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Gerry Walkowski
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This past week I was having a discussion with a magic friend of mine. He has a decent name in the magic world and while he has chattered before on TMC, I wouldn’t say he is a regular. (And, since some magicians are now jumping to Facebook, maybe he’ll never see this post. Smile ) Still, I know the guy well enough that I can have open discussions with him.

This person is an excellent performer. He works an early spring event that routinely hires other performers. Since we’ve traded shows and contact information before, he was telling me about the event and that I should consider contacting this group. For some reason, he told me his fee. I almost fell off my chair in disbelief.

His price was so low I thought to myself, “Are you serious?” What he was charging for a day’s work is what I routinely charge just for one performance.

I’ve often heard that magicians are well-known for embellishing their fees and how often they work. I think this guy took it to the opposite side of the spectrum.

I know several other magicians and have recently found out their prices. (Please note, I did not call or email them pretending to be a customer and asked them their prices.) Both gentlemen seem to work a fair number of shows, but again, they never tell you that they're working below the going rate in order to keep their calendars filled.

So, I guess the next time you hear that a magician is working all the time, don’t necessarily believe everything you hear. As is often the case, you’re not hearing THE COMPLETE STORY.

I welcome your comments.

Gerry
Donald Dunphy
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Quote:
On Aug 29, 2015, Gerry Walkowski wrote:
Both gentlemen seem to work a fair number of shows, but again, they never tell you that they're working below the going rate in order to keep their calendars filled.


This is an interesting sentence. What is "the going rate"? How is it determined?

Is it the rate that busy full time entertainers get? Or the rate that less busy a part timer gets? Or the average rate for a certain type of show in a certain area? If full timers are doing more of the shows, wouldn't they be the determining factor in what the average fee is?

If it's the average rate for a certain type of show in a certain area, do you factor in what you said about how some performers actually charge less than you thought they did?

How do you know "the going rate" if you don't really know that others are charging?

What are "low fees" (the title of this thread)? Is it less than what you are charging? Is there some sort of minimum that you think you and others should be charging?

- Donald

P.S. I was recently re-listening to Ken Scott's "How to make a six figure income" and he referenced this Magic Café post by Dennis Dowhy, where he talked about some possible numbers for shows and fees (the topic starts off contemplating making a million a year, and then the post changes to talking about a six figure income. Note - this thread is in the Little Darlings area, so talks mostly about kids and family shows.)

Magic Café thread titled... Making A Million Dollars A Year in Magic Shows
Donald Dunphy is a Victoria Magician, British Columbia, Canada.
Dannydoyle
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Yea you make a lot of assumptions in this post.

First thing is what relationship exists between him and this client.

I won't go on but you seem to think an empty calendar is better than one with work on it. Would you feel better about him if he made less money over the year but his price was higher per show?

Maybe he does some clever thing where he can take some shows to guarantee income and then he can charge other clients more so can afford more. I can think of 100 reasons to do this and all of them really good business moves. The whole time guys who think like you are sitting home wondering why there is no work.

You do not give us enough information here to make the determination you have stayed. Perhaps you know more and have not shared which is cool. But the judgment you make should not be made with only this information.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Bill Hegbli
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Jeff McBride's Illusionist Show is scheduled to come to Fort Wayne, Indiana on Oct. 11, 2015. His seat prices are $55 to $392. That is more then David Copperfield charged. I know the $55 seat person's get to see the same show that the $392 people see at the same time.

The late great Karroll Fox once told me in a conversation, it is all "relevant".

Comparison to the original post:

If this is the same Gerry Walkowski that drew all those very funny and wonderful Magician Cartoons over the years for Genii, did you charge the same rate as the cartoonist for the Sunday newspaper inserts or the political cartoonist. I would be shocked to hear you did not.
Gerry Walkowski
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Been running all day. Hope to respond sometime tomorrow.

Bill I can tell you that Gerry Walkowski is absolutely NOT me.

Gerry
Gerry Walkowski
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I think I erred in my original example, mainly because I can’t get into specifics without this causing suspicion and possibly opening a can of worms that could come back to haunt me.

HOWEVER . . .

I still think it’s a great topic.

Naturally the “going rate” varies wildly from region to region and is constantly changing. I was just starting out in 1975 (okay, I had a few years under my belt) and I remember when $50 was considered good money for a birthday party. Today that amount equates to about $225, which is still decent money.

