You’ve put the time in, learned the ropes, and you’re confident in your flawless ability to pull off all the right tricks at the right times.
Now comes the hard part: booking your magic act at a real physical location.
It’s not going to be easy, especially since we’re only just now seeing a resurgence in people having an interest in magic.
But there’s still plenty of opportunities out there, you just have to keep pressing.
We’re going to walk you through organizing your show and tricks, right on down to booking your act at multiple places and how to get over stage fright.
There’s a lot that goes into this, so get ready to put the work in and make something of it.
How Long Should Your First Magic Be?
Well, that all depends on what you’re doing. Let’s go into each different performance type to see how long they should really be.
For children’s parties, you need to know a lot of smaller tricks, so you can end up spending about 20-30 minutes in total just doing tricks.
Children only have so much of an attention span.
If you did something that really stunned them, you can show them the trick, and then explain how you did it, or have some spare props for them to mess around with.
Interacting with the kids can extend the show for a little while, up to 60 minutes, so you can charge for a full hour. It also gives the parents about an hour’s worth of a break, which is invaluable.
Magic shows that are designed for teenagers/adults to enjoy are usually going to be a bit longer.
About 50-70 minutes on average, though some Vegas shows have been known to go up to 90 minutes (with the kind of money you’re paying, it’s only fair, you know?).
The difficult part with these shows is that all of your tricks have to leave a whole crowd in awe. It requires flawless execution for the entire length of time.
If you’re performing street magic and you’re doing demonstrations, shows, including spectators in your act and things of the sort, you can plan out as short or as long of intervals as you see fit.
Generally speaking, having about 20-35 minutes of tricks to do will allow you to perform for about two hours, run through your routine four times to different groups of people, and leave a good impression.
One of the biggest difficulties with stretching out a magic show for this long is that you need fillers in between all of your tricks, and a ton of ideas to really extend the show without taking it too slow.
We’re going to explain some of the great trick fillers in a little while, but suffice to say, you’re going to have to diversify to fill up the time.
Engage the crowd, talk a bit, maybe give some personal anecdotes without delving into stand-up comedy, and you’ll do fine. There’s still more to cover.
How Many Tricks Should You do?
There is no magic number (I know that was a cheap joke, but I had to). You need to look at how much time you’re going to be filling, and what your stage presence will be like.
Have you ever been to a concert where they only play about ten songs, even though they had room for fifteen?
Did the singer toss some jokes out or talk to the audience in between songs while they set things up?
They’re transitioning, which doesn’t make you feel like you’re getting jipped, but it allows them to do less of performance because they’re trying to charm you.
Your first act, depending on how long it is, should have enough tricks to keep the audience entertained and invested.
You shouldn’t see anyone in the seats lighting up their faces by checking Twitter, or talking to their date—all eyes are supposed to be on you.
If you’re trying to test out how long in between tricks you should let it hang (with fillers of course, which we’re about to cover), the best way to do it is to test out your entire act, front to back, on a crowd before you actually set up your first paid-for act.
If people are paying admission, then you have to make sure you’re selling them a proper show.
Testing this is going to be key. When planning out your act, time how long it takes to have your anecdotes in between tricks so that you’re still keeping attention.
I cannot stress this enough, but be concise. You don’t want to droll on and on. You want to keep just enough anticipation in between tricks without letting it fizzle out.
It’s all about trial and error, but you’ll get it before too long.
What are the Great Fillers Between Tricks?
In between your tricks, whether your assistant is setting up for the next one or you just have some dead air (which happens sometimes), you need some filler material to help you bounce back.
To get back in the center of everyone’s attention. Here are a few:
Who doesn’t love to laugh?
The comedic release is used to let off some of the tension, and if you’re pulling a Copperfield and flying over the stage (hey, I don’t know what’s in your magic act), you can end it, and then say a joke to let some of the tension off.
To tell people that you’re okay, then to get back into the tricks.
You’re not going to run out on your show.
Instead, you’re going to take a mundane trick and turn it into something fantastic.
With stage shows, you will have access to the house lights and the ability to play sound effects over the PA system. Do a simple trick, like making a ball disappear.
Upon cue, have a lighting director kill the lights, and leave your hat where you were standing.
Disappear quietly. When the light comes back on in a few seconds, you’re gone but your hat (and the object you were trying to make disappear) will still be there.
Casually walk back out onto the stage and say out loud, “I made myself disappear again. It’s a work in progress.”
Grab your hat back and hear the crowd chuckle. It’s not exactly a magic trick, but it is entertaining and a way to recapture their attention.
Take a look at Penn and Teller for a second.
Their shows have a good hint of comedy to them, and there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, your goal is for your audience to have a good time, and everyone loves to laugh.
If you have an assistant, talk to the crowd while they visible set up for the next joke, and plan for something funny to happen to the assistant.
