This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get in emails and during Skype lessons. As magicians we constantly practice and fine-tune our craft. But why not have all that practice pay off? In this blog entry I’ll explain how to get more gigs.
Doing shows is the only way to get more shows. Your magic website and business cards won’t do anything on their own, trust me. Google really caters to sponsored magicians, so you’ll hardly be found just by searching the Internet. You need to perform for free (or next to free) if you really want to kick start your gigs. When people see you perform they will remember you. And the more people you perform for, the more work comes your way.
Back in 2008 and 2009 I worked at a restaurant for only $30 a night. But each night I’d land gigs that paid $300-$500. I even booked corporate gigs that paid around $1000. (All from doing simple effects like Ladanye’s Ambitious Card or Forging Ahead.)
So how do you get a restaurant gig? First, dress nice. I always wear tailored suits. I want to look like I own the place. (Plus, you’ll feel super confident.) Go to every nice place in town you can think of. Pick a fancy place where rich people eat, not a burger joint. Hanging out with rich people gets you the work you want. Plus, kids don’t eat at places that serve $65 steak. This is nice if you want to avoid performing at little kids birthday parties. Go on a Tuesday or Wednesday around 2-3pm in the afternoon. That way they won’t be too busy. Ask to speak to a manager or an owner. Explain what you do. Restaurants are always trying to minimize the amount of time between when the customers order and when their food is served. You are the person that’s going to entertain them during that wait. Any manager will be interested in this service.
Be prepared to show him or her something quick and powerful. A manager might be busy so don’t do 15 minutes worth of material. Do something like a short phase ACR that ends with a card to wallet. If you get turned down don’t worry about it. There’s more than one restaurant in your neighborhood. Do them all until someone bites.
If it’s your absolute first gig offer to do it for free. If you’ve got a few places you’re working at, ask for $30 to $50. Remember, they’ll usually throw in free dinner and you’ll make tips. Remember that place I worked at for $30? I worked there twice a week. I ate steak both nights and made about $150-200 in tips each week. (That’s about $1000 a month (and LOTS of steak) just from this one place.
So you land your gig. Now what? Have your material ready. It should all be “in the hands” material. You should have lots of “shut up and watch” effects. Big gambling routines won’t work in a table-hopping setting. After a table has ordered their food approach them as soon as possible. Your introduction must be short and sweet. “Hi, I’m Jason. Let’s do some magic. Is that okay with you?” Say this while executing a flourish cut. These people don’t know you. So right away you need to establish you’re worth watching. Get into an effect that has really amazing visual magic right away. Too much talk and no magic will make them lose interest quick. (Think about the last bad movie you saw. You know the one where you’re thinking, “is anything going to happen or should I just turn it off?”) You want them to be stunned right away. Make them want the second trick.
If they say no, don’t worry about it. You’ll have plenty of tables that will say yes. In my experience, I rarely get turned down. (I think it’s the tailored suits!) So you’re performing all night, making tips, handing out cards. What next?
The biggest advice I can give is when people approach you. They’ll come up and ask for a business card and say they’ve got an event coming up. If you give them your card you may never hear back from them. You MUST get their information as well. Now you can contact them and get the ball rolling.
Once you get a consistent gig somewhere, go out and get more. Other restaurants will be easier to pitch to now. You can say, “I work at these three places and I can bring my fans to your place too.” Managers love to hear about people you’ll be bringing in to their business.
So don’t wait, go out there and work. You’ll be amazed how much MORE work and great paying gigs you’ll land. Good luck out there!