Donald, I did look at some of the posts from Dennis Michael whereby he states that a $200-$250 price seems to be the norm for birthday parties and other family type events back in 2006. I also remember having a discussion a few years ago with someone (was it you?) about a survey of children’s entertainers across the US which stated that the average price for birthday parties is $250.

So for me, at least, I’ve always used the $250 figure as a benchmark. I won’t walk out the door for anything less than that amount. My price is actually higher than that amount, but if we’re not talking $250 +, then YES I’d rather sit home with no shows on my calendar. Everyone has to know what their BOTTOM LINE is, and $250 is my threshold.

I should also state that I don’t perform magic for a living, so I can be more selective. In many ways I like this scenario because I don’t have to take everything that comes my way.

Having said all of that, over the years I’ve noticed how some magicians seemed to be booked all the time. What’s never stated, though, is that they work below the going rate by $50-$100. Personally I’ve never been a big fan of this tactic. While this strategy works for them, I often wonder if takes the value of the art down a few notches because now others think this is the going rate.

I know a few individuals whereby they don’t mind working for a lower fee because they’re hoping to make up for it with BOR sales.

Anyway, it would be interesting to hear other views on this topic.

Gerry
Ken Northridge
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My opinions about price started to form many years ago when I first started performing. Many of the ‘working’ magicians gave me advice on what to charge and to make sure I didn’t undercut them. I took their advice and later found out they were undercutting me! Years later it was obvious to me that most of the people that were so eager to give me advice on price are NOT working!

Price is a very personal decision and depends on many factors. I really don’t know if my prices are low or high, but I know its what I need to make it worthwhile for me.

I certainly do not recommend taking advice on fees from other magicians. Smile
"Love is the real magic." -Doug Henning
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Dannydoyle
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I seriously doubt many give you the truth when you ask.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Donald Dunphy
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Quote:
On Aug 31, 2015, Gerry Walkowski wrote:

Donald, I did look at some of the posts from Dennis Michael whereby he states that a $200-$250 price seems to be the norm for birthday parties and other family type events back in 2006. I also remember having a discussion a few years ago with someone (was it you?) about a survey of children’s entertainers across the US which stated that the average price for birthday parties is $250.


Hi Gerry -

Regarding "average" birthday show rates, maybe you are remembering some of the comments on this thread:

Magic Café thread titled... How much do you all charge for a children's show?

Keep in mind that this isn't a typical survey. Just a few performers shared their prices (if they wanted to), and we don't know if they were being honest.

A month or so ago, I also saw a thread on Facebook (in one of the magic or marketing groups) talking about what performers charged for children's birthday shows. Prices were all over the map, from $100 to $400.

One interesting conversation that someone started on Facebook, was this certain performer thought there should be a minimum fee for birthday shows, and if anyone was charging less than he was, then they were obviously "undercutting" him. But who's to say his rates are "the going rate"? Also, one performer admitted that he charged $150 for birthdays. Some chastised him. But they didn't know his skill level, or his location, etc. It finally came out that he only did a dozen birthday shows a year. I find it hard to believe that some think a performer doing a dozen shows a year (at $150 per show) is stealing a big chunk of their business. lol!

I'm not too worried about what others charge, and if they are "undercutting" me. Also, I put my birthday show rates online, so my rates are "out there" for everyone to see (which is different from what some performers might say on the phone... there are a few performers who might quote different rates depending upon their mood). A fair amount of performers (in one Facebook conversation) admitted to offering discounts on their birthday shows to people who booked their show that day, etc. (so, they used discounts as a booking incentive). There are different ways of running a business, and some performers have very flexible rates.

I'm more concerned with what I charge and the amount of shows I have. Do my customers feel I offer good value? Am I getting repeat bookings and show referrals? Etc.

I tested birthday show rates starting at $250 for a year. The number of shows decreased, and it affected my overall annual income. So, I went back to birthday show rates starting at $200. Some may think that's not enough. But that's their opinion. I'm the one trying to do shows in my market (and pay bills), not them. Some birthday customers pay more, because I have different birthday show options at different price points (so, the average amount I make from each birthday customer is more than $200). And birthday shows are only a segment of the variety of shows I perform.

