How young is too young to work professionally?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Tokyo, Jun 14, 2013.

  1. I've been doing magic for about a year now and I've been interested in working professionally in magic for a while, mostly just as a busker or as a restaurant magician. I live in Virginia Beach, so there are plenty of opportunities for both available. Up until recently, I've always believed that because I'm relatively new to magic my skill level would keep me from working professionally. However, the other day I was at a festival (for those of you who live in Virginia I was at HarborFest, for those who don't its a really big annual festival at Norfolk Harbor) and I saw a street magician. I was very excited to watch him, because since I started magic I had yet to watch a professional magician in person.

    I was disappointed. His experience was clear in his performance, as he had very smooth card handling and good patter that entertained the audience. However, for a professional magician (who looked to be in his 50s) I expected much more. He flopped on two tricks, (He performed The Biddle Trick and controlled the card to the top instead of second to the top, which ruined the trick) and most of his material was magic I learned when I first started out - amateur stuff. He used the linking rings for his finale and though it was entertaining and well performed, he messed up at one portion and the rings didn't connect properly... it exposed the way the rings work.

    Anyway, after seeing him making pretty decent money (he was making easily $30-40 a performance, and he was out there all day) I resolved that my skill level was definitely good enough to perform professionally, if his was. I already perform pretty regularly on an amateur level for parties and in malls, and though I'm no expert I feel I'm good enough. However, as I began to seriously consider working professionally, a possible complication occurred to me: I'm seventeen. Mostly I'm just worried about people taking me seriously, because in honesty I look even younger. I can't imagine most restaurants wanting me to perform there (I imagine they would prefer an adult) and I'm concerned that as a busker no one would take me seriously.

    Do you guys think this problem is real and I should wait to attempt working professionally, or do you think my skill as a magician will overshadow this detail?
  2. The only issue with age is that some venues would not be allowed to hire you, really. I think you're good to go, depending on the busking laws in your area, and whether or not organisers/owners would want you in their restaurants etc. The thing about not taking you seriously, at least in the area I used to live, I did not find any problem at all when busking, or during any performance. But, if it is a problem, start strong and visual, and act mature, which should clear up their possibly negative perception of you that they may already have.
  3. Im 14 and ive been thinking about that topic too, basically if you can fool the person whos hireing you and you show them u know what your doing i dont think theyre going to say no.
  4. tokyo, My first professional performance was when I am 18. I perform on a walk-around gig in a carnival.
    My advice would be the same as Wyatt's. Start strong and visual.
    another advice: Get a name for yourself around the area you're interested working in, which I think you should have considering you busks around already.
  5. Thanks! I really appreciate it, thanks to your advice I've started putting together a set routine and have resolved to consult my mall's help center by the end of the week - I figure I can start there and if that works out I can try other more populated areas like the boardwalk once I have more experience performing.
  6. I started doing shows in my backyard when I was 6 and by the time I was 10 I was doing corporate shows, so maybe that will give you some hope. Age can be a huge advantage but you need to know how to exploit it, especially when you're young -- cuteness sells! Just watch AGT and how people go crazy over the cute kids doing ball room styled dance; I've seen the same thing in the magic world over the years but at the same time, you MUST have the same sense of command and confidence those cute talents project - professionalism!

    Very few young people are capable of projecting that level of "command" or "presence", it is something that is usually the result of exposure -- a part of one's daily environment OR, part of a conscious regiment you put yourself through in order to cultivate that image, which is a very tall order in that you must excel in many areas with education holding at the top of the list; most of these kids are top honors type students.

    If this is your goal then build an act and get into competitions. Better yet, create an act that reflects those yesteryear club acts and work with an appropriate aged partner in doing such (usually a cute girl) -- act like grown-up performers and you'll steal hearts.

