.

Ron Jaxon
Message: Posted by: metwin1 (Nov 22, 2004 03:23AM)
This is a thought-provokng essay. I think it applies not just to pro-magicians-wannabe, but to anybody who wishes to enter the entertainment industry. At the end of the day, magic is but a source of entertainment, to the magician certainly, but more importantly, to the spectator.

I believe that everybody should dare to dream, and go for it. Just remember to have a back up plan.
Message: Posted by: k (Nov 26, 2004 02:56AM)
Ron, this post is a must read for every magician in the becoming.
your own story could be a book in itself...
Thanks for sharing experience!

All in all, studies are like key doors. the more you have, the more doors you open.
Studies, appart for plain knoledge, brings you friends, valuable contacts in life, and a way of thinking, dealing with everyday problems...
Even though you want to become a artist (magician, musician, painter...) studies are important...
Nowadays, it is hard to live outside the world, the economical world...

you don't have to follow specific course : I have seen mathematician/scientists do business or charity... it's just for the studies, the atmosphere, make your brain work in a special way...

Message: Posted by: sinnead zenun (Nov 26, 2004 08:05AM)
Tnx jaxon!

we can combine magic with our studies.

example take
-psychology and apply it in magic and handling audiences
-mechanical or electrical enginneer then make or invent your own gimmicks or aparatus
-mathematician device your own principles and stacked deck
-lawyer for analytical thinking

after all magic is also a study in itself thus it includes math, science art etc...

try to find a course or field study that you want and fuse it with magic.....

enough postings for now got to study :)
Message: Posted by: Edmund_Fitzgerald (Nov 28, 2004 06:56PM)

Your post is very informative and helpful as advice to younger people.

However, I will offer some advice also. And I apologize if this is tough. You are 33 years old. Please do not count yourself out at 33. By simple statistics, you are likely to live until your eighties. That means another 50 years or so. Therefore, please do not get too far deep into the view that your choices have been made and you are now confined to one particular life. You continue to have many choices, every day, that will determine how and where you live for the next 50 years or so.

I believe that many, many successful people have made major changes in their lives at different times. I mean career changes, educational changes, moving, etc.

Many business people fail (and I mean bankruptcy) two or three times before they are successful, just to pick an example. Many successful performers were late bloomers.

Yes magic is a tough career with few highs and perhaps more lows. Yes, it would be better to finish high school. Yes, you have good advice. BUT continue to learn and be the master your life.

Message: Posted by: prettylady1990 (Nov 29, 2004 01:51AM)
Great post, All us young mgicians must read this post before deciding your schooling.
Message: Posted by: Chrystal (Nov 29, 2004 09:33PM)
Ron, I'm always impressed by your insighfulness and williness to help others along the way. Here's my thoughts on the subject as I had in the past had the experience of living solely on my magic earnings (for 5 years) and then also having education to fall back on and return to magic on a part time basis. Part time still meant performing up to 175 shows a year.

I think those that have dreams of stardom in magic will be disillusioned but yet I would never try to talk someone out of their dream. Just like pro football players or iceskaters, singers..only a rare few make it. Still some do. Others may never achieve star status but yet are able to make a living at it. It really depends on what your standard of living is..for some just making ends meet may be enough to make them happy doing a job they love.

Ironically, I never had dreams of stardom when I started performing and later turned it into a full time business. I did it not for the recognition but because I loved doing what I did.

Financially it can be profitable, but, like any entertainment business takes a toll on your personal life. For those interested in the "big bucks" it may mean working every single weekend and all the holidays. Yes, when starting out, you may feel that what you are doing is far more important but as the years go by you realize you also pay a heavy price. I think five years went by before I realized I had never gone to a Christmas party for my own enjoyment as I had been too busy working, Bar-b-ques..nope didn't go to my friends homes but perhaps worked at a corporate family event..and so on.

Travelling and living out of a suitcase can also lose the excitement quickly..but then again you always appreciate being home.

Now I may sound non appreciative as to what magic has allowed me to do, in fact it's the opposite. Magic has allowed me to purchase my own home but this is after years and years of hard work. I was fortunate that I did have another source of income should the magic business be slow and that was teaching. At the moment I have the best of both worlds I now teach part time and still do magic part time.

The advice you gave Ron to the up and coming magicians was invaluable. There are those that may argue if you choose to do magic full time you will then be motivated to do the marketing and the selling of yourself as knowing your rent is due is a great motivator for example. I've often said if I could do this for free I would as I love performing that much. Yet, in the real world with bills due that wouldn't be feasible and despite saying that, money should not be the motivation behind getting into this business.

While it's true the money may be great - people don't necessarily have parties in which they hire entertainers every day of the week. In fact, in reality it's mainly weekends unless you are fortunate enough to have a regular gig at a restuarant or bar or even a cruise ship. Those that get hired for those gigs have to have years of experience so you have to "pay your dues in the meantime."

Education is extremely important in this business - whether you choose to use it or not - you have it as a backup. You also are able to converse with a wide variety of people and remember that your future clients will come from all walks of life.

Apologies for the long post and best of luck to all of you trying to break into the market.