- Donald

P.S. If you re-read that post from Dennis, one scenario he imagined was a full time performer doing daycare shows for about $150 per show. To make the six figure income (after expenses), that performer had to do about 1000 shows a year. Whew! So, Dennis did imagine some full time performers working for $150 per show when doing kids shows.
Donald Dunphy is a Victoria Magician, British Columbia, Canada.
Dannydoyle
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Donald hit it perfect. His bills his bottom line. He tried 250 for a h3ar and had less MONEY at the end of the year than at 200.

This is not theory it is fact. Charge what you charge and let others do the same.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
MikeClay
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In every market there is a threshold that is the level where you balance cost with # of conversions.
This is also a price that you have to test your market to find.
Gerry Walkowski
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I totally get it that every region is different and while Silly Billy might command $400+ for a birthday party in New York City, other areas may hover around a $200 or $250 threshold for a magic show. I totally understand this.

At the same time, Silly Billy may have been the first in his market to “push the needle” by sensing an opportunity to make more money simply by just – asking for it.

I work a lot of festival dates. Years back I was sharing the stage with some other acts and we talked openly about our price. I was getting $500 for the day (3 shows) while my coworkers were getting $750. Back then I didn’t think my show was good as the other entertainers, but the entertainment director often commented how my show was her personal favorite. That started to get me thinking.

A year or so later, I set my new festival price to $750 and never looked back. That’s certainly not to say I haven’t worked for less if it’s a smaller venue and more local, but anything these days whereby I’m featured, the price is $750+ and oftentimes it’s in the four figures. I think my top festival price was $2,500 for six shows over the course of two days, but that figure also included a deluxe hotel, all meals and incredible publicity.

I’m not here to brag. Others may make more than this and that’s fine.

The thing is, sometimes you have to push your price if you want to move up to that next level in the food chain.

When I first heard that Silly Billy was making $400 for a birthday party, that actually inspired me to start raising my prices.

I could really care less if others are charging less than me. Still, I have to wonder about some when they’re working for less than $100 for a stage show at a big venue. This is what I was alluding to in my original example, which I can’t really discuss. I was just surprised to see some name acts (not famous magicians, but names that are known around TMC) working for such low fees.

Gerry
Dannydoyle
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If you cant discuss this then why are you?

If your point was to push your price then you should have said that instead ofna rant about others business models.

And by the way "name acts" in the magic world means absolutely bupkis in the real world.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Donald Dunphy
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A lot of people mention the example that Silly Billy earns $400 (sometimes they say $500) for his birthday shows in New York. But they don't really say how many birthday shows he does in a month, etc... And if he's still getting those fees... And WHERE he was doing it... And how he makes some of his income from being a magic dealer / lecturer, as well as a performer.

And it's really not our business to nose into his business, so why are we discussing it without his permission?

Yes, we can push the envelope in our fees.

I posted a link a couple of times to this podcast on Magician Business.

http://www.magicianbusiness.com/mb-001-m......w-smith/

On this podcast, Andrew Smith talked about getting $1000 for his birthday shows. (Why not use him as your benchmark example instead of Silly Billy?)

Some performers called it hogwash without listening to it. However, if you actually listen to it, you can find out what cities he's working in (where he charges those fees), how many birthday shows he does a month (in his mix of other shows)... so you can understand HOW OFTEN he gets paid that sort of fee, what specific things he did to position himself at that level in the market, etc. It might be OK to discuss it because he revealed it on the podcast.

Part of his positioning with birthday shows is less shows but more money per show. But again, it's also about his location, other nuances of positioning, etc. You can't just go out and start asking $1000 for birthday shows yourself without understanding the whole picture.

Plus, that isn't a model for everyone. Some performers would rather be working a lot (highly visible), rather than working less, because it draws more customers to them, builds a fan base in a different way, etc.

Some full-time performers also want a certain volume of shows before they consider raising their fees, which isn't something you've mentioned at all.

- Donald

P.S. There's also another Magician Business podcast on the topic of raising your fees, but I haven't listened to it yet. Here's the link:

http://www.magicianbusiness.com/how-to-r......gicians/
Donald Dunphy is a Victoria Magician, British Columbia, Canada.
Ken Northridge
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Quote:
On Sep 1, 2015, Donald Dunphy wrote:
A lot of people mention the example that Silly Billy earns $400 (sometimes they say $500) for his birthday shows in New York. But they don't really say how many birthday shows he does in a month, etc... And if he's still getting those fees... And WHERE he was doing it... And how he makes some of his income from being a magic dealer / lecturer, as well as a performer.