    As to the older guy that stunk . . . If you were in Ohio I'd lay money on you having endured a guy named Herman Carr, one of the all time worse magicians I've ever seen; he was the local "name performer" in my home town. Sadly, good magic is very difficult to find, so much so that Billy McComb claimed it was harder to find that good sex (you'll understand that as you get older ;-) ). It's unfortunate that the majority of magicians never really rehearse their act let alone practice the material. Then too, many an older performer, because of their ego, refuse to accept that they may need to stop performing because of illnesses and just the slowness of age -- I've had to do this and it's not easy to cop with; but I know that I can't deliver the level of quality I expect of my self; I so wish others would have that same integrity.

    Think of the sort of character you like, even a rascal akin to the Artful Dodger (from Oliver Twist) can be very commercial; the great Davey Jones of "The Monkey's" started off in that role and toured doing a full Pick-Pocket act when he was about 10-12 years of age. A cute kid running street scam type bits is viable and if you take that same idea and couple it with doing a Pitch or two) hustling Svengali & Stripper Decks, Horoscopes, etc. you could find yourself getting Trade Show offers; they make for very long days (10 hours or more) but the pay starts at $1,000.00 + expenses (daily) for unknown talent.

    Feel free to PM me should you wish to discuss some thoughts and how to "get started".
  7. My bit of advice is, do not set a poor magician who "makes mistakes" but still takes down 30-40 dollars per show, as your benchmark for when you are ready to go professional. "I can do that trick without making a mistake like that, I can go pro too" should not be your train of thought. Aim for something that sounds a bit more like, "Wow that magician was really good. I learned a lot from watching that performance and want to strive to be that good." That kind of motivation will always take you further than, "If he can be pro while making those mistakes, I can too!"
  8. #8 Tokyo, Jun 16, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 16, 2013
    It wasn't necessarily that he was making mistakes, I guess maybe after getting into magic I just expected my first encounter with a professional magician to be this amazing magical experience; and I was a little disappointed.

    I do understand your point though, and I'll definitely take it into consideration. I actually saw a juggler at that same festival and although he wasn't a magician, I loved his performance and it was a big inspiration to me; his control over the crowd and his ability to keep the audience engaged even when he made a mistake (of which there were few) was enlightening to me.
  9. He wasn't a professional - he sounds like a hack that thinks he can do magic. If he was a professional, he would be getting paid at least $300 for an hour performance.

    My advice is to give yourself another year. In that year, develop a act that consists of a number of effects that are more challenging and that fit together beyond just performing a bunch of tricks. In the meantime, perform, perform and perform some more to get yourself some good experience.

    Otherwise, you will become someone else's story...

    I'm willing to help you develop an act if you are willing to work at it. Shoot me a PM.
  10. Well, I'm no pro for sure, but let me tell you my experience that I had seeing a magic show for the first time. The show was done with 2 magicians: one with 40 years of experience, the other with 25 years of experience. They are making a set of pre-show, to see what they will put in their official show and what work well with the public. I was in one of them. Honestly, the show run for about 1h30-45 minutes and about half of the trick involved a forced card. For the other half, about half was "classic" magic with rings and mentalism. So, in a point of view, I wasn't "impress" with the magic, since I knew how "most" of the tricks was done, but the show itself was amazing. Keep in mind that, even if you are doing some "basic stuff", laypeople don't know how it's done. My girlfriend was fool from start to end with the show, even if it was "obvious" for me how they had done the trick. So, if you were to give a show, don't think that you can't do something "strong" with basic stuff, just make sure your showmanship is there and have a strong routine: that will not only entertain layman but magician too! So for your age, like Craig said, you can take advantage of this fact and create a persona that fit with your routine. Just be sure to have a strong routine.
  11. I guess below teenage is not the time to work hard or is a time of learning and brushing up your skills so i guess this age is not suitable for any kind of work..anyone forcing that should be abolished.
  12. You are not too young if you can get hired and get referrals. If you are getting the work, you are not too young. Go at it with all you've got.
  13. Hey Tokyo,

    First off, I applaud you on your drive and enthusiasm - a good majority of young kids in the first year just want to do street magic and make youtube videos (not that there's anything wrong with that). The fact that you're seeking out advice to perform professionally, is awesome - props.