Perhaps they’re trying to move a table off-stage and they’re visibly struggling with it. Walk over and pull off a table levitation trick, and carry it off stage. Come back like it was nothing, and say “Now where was I?”
Talk to the Audience
A great way to get personal with your audience is to treat them like an old friend.
Talk to the crowd for one to three minutes in the middle of your set, and ask them what they do, ask them where they’re from, ask them if it’s their first magic show.
Always ask questions that you can have a short response to, like complimenting their job, or mentioning that you’ve always wanted to visit that city.
Set up questions that you feel comfortable running with; you’re using the audience to set up talking points and eat up 10-20 seconds at a time.
You can make a fan, fan twirls, throw them up in the air and catch them; let your imagination run wild.
Since this isn’t really classified as magic, per se, it’s a good way to fill 30-45 seconds of time before you get back to your tricks.
How to Book Your First Magic Act
If it were easy to do, everyone would be doing it. Magic might not be as prevalent as it once was, but it’s still beloved. You have to be proactive with this so you can actually book a show.
If you have an online presence that’s mostly local, you can take the plunge and do your own ticket sales.
You would have to rent out space, like an auditorium or a hall, which can cost a bit of money and comes with planning.
But being the booking agent of your own first gig, as well as being the organizer, is a way to do it if other methods fail.
Call around. Put yourself out there. Contact dive bars, upcoming local carnivals, venues that regularly feature entertainment; call them all, ask if they’re seeking entertainment, and if not just leave your info.
Leave business cards and flyers in local places of business as well. You can’t be booked if you can’t be found, you know?
Not everybody is going to be typing in keywords online that bring you up as a result, but if 1,000 people frequent a coffee shop that has a bulletin board, that’s 1,000 opportunities to be seen.
How to Engage the Audience Better
How are you going to hold your own during a show if you can’t even retain the audience’s attention?
You can’t. You just simply can’t. Holding onto their attention will not be done with tricks alone, because eventually, you’re engaging them in the same way.
Here are some basic tips to throw into the mix when you’re organizing your first magic show. It’s sure to get people to listen.
Ask a Startling Question
This could be something out of the ordinary like, “Have you ever imagined what it’s like to be sawed in half?” or something outlandish, right before you roll a trick in.
This can be used to set up your trick and get some anticipation going, especially if you’re going for something extravagant.
I would recommend doing this for about thirty seconds at a time, where you lead up to the question to give that small break from trickery.
Start With a Story
While you wouldn’t use it on stage, one popular trick is The Miser’s Dream, where the magician often tells a story of a poor man who wished he could make money appear at the drop of a hat.
When you spin this tale while getting your props ready, you create a fluid performance. Stories are powerful movers in between tricks as well.
Talk About a Trick You Just Did
You can also talk at the end of performing a trick. Perhaps you’ve just made someone levitate on a table, and the crowd is in disbelief.
Play around with them a bit. Feel out the crowd and have fun with it. Mention “That’s not easy—he’s heavier than he looks” or something about your assistant (without insulting guests, of course). Get a laugh in between.
State a Scientific Fact
Talk about some concept that people know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, cannot be done because of science. Then defy it.
This pokes fun at your ability to defy science as well, so you can really solidify that you’re a magician.
Discuss Your Journey
This is a fantastically powerful way to get people roped into your own personal story with magic. You didn’t just stumble upon magic one day… or did you?
Weave a tale, make it a story!
Everyone in the audience knows (in the deepest recesses of their mind) that this is an act, that it’s meant to be entertaining. Give the people what they want.
Apart from what you can say, now it’s time to focus on what you can do.
You’re out here on stage, acting and pretending like you’re actually defying the laws of space, time, and matter. Don’t just stand there like a stick figure.
Be more invested in the show; let yourself feel the moment and be loose with it. Not only will it make your tricks that much more believable, but it’s also going to let you have fun.
That’s a big part of what’s important here.
How to Overcome Stage Fright Every Time
If there were a magic pill or a simple fix for this, then it would be overdone already, wouldn’t it?
The truth about stage fright is terrible because you can’t just get rid of it at the drop of a top hat.
You have to work at it over time and master your resistance to stage fright. It’s not going to be easy, but together, it’s going to be doable.
Take these steps and tips into consideration, and work up the courage to befriend the audience during your act.
You’re the master of illusion, of misdirection.
You can shift everyone’s attention over to one thing, while you perform your magic act on the side. It’s astounding, so why not try the same tactic on your stage fright?
Shift your focus over to your act, and while you have to engage your audience, remember that they’re all here to see you.
They’re here to see what you can do, and you already know what you can do, so just show them what everyone believes to be true. Focus on the tasks and not the audience.
Focus on pulling off the trick in the way that you know how, and not thinking about what could go wrong. You’ve got this.
Give up on Fear
It’s not okay to give up on things you know, unless it’s being afraid.
