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Regular user
Newark NJ
170 Posts

Profile of Will-Ace
Can anyone tell how to get gigs for stage performances.
Where to start?
How well do they pay?
Do I have to travel far, or can I get gigs close by?
I'm 22 and I live in New Jersey.
the levitator
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Special user
Spellbound Productions
546 Posts

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I think everyone here has a different experience of what worked for them. Maybe some would share their personal experiences with you and you can figure out what sounds like it will work for you.

I'm not world-renowned, but I'll share my little path with you.

Where to Start?

If you mean performing, I picked up a bartending gig at a bar in my town 5 years ago and started doing magic to get more tips. Eventually the nights I worked became busier than others, and the owner of the bar gave me my own night to do strolling. 2 months later the Manager from Damon's Restaurant saw me perform and hired me for his restaurant. About 6 months later, the Manager for a Ground Round came to Damon's with his wife, saw me, and hired me for his restaurant. The strolling gigs lead to birthday parties and corporate work like Christmas parties and Keynote speaker events. I eventually developed a platform show and then a full stage show. I used my stage show to host fund raisers for various groups. My personal tip, if you can get a gig with a bar/restaurant that is connected to a hotel, you will get a TON more shows from the corporate clients that the hotel books for convention rooms, etc.


Depends on a lot of things, mostly your ability to perform and the market you live in. I am in a small city under 70,000 in Wisconsin. I was getting $30/hr. for 3-restaurant gigs/week, and my small platform shows started at around $300. 2 things I would suggest: do some market research in your area and find out what the going rate is for other entertainers in your area, and second, don't undercut them to get gigs. You will probably be a little cheaper due to your experience level, but don't snake other magicians; the word will spread to business owners VERY quickly.


If you live in a big city, then you can probably find plenty of work to get you started. I made 90% of my first year's income outside of restaurants doing kid's parties. A lot of "Pros" will roll their eyes and turn up their noses at kid's parties. But to me, there's no better way to get your feet wet, for several reasons. First, kids' shows are very easy to get, especially if you are performing in a restaurant. Second, kid's are very honest and let you know what they like and more importantly, what they DON'T like. And figure that a good kid show entertainer can get upwards of $200 for a 45 minute show that sets up in 15 minutes.
My first year I did 53 birthday parties @ $100 ea. I don't perform as many now but I get double now so I don't have to. I'm also doing some different kinds of shows now that have me traveling a bit more.

The bottom line, if you want to perform badly enough, you will find your niche. Contact Non-profit agencies and get involved with fund raisers. Try the local Children's hospital to not only get some experience, but spread magic in a positive way. Don't be afraid to try new venues. Get used to a lot of No's before you get the Yeses. And most importantly, if you perform magic because you love it and you love sharing what you do with other people; the work, money and rewards will come.
"It's all in your head...."

James Anthony
Bob Sanders
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Grammar Supervisor
Magic Valley Ranch, Clanton, Alabama
20514 Posts

Profile of Bob Sanders
Working from New Jersey should not be bad. Weather will hurt you more than distance.

I am going to assume that you said stage shows because you mean only stage shows. But I am going to assume that you can work as well with flat floor seating as with tiered seating. And that working on a platform instead of a true stage with curtains is acceptable to you. Otherwise, the audience is not behind you, there is a light and sound system, there are backdrops and you can actually enter and leave stage without going through the audience. If you don’t have some form of curtains and/or backdrops now, don’t leave home without them. Owning your own curtains, sound and light systems will greatly affect your offering, ease of operation, and continued good mental health. In some places, all stagehands have to be union. I am also assuming that you do not have a hired manager or a booking agency.

Now to deal with your real question. Stage shows range from minutes (my short one is 22 minutes) to about two hours of continuous entertainment. The short one is the most common and frequently puts you into a show with other entertainment. You will probably be expected to perform one or two major illusions during that time. In the long one, you are all of the show and some (six or more) major illusions are expected plus you may be involved with the pre-show promotion. Your show is the product.

Where to look for bookings? Call on all of the facilities (stages, theaters, conference centers, hotels, country clubs, etc.) in your area that have the proper space available for your work. You must have a place to work. Overload these people with cards, brochures, and contact sheets to give to their tenants, planners, guests, etc. Likewise approach the catering, event and wedding planners in your area the same way. Volunteer to pay the second group a reasonable booking commission (10-20%) for work they contract for you. (I never pay a commission to the facility.) Volunteer to be in both groups’ promotional materials (print and video) as talent for their commercials. These two things will help you most with planners for local area awareness.

Next you need to cultivate specific accounts. Go through current event calendars for each facility and geographical area. These publications come from several sources. One is the facility itself has a planning calendar. Others are the Chamber of Commerce and local newspapers. (I have never found broadcast media very helpful for this information.) In the small states of the northeast, the states print a calendar of events for tourism. This will help you identify specific events that take place where and when. Often this is all you need to know to know who pays the bills. This is a prospect list. First identify the specific organization and get a name of a contact person. Contact that person personally (since you don’t have an agent) and set an appointment to meet in person or by phone to discuss the possibilities of working together for the event. Load the contact person with information before the meeting. If you have a mutual friend or satisfied customer who call the contact for you to recommend you, do it before the meeting. (You can gather critical information from your reference about the person with whom you are going to meet before the meeting. A method for doing this is to call your reference to thank them for their help and ask how it went. References are usually proud of themselves and will help you to be prepared for your meeting with the prospect. Thank them, thank them and thank them.) Hold the meeting and after learning about the prospect’s needs, ask for the business.

Pricing is a separate thing. Yours needs to be geared for you. Mine in short, is that I try to get a minimum of $600/day net to me for the first show plus all expenses. (For extra shows in the same place on the same day, I try to net another $250 each net to me. A two-hour stage show should be about $3000/day net.) Clients are not interested in all that. They want a dollar figure. You will need to do the math first. Be prepared to give that set of numbers at the interview. Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays the fee is two or three times the base rates. Contracting for multiple dates in the same contract allows for including some prime time dates at regular rates. Don’t forget that once you are there for the day, use your time wisely. The travel has been covered. Take advantage of where you are. If you can, use the show as your auditions for others.

Good Luck!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Bob Sanders

Magic By Sander / The Amazed Wiz
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Regular user
Newark NJ
170 Posts

Profile of Will-Ace
Thank you guys for the help. It's a lot of good information. I'll try to follow your advice.


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