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Inner circle
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Profile of RJE
Gonna add to the negative here.

Without a sponsor or tie in to some readily recognizable name, these types of ventures MOST often turn into a money loser. People just aren't willing to part with their dollars because a magician decided to put on a show.

People putting out marketing kits on how to put these shows on are mostly making their money putting out marketing kits. Have you ever seen them putting on a show in your town or county?

If it were that easy than everyone would be doing it. We can all get ourselves in the paper or on the radio. We can all do publicity stunts. We can all pay ads in papers, on radio, posters, flyers etc... We can all approach target audiences with give aways. Etc etc etc.... Prepare to lose money, perhaps thousands of dollars even though you could have (and should have) a great show to offer.

You will not be the first to have incorrectly thought that this sounds like a good idea and you will not be the last.
Blair Marshall
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Inner circle
Montreal, Canada
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Profile of Blair Marshall
Lot's of great content above. I would only add the caution that in a self-promoted event everyone gets paid first except the performer....venue, ads, tickets, ins., tech. crew. And you cannot rely on friends to give you all the support at no cost. When folks think you are making BIG $$$, they all want a piece of the pie.

Some tips:

Make sure YOU have a good mailing list to promote ticket sales yourself.

Tie in with a group(s) that can promote and SELL tickets.

Tie in with a major charity where you can donate a "portion of the profits"

MAKE sure you have a BOR program (program, photos, kits etc.) in place (This can make your show! I have one friend in Branson that currently pays his daily expenses from his BOR room sales alone). Another challenge is to get butts in the seats as these are potential BOR customers. Not selling out? Give a pack of tickets to the local media, the local scout troop. You WANT those seats filled!
Don't be shy to GIVE AWAY tickets both for promotional purposes, and to bring in audience ie. a free child's ticket, but they must be accompanied by an adult (you can factor the average cost per seat)

Just a few of my thoughts!

Michael Baker
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Eternal Order
Near a river in the Midwest
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Profile of Michael Baker
On 2009-08-29 18:57, Blair Marshall wrote:

Tie in with a group(s) that can promote and SELL tickets.

Strong point Blair made here. Do the math calculating how many members they have and how many seats you want to fill. Make sure EVERY member is responsible for a block of tickets, the total of which amounts to a sellout. Make the sponsoring club's officers understand that their members should either sell these tickets or buy them themselves. Anyone can sell 40 or 50 tickets. Most of these guys know other businesspeople who could be asked to buy a block of 10 or 20 tickets. Offer them free ad space based on the number of tickets they buy. They can then do with the tickets as they wish, give them to their customers, donate them to a school or church, re-sell them, etc.

The key is to require only money come back from the sponsoring club's members, and not unsold tickets.

Consider also, having a matinee and an evening show. You will likely have the theater rented for the entire day, so you might as well squeeze every dollar out of it that you can.

Just wanted to mention also that the case study that I described earlier, having friends working on this under the agreement not to be paid unless the event made money... this is a rare exception, and probably happened because we were young; all good friends with a common goal of promoting our own careers. Not likely that would happen often.
~michael baker
The Magic Company
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Profile of JVHarrison
Here's a positive story. Way, way back in 1994, before middle age turned me into a risk-averse curmudgeon, I seized upon the idea of turining a decomissioned aircraft carrier into the world's largest floating concert venue. I went to a charity with a 35,000 name mailing list (this was just before e-mail was ubiquitous) and asked them if they would be interested in 10% of the profits. In my presentation, I noted that the flight deck of the USS Intrepid (a decomissioned aircraft carrier moored on the west side of Manhattan) would accommodate 6000 people and that tickets would be $50 a piece--so the charity stood to make $30,000 on a sellout. All I wanted in return was for the charity to put a little 8.5x5.5" flyer with a ticket order form in their monthly mailings and to make mention of the event in their newsletter over the next several months. The charity loved the idea.

With the charity on board, we set a date for June and agreed that the flyers would be sent out starting in their January mailing. In the meanwhile, I put a deposit down on the ship and several acts (70's disco types)and began planning and negotiating with audio, staging, lighting and security vendors (one should note that the amount of detail involved in producing an event like this is daunting -- ever try to calculate how many porta-potties 6000 people might need?).

By February 18, 1994, all 6000 tickets were sold. Which meant that from the middle of February to the middle of June, the concert was a ticket you could not get (which made it all the more popular). Because it was a sold out event with a high-profile charity involved, sponsors started coming to me. Miller brewing provided 22,000 cans of "product", a T-shirt manufacturer offered to print 6000 t-shirts bearing the shows logo and we even had a very well known performer offer to perform for free, becuase they were releasing a new album.

In the end, the show was a tremendous success (both financially and as a theatrical endeavor), and the charity and all of the sponsors were delighted -- so much so, that we repeated the event three more times over the next three years.

With results like that, I thought I was pretty invincible, so I started to plan other concert events. One of them was a disaster. I followed the method I outlined above and waited for tickets to sell. And I waited. And waited. About six weeks before the event, and with $35k in non-refundable deposits already out-of-pocket (which represents about a third of the out-of pocket deposits required for the aricraft carrier event), I pulled the plug, realizing that if I went forward I could have lost more than twice as much as I had already put up. Fortunately, the venue (the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manahattan) allowed me to apply the deposit I had given it to a one-day magic convetion (Magic on Manhattan - anyone remember it?) that I produced later that year.
Blair Marshall
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Inner circle
Montreal, Canada
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JVH brings up a good point, if you can deliver an audience representing a certain market segment (ie. young parents, teens, boomers etc.) you can go after possible marketing tie-ins and cross promotional activities with vendors.