You’re going to perpetuate the thoughts of failure in your head leading up to a big show, and all that does is create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It means that if you think it enough, even if it’s not the outcome you want, it is the outcome that you will ensure happens. Saying “Give up on fear” sounds poetic and simple, but I understand that it isn’t.
Every single time you think of what could go wrong, shift your ideas over to what is going to go right, and the reaction you’re going to get. It’s far better to have an ego than stage fright, so amp yourself up.
When you stand with confidence and your spine is straight, you actually embody those traits.
You’re able to feel confident, because you’re walking and standing in the way that you know all confident people do. It’s a fake it ‘til you make it mentality, but it works well.
Apart from that, standing tall is going to show confidence to your audience, so you won’t get those concerning or confused looks.
Instead, they’re just going to be waiting for you to do your act without judging you. We judge those with slumpy shoulders who drag their feet, because your body language is indicative of your emotions.
Don’t let it be a problem!
Practice Coping Mechanisms
These are basically just ways you can physically calm yourself down, even in the heat of the moment.
You can practice deep breathing, you can tap your fingers against your leg, you can do a lot of different things to cope at the moment.
The reason that these are helpful is because it grounds you in the moment. You can feel something, like your deep breaths, like your fingertips on the material of your pants.
That’s tangible, and the thoughts in your head are not. It grounds you in the moment instead of letting your head drift off with all the reasons things could go wrong.
Otherwise, you’ll feel like one second is one minute, and that time is stretching out before you.
Make a Connection
We’re always more afraid of people in our minds than we actually are in real person.
It’s never as scary to actually talk to someone or deal with them in person than it is when we visualize them. People can easily be vilified in our minds through fear.
When we’re afraid of something, we come up with reasons not to do it as a survival instinct.
Once you lock eyes with someone in the crowd, then scan to the next, and realize they’re just a bunch of people in chairs with no idea of what’s about to happen, you’re in the moment. They just become people, not scary ideas in your head.
I cannot stress this enough, but when you’re organizing your first magic act, you need to sleep!
There’s going to be fear, doubt, anticipation, excitement, all in a whirlwind of varying emotions. It’s going to be difficult to keep a lid on your excitement.
That’s okay. It’s normal to feel like this, but you still have to get sufficient sleep. Our cognitive functions can slip by high margins of 10-20% just from a single missed hour of sleep.
If you sleep for six hours when you should be getting seven to eight as an adult, you’re robbing yourself of gross motor skills, attentiveness, and confidence in the future.
Avoid Caffeine and Stimulants
Caffeine affects everyone differently, but it does affect you.
People always like to say “My hands are jittering uncontrollably, so it doesn’t affect me.” If only that were the case. In truth, it’s still stimulating your mind, and it can constrict your blood vessels.
When it constricts your blood vessels, it’s easier to spike your blood pressure, which means it’s easier to go from 0 to 100 on the fear scale in no time at all.
Avoid caffeine for at least three days leading up to your first magic act if you want it to go smoothly.
Tips and Tricks for Your First Magic Act
The big day is approaching, and it’s time to get every last little tip and trick possible together so you can muster to ensure everything goes off without a hitch.
Having a few of these tricks in your pocket (not literal ones, of course) means that you can offset any mishaps that might occur while you’re on stage.
Develop a Ritual
This might sound like superstition, but it’s a good tip that helps you ground yourself and listen to those stage fright tricks from before.
If you aren’t superstitious, that’s perfectly okay (most of us magicians aren’t). You just have to do something to ground you in your performance before you walk out on stage.
That can be a cup of calming tea, or you can listen to your favorite song through some headphones, or you can simply knead a bracelet or ring in your hands.
Anything that’s going to help provide a ritual to signal to your brain, “It’s showtime!”
Practice the Day of
Many magicians make the mistake of only mentally preparing for their show.
If you look at other performance artists, like singers and dancers on Broadway, even they have a dress rehearsal on the same day of a show.
This might not be something you need to do every time once you get past your first few shows, but for your first magic act, it’s extremely helpful. Consider a rehearsal period before the show to be like a warm-up.
Talk Loudly for Five Minutes
If vocal coaches can tell their singers to warm up their vocals, then we can do the same.
You have to remember that you have to engage the crowd in between other performance pieces, whether that’s a joke here and there or just allowing your charming disposition to distract them like an act of misdirection.
Talk loudly for about five minutes prior to your show (within 3 hours of your show) to warm your vocals up so you can command the room without shouting.
Otherwise, you might find yourself talking just a little too quietly.
You’re on Your Own Now—Go and Own it
If you’ve already checked out our complete guide on how to become a magician, then in contrast with this, you know everything you need to get started and begin leaving audiences in awe.
Thanks to online education and exposure videos, you have to work harder than ever to not only trick people, but to land these spots and even have the opportunity to be before a crowd.
Shake off the stage fright, follow this simple guide, and never stop inquiring about booking gigs. You’re one top-tier shoe away from hitting the big time if you’re in front of the right audience.