Is it better to be a music producer or a singer? Somebody who can hit the high notes or somebody who can write great songs?
I guess I don't know. It depends on the artist, their vision, their skills and talents, and their goals. Eugene Burger said that there are many rooms in the house of magic, and I agree.
Several things can be magical and a high degree of technical proficiency is definitely magical (ask Richard Turner). The slightly funny problem comes with people genuinely not knowing if they are technicians or magicians. There are millions (no hyperbole here) of magicians who do magical things (which is by no means a mean feat)... but not magic.
It all depends on what you perceive the differences between a magician and technician to be, and which of those differences you value the most.
But really, the quality that is the most important is the ability to be entertaining! Let's look at two very different performers: Doug Henning and Richard Turner. Both d0 entirely separate acts. Henning does magic that borders on hokey, while Turner does complex gambling demonstrations. There are very little similarities between the two, but both performers are at the top of the magic world. That's because they can connect with their audience. That's much better than some magician who does color change after meaningless color change, or the technician that monotonously throws out bottoms.
I think that an important question for every performer to ask him or herself is: "Why do I perform for people?" To put the question another way: "What is my goal in performing?"
There are so many possible answers, including, (1) "I just get a big charge out of blowing people's minds"; (2) "I want to entertain people, make them smile, and bring them joy"; (3) "I'm a sadist and it brings me joy to fool people with tricks they desperately wish they could figure out, but can't, ha ha ha! (Anyone know a good counselor?)"; (4) "I crave attention from people and performing is a good way to get it"; (5) "I'm hopeful that it will make me more attractive to potential romantic partners"; (6) "I want to give people a glimpse into the seemingly impossible and inspire them to believe they can create magic in their own lives"; (7) "OK, I'll admit it, I'm a show off and it satisfies my BIG ego"; (8) "It's about the techniques for me, I love learning and performing tricks that involve difficult moves and sleights"; (9) "I'm very intrigued by ESP and psychic phenomena, so I enjoy learning and performing mentalism or mental magic"; (10) "I'm fascinated by the gambling world, and never go anywhere without my copy of Expert at the Card Table"; (11) "I want to be successful as a professional magician or mentalist because I hate my boring job and my *@!#&! boss"; (12) "I don't want it to be all about showing how clever I am, but rather involving the spectators as participants, making them the center of attention, and helping them feel great about themselves"; (13) other reason - fill in the blank >________________________________.
I think when we ask ourselves this question and come up with an honest answer, it will guide us as to the type of performer we want to be, the material we choose, and how we present it, or it may even cause us to re-evaluate and go in a new direction as performers.
Of course there's also the fact that without a certain level of knowledge in the technical part of things, you can't hope to be good in magic. You don't have to be the best, but no amount of showmanship can help you if your double lifted cards clearly separate during the performance. Once our technical prowess increases, we also learn various ways to incorporate it into our performances and we deepen our knowledge in general. We may not use every single sleight you learn, but a larger range helps. There's a difference between doing the double undercut because you know that in that situation it's the most efficient and natural move, and doing the double undercut because you don't know how to do anything else.