    Craig and a few others here gave some really great points - it's never too young to get gigs, or perform professionally. Especially if you want to busk, people are way more likely to watch the young kid doing cards tricks than the late 50 year old. But these guys are right, that all depends on if you can command a crowd.

    I would highly recommend reading the book Maximum Entertainment by Ken Weber if you haven't already - it's a great read, and I think there's a lot of stuff in there that would help you.

    That's my 2 cents - I wanted so badly to be a busker when I was 12, so I relate a lot. I think you may even find a video of me practicing my Gazzo cups and balls routine in a vest and bowler hat with a squeaky voice somewhere on YouTube.. but I'm too embarrassed to link it. Find at your own discretion :p

    Awesome discussion in this thread, great tips by a lot of great posters. Keep the conversation going!
  14. Much agreed about Maximum entertainment!

  15. It's a great book - something that also really helped my performing is taking Improv classes. Improv is huge in LA, and there are lots of schools, classes, and a million indy venues to to 20 minute improv sets at with your team.

    Anyone else have any tips on things that have helped your performing, without being specifically magic related? Books, hobbies, techniques, classes - I'd be interested to hear!
  16. Hey there Tokyo,

    There have been a lot of great tips and advice that has been given already. I might as well put my two cents in as well. If you think that you can do it, you can. You seem like you're really getting into the art. That's awesome. Keep it going and don't stop, even if you're not getting gigs. I don't think that any age is to young to perform if you can do it, like said by others. Get a routine down.. No, scratch that. Get three routines down. Three routines that contain about 3-4 tricks. If you are working in a restaurant or a walk around gig, you do not want to be showing the same tricks to every little group that you pop into. If you're performing for say, group A and somebody from group B sees a trick that you have done and asks you to come over to them, you want to have more tricks to be able to show them. Especially because I'm certain at least one or two from group A would still be watching at this time. Then of course you can have a few more tricks when you jump over to that group C. Around group E, and you can start your routines over. Man, those "Group A,B,C, and E's" was a good idea. Good idea, Blake. Oh, sorry. I am talking to myself again. That's what I get for having sitting in my room for eight years with only a deck of cards, thumb tip, and a few half dollars. I don't recommend that if you want friends in your future life.

    Let me start my advice back up again because I am getting way off topic. Sorry about that, friends.

    A good thing to invest in is business cards. This is just a small printed piece of usually nice, thick, and not really durable paper but still gets your name out there. Just carry about 10-15 of them with you whenever and wherever you go. You show someone a trick, pass them a business card. Maybe start up a fan page. That one website, facespace or something? Yeah, you can do one there. I'm just kidding. I am eighteen years old. I know what Facebook is. That was just a little joke to make this long post a little interesting to you. Well, is it? The trouble you have is, yes, people might not take you as seriously as a middle aged man. But in these days, can we even take middle aged men seriously? Cable television has messed them up. Look at my dad. I'm, once again, kidding. But I am not kidding about people taking us younger people seriously. You have to have a nice looking appearance, trimmed fingernails, and good smelling breath. A big part of the "business world" or however you want to say it, even with magic, is based on how you look and act. If you look, talk, and smell professional, you can and will be taken seriously.

    This is just my advice.

    If you have any other questions, feel free to message me. I am always here to help and will as much as I can.

  17. Thanks for the advice guys, I'll definitely check out Maximum Entertainment when my budget allows. I found your advice about the improv classes to be interesting, I've been acting most of my life in plays, local tv shows etc. so I've actually taken several improv and acting classes that I think will be very useful to me as I start performing more.

    Blake, thanks for the tips about multiple routines. I'll definitely make sure I have a few.

    I've been doing a lot of research into street performing and getting gigs, I watched Chris Ballinger's series on street magic which was very informative, and Gazzo's most recent Penguin lecture which was solely about the art of busking and commanding a crowd - it was only 20 bucks, but worth much more, it was incredibly helpful.

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