And it's really not our business to nose into his business, so why are we discussing it without his permission?


To be fair, it was Silly Billy who first made his fee public in a Magic Magazine interview in the early 90's. (Imagine that, a magician tooting his own horn Smile ) Back then I think the figure was $350.
"Love is the real magic." -Doug Henning
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Donald Dunphy
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Thanks for the clarification, Ken. I thought Silly Billy had talked about it in his lectures or his books, but I wasn't aware he had discussed it in a Magic Magazine interview / article. I seem to recall him talking about his birthday show fees in his lecture when I saw him in Victoria, BC, Canada, in January or February 2006. But I don't recall him talking about the number of shows per year at that dollar figure, which I think is part of the picture (but again, maybe not really our business unless he brought it up).

- Donald

P.S. Here is another item that might be worth mentioning on this thread. There is a book by Illusionist JC Sum called "Big Money Shows", and it relates to the topic of less shows, more money. It might be of interest to Gerry and others (I haven't read this book). http://illusionbookstore.com/product/big-money-shows-book/
Donald Dunphy is a Victoria Magician, British Columbia, Canada.
Gerry Walkowski
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Donald,

I appreciate the links. I will check them out.

Ken beat me to the punch on that one. I heard Silly Billy's price mentioned so many times that I always considered it common knowledge in the magic circles.

As for the magic podcast at magicianbusiness.com, I've hardly listed to any of these mainly because of the way they were recorded. I'll have to listen to Andrew Smith's session.

Thanks,

Gerry
Bill Hegbli
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If you listen to Magician's Broadcast, you will find out, that those guys do a lot more then just a show. Some offer video of the birthday event, some give magic lessons, and some have a photo session. Some provide some of the planning and some even set up and run the whole thing. Including cake, ice cream, set-up and clean-up. Most all the have admitted they just don't walk in, do the show and leave.

They interview an real corporate illusionist. The says he made thousands of dollars for his shows. As he kept talking, you find out, he is more of a consultant and planner then just an illusionist. He finds out what the client is thinking, then he contacts all the people that will make those plans come true. If special illusions are needed, he finds illusion builders to build them. Then lights, sound, staging, etc. Finally, he is the magician that performs, but he worked for almost a year to do that one show.

Then he constantly had to convince the client if things went over budget and the original quotes, and get the okay to go forward. So yes, he can say he got $100,000 for a show, but he earned every penny with all that he had to do, to get to presenting that show.

As far as Silly Billy, you have to consider the lives in New York, and takes the local transportation to the homes. If you think cost of living is high in your area, just go to New York. They most likely think $350 to $500 is like charging $25 for a magician to come their home.

You have to be realistic about your target market and area of the country you are providing service to.

Now go the other side of the country. L.A. has so many skilled and well known magicians competing against each other that they hardly get gas money for a show.

Many years ago, before Daryl took his time off for seven years from magic, he did a final lecture tour. I got one of his brochures. Now here was the top car man at time, published 3 books and numerous tricks, won several awards and even FISM. On the back of side of his brochure, it said his fee was $200 for a show.

I believe you should be honest with yourself an look at your performance. Just because on performer changes $500, does not mean you have the same value as that performer. The look at what you are selling. Do you show up with a briefcase, some rope, and a deck of cards. Or do you offer an illusion show with 2 assistants and several illusions, music, stage settings and the whole 9 years. Do you know how to act, and dress properly for the event. Have studied the art of stage craft. Have worked on you magic until you can do it without thinking, and scripted the whole show on paper. In other words are you as professional as you can be at this point in your magic career. Then charge accordingly.
Dannydoyle
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What ine can personally charge for a show is not the least bit related to what others charge.

I had no idea at first this was about pricing kids birthday parties. Ignore my pays.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Donald Dunphy
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Quote:
On Sep 2, 2015, Gerry Walkowski wrote:

As for the magic podcast at magicianbusiness.com, I've hardly listed to any of these mainly because of the way they were recorded. I'll have to listen to Andrew Smith's session.


Sometimes we have to challenge our own comfort zones to learn new things, and to learn about others.

- Donald
Donald Dunphy is a Victoria Magician, British Columbia, Canada.
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