The old traveling illusionists were grest at this.

Can you paint your Tip Over, a girl vanish etc. with an logo/ad? What about your sub trunk built with materials from .........?

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Profile of videokideo
I rent a local theater here every year and do a one week run during the halloween season. The theater seats 650 spectators and we charge 10.00 a ticket in advance. We do 5 nights total. Keep in mind I'm striclty mentalism.

Ive read over and over on here "you'll lose money"...WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. First of all, go to the radio station and trade them out advertising and promotion for the same. Give them the head sponsorship for the show, and ask them to run a few commercials or give you a spot on the radio. Pass out their posters, stickers, shirts at your shows entrance. Second, do the same with a tv channel. Go on their early morning show, do a routine to promote the show, and give them sponsorship for letting you do so. Bands do this all the time!!!

Next, plaster the schools and colleges with handouts, posters, and advertising. Go to corporations (i go to Dollar Thrifty Rent a car here) and offer them discount group. Often times, they will pass around an email if you give them company discount. I personally sell out one show on this one move alone.

Next I hit the malls. I place handbills in the foodcourt on counters and tables. Sometimes you can get away with this, sometimes not. Once again, go to the mall managment and offer them advertising and sponsorship at the show in trade to be allowed to pass out flyers. I often threaten them a bit... if they don't let me, then ill go to the other mall and give them the sponsorship bringing the consumers to them instead. Not much of a threat, but nobody likes seeing their competitors take a sponsorship you turned down.

Email email email. Remember that girl you met that works in the big office building..give her tickets in trade for her to send out a internal mass email to the employees. Im telling you, this works and works well. If I cant get into that corporation, I use one of the employees to do it for me. Once again, I do it here at American Airlines. They have over 4000 employees that get an email about my show from one girl that I know.

Same with school kids. They have access to hundreds and thousands of emails through school. Get one student to send out a mass email. Some schools have access to this and some don't. But all students have email, and most know where to find the overall list of contacts.

The final thing I do is at the very beginning of hockey season, and a week before the shows. I go down to the minor league hockey team and perform at one of their games for a fair trade of handing out discount coupons to fans coming in to the game. This usually secures the rest of the seating for the week.

Point being is, be smart... think outside of the box. It takes a lot of legwork on your part, but that is how you save money. We bring in 6500.00 per night and take home over 5000.00 after rental costs. that's 20,000.00 profit for the week. My advertising costs are about 750.00 total used on posters, handbills, and newspaper ads. (I pay for the newspaper ad as it usually gets me a foot in the door to get a front page story in the entertainment section.)

Be smart... think of where your market is located, and then ask yourself how you get in front of that market, and if you have to go through corporate or the media office, then ask what you can do for them that is as valuable as what they are giving to you in trade. Be forceful, confident, and ready to negotiate! Use the internet and emails to your advantage.

Keep in mind I do this for a 5 night run... I'd cut it down to corporate, emails and newspaper for a one night show. Radio and TV is to much work for just the one night performance.

Posted: Aug 30, 2009 12:41pm
Ooopsss... one more thing I forgot to mention. Our show often begins at 7 or 8 in the evening. Lasts one hour. We will go to bars and clubs and in trade for them letting us put posters on front doors and billets in bar, we put them on an after hours sheet. The sheet is simply a flyer listing all bars logos from whom we did trade with. Its a flyer pushing the audience to go to these locations after the show. These are given out to every person who walks in the door of the show, along with your program if you use programs. The bar can even list a special for drinks or food in their ad on the flyer. All you are doing in these situations is getting permission to advertise to large groups of people in trade for the same.

We do this one month in advance of the shows.
Blair Marshall
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Inner circle
Montreal, Canada
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Oooooow.....that was great stuff!!

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Profile of AttnPls
Where in Florida are you?

Last year we rented a theater in Fort Lauderdale and did an ongoing illusion show (Magicain + 3 dancers + stage manager + lighting guy). I'd be happy to share some of the lessons learned. The best I can say is that we did not lose money, although the real goal of this venture was to develop the show. It was an incredible educational experience both artistically and in learning about the 'real business' of show business.

First and foremost, you must realize that selling seats is NOT EASY. It's always best to get hired by somebody and NOT have to do the publicity/PR/ticket sales yourself.

There are a lot of places you can get a show booked. Perhaps you can offer your services to various charities who want to sponsor a fund-raising event. Florida has a "condo circuit" that you may consider. These large complexes bring in entertainment to perform in their local theaters. Cruise ships also look for entertainers. However, these people demand a pretty polished act.

If you do want to do your own thing, start with as little overhead as possible. What type of performance is it? Do you require a large stage or is a stand-up comedy size room ok? You may want to find a comedy club or theater and offer to do your show at off times like a weekly Sunday brunch matinee or Friday night midnight show. In our case, we teamed up with an old theater that had been transformed into a non-profit art movie theater. We scheduled our shows for 10:00pm after the films. The rent was pretty inexpensive as the theater just needed to keep staff on for an additional couple of hours and they made pretty good money off the bar.

Promoting a show takes a lot of time and effort. We did not have a lot of either, so we focused on group sales. During our run, we would team up with a different charitable or social organization each show and offer either discounts to their members or donation to the charity. That way we had the groups sell tickets to their members for us. It worked pretty well.

I'd be curious to hear more about the show you would like to do.
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