Message: Posted by: onebark (Dec 9, 2004 08:07AM)
This is an especially sensitive subject, and seems to often draw lines between age groups.

I, too, was enchanted by dreams of stardom in my teen years…not in magic but in music. Fortunately I was really wasn’t good enough to ever achieve anything close to stardom. Yes, fortunately:

We have been sold a load of goods. We are told to follow our dreams, shoot for the stars, and achieve your potential…and it’s the wrong advice. This religion is a 20th century creation. Do you know what you end up with when you follow that philosophy? A life filled with me, me, and me. I’m not that important. If I am consumed with stardom then the only thing I will be filled with is the pursuit of MY life and statistically speaking, I will never find it. I spent much of my late teens and early twenties hanging around young people who wanted to shoot for the stars, and they left a legacy of broken relationships, selfish decisions, and a genuine lack of concern for the suffering or problems of others. I am not generalizing; I am relating observations made over a life of associations with many different types of people, including investment bankers, performers, salespeople, and developers.

You may be thinking that I am filled with pessimism, but that is the exact opposite of what I have learned. In fact, it is the ultimate optimism. You do not need to force your potential. A drop of water will find its way to the ocean eventually; it just takes a little longer for some. Strive for stardom? It will come if you have the potential and ability. But to make it your single goal could lead to a life of emptiness. You will miss the meat of life that gives it purpose.

What about a life of doing what is right, rather than what feels good to me? I realized the cost of striving for stardom, and it lost its luster. Nights of endless working, which means…how would I spend time with my children? What would that mean to my wife? How will I tutor immigrant children at the local elementary school? That’s what it takes to be a star. That’s the cost. Those of you who are working professionals know what I’m talking about, that there is a tremendous elusiveness and cost to stardom, and it has a price that can never be fully paid.

After many years of working a regular job and securing a strong marriage, I now have returned to the performance arts with a maturity and freedom I never knew. I now can choose for whom I perform magic, when I will do it, and how much I will charge (maybe even donate the performance!). I understand people better, I understand business better, and I have a rich history of life to draw upon in my performances. I do not have the stress of trying to pay bills with performance. If you have the dream and potential to perform, then be patient, and in the meantime, do what is right.

Message: Posted by: jeffF (Dec 14, 2004 12:38PM)
I appreciate this post. Certainly, Ron has a lot of uncommon wisdom even if he dropped out of high school. I suppose for most of us, we shouldn't give up our day jobs. For myself anyway, magic is better as a hobby or a part time avocation. My day job allows me to make the purchases that interest me (like out smokin). Jeff
Message: Posted by: nums (Dec 14, 2004 09:32PM)
I started in magic as a hobby and when I met my wife (she was not my wife when I met her) she convinced me I was good enough to make money at this ....She got me my first gig over 10 years ago and 4 years ago went full time. I am 39 years old and am lucky enough to be given the skill and gift of gab to do this for a living. I am just a small time childrens magician who also twists a lot of balloons...I have said many times before and mean it that if this becmes a "JOB" I will quit and go back to work where I get paid benifits,vacation, and weekends off. In the mean time I love the fact I get to play for my money...

Message: Posted by: Lee Darrow (Dec 15, 2004 01:27PM)
Success or fame? The two are not necessarily the same thing. How many times have we heard of a major star winding up in bankrputcy court because they got ripped off by managers, divorces, the tax people or whatever?

Sure, they may be a household name, but they are broke and no one will hire them for anything more than a pittance.

Success, however, has many different definitions - probably as many definitions as there are people out there in the world.

For some, success is a mansion, chauffeur driven Rolls Royce and millions in the bank. For some, it is the cheers of a bunch of kids at a birthday party who run up and hug you after a show. For some, it's the paycheck at the end of a trade show, a pat on the back and a contract for next year.

And for some, it's the satisfaction of doing the show well, the applause, the laughter and the gasps of amazement. For some, it's their way of bringing forth the Word of their God and for some, it's a great way to pick up a desireable partner for some adult-level fooling around. And for many, as Ron points out so well, it's the acquisition of knowledge and the application of that knowledge (like successfully foling someone with a new sleight or routine).

But, if one is going to make a living out of doing magic there is one ingredient that is more important in many ways than any other - persistance.

Unrewarded genius and talent is almost a stereotype. One hit wonders abound - and the vast majority of them quit pretty soon. Big splashes on the publicity scene happen and are gone. Persistance is the only thing that will keep you going. If you aren't out pounding the pavement every day, calling on potential clients, marketing your act and perfecting your act, you will not succeed as a paid professional entertainer.

And even then, you may well never make the mega-bucks of a Lance Burton or David Copperfield. But you will have a much better chance of being able to live a comfortable life, pay most of your bills on time and stay well fed.

Like Ken Brooke used to say, "It's better than digging roads!" But to think that it's not work is delusional. I work harder at being a good magician and stage hypnotist than I have at any other job I have ever had. And in 36 years, both pro and semi-pro, I always strive to keep learning.

Just some notes while sitting here contemplating a late lunch...

Lee Darrow, C.H.