I continue to investigate the entertainment world to better understand show business and success as a magical performer. A few weeks ago I came across an article written by Angela Mastrogiacomo. I do not know anything about the lady other than she works with musicians and seems to know what she is talking about. She had fascinating and helpful things to say about getting more bookings. Her insight led me to rethink how I am doing things.
What follows is a combination of her thoughts (as a musician) with my thinking (as a magician).
Angela began by expressing that the number one concern she hears musicians express is “How do we get more bookings?”
She immediately addressed the fact that bookings do not magically appear. Here are her words…
“I find that a lot of the time, bands rely too heavily on the venue, the promoter, the other artists, their manager, or their booking agent — basically, everyone but themselves, to create success for them.”
She made the point that musicians need to take personal responsibility in getting shows.
Her remarks made me think of an article in a recent Linking Ring magazine by Kent Cummings. He addressed the subject of “Hope Marketing” which is where performers sit around and hope the phone rings, hope someone looks at their website, and hope somehow they get a show.”
Fundamentally, Kent said what Angela said. There is a need to take personal responsibility relating to getting more shows. Angela’s statement, “Rely…on everyone but themselves, to create success for them” is worth reading a second time. Are we taking personal responsibility to get ourselves booked, or are we hoping someone else, or something else, will do it for us?
Not only did Angela point out a problem, she offered practical advice towards solving the problem. Her first suggestion was for musicians to start with an eye-catching promotional poster. She said…
I. HAVE AN EYE-CATCHING POSTER
“Try to use your contacts and your own ingenuity to create colorful, exciting poster designs for your show that fit the identity of your band.”
Angela quoted another person, Sarah Morgan, who said…
“Having a great poster is the key. Something colorful and eye-catching that looks professionally done and actually represents the sound and the vibe of the gig.”
Both Angela and Sarah were convinced a good poster helps people know about you. They mentioned how family and friends will post a good poster on social media. From there, if it is a good poster, it is likely to be reposted and thereby increase awareness of a performer’s work.
The correlation is obvious. It is a good thing for magicians to figure out how to make a really nice poster promoting their work as a performer. It should be put in front of as many people as possible. This may help get more bookings. As well, when shows are booked, a good poster will be already designed and ready for clients to use.
II. GO BEYOND THE STANDARD WAYS OF PROMOTING YOUR WORK
The next thing Angela mentioned was…
“Try to give people as many reasons as possible to feel excited about your event. It doesn’t stop at posters, physically or digital, either. If it’s a big enough occasion, a record-release party, for example, go ahead and make a small investment in printing flyers, fabricating buttons, or preparing an extra piece of exclusive merch.”
My understanding of this point is the concept of figuring out every way we can to put our names/shows in front of people. There is a need to be creative about promoting oneself. Why not do like musicians do and have something similar to a “record-release” party, but instead refer to it as the “new-show” or “new-routines’ party. Invite people (maybe even community leaders) to come over to see new material you are working on. Make it a fun evening, like a party. Make up something tangible for the occasion, relating to the show, that people can take home with them. (Such as a pen with a message on it, business card with a trick on the back, etc.)
The idea is to create local, personal and immediate awareness of a one’s work. This is done with the intent of more people learning what the performer can do and passing on the word about it.
III. REMEMBER YOU ARE LIKELY TO BE JUDGED BY WHO YOU WORK WITH
The next thing Angela said was something I did not expect, but I see wisdom in it…
“Get picky about who is on the bill with you…If you pick bands that fit well with your genre and draw a good crowd, you’re more likely to gain some new fans out of their audience. And you won’t be risking that dreaded phenomenon where a third of the crowd leaves between each set!”
She also said…
“If you fill your show with bands no one really knows, or that don’t mesh with your genre, you’re really doing a disservice to everyone involved, including, and especially, the fans.”
I thought of some magic variety shows I have attended. These shows included a number of inept performers who were hard to watch. Their magic wasn’t good and their presentation was boring. As they went “on and on” many people got up and left.
If we associate ourselves with such shows, people may leave before we ever get on stage, and do so with the assumption that our act would be just as boring as the other acts. If we are not careful, by working with performers who do not do a good job, our own reputation may suffer.
On the other hand, if we associate ourselves with those who do a great job and put on a great show…it is likely people will assume we do the same. It makes sense to try to connect with great performers. They need not be magicians. If we do a short variety bit as part of a great music show, or maybe find a way to do something with a local celebrity or with a theater group which has a reputation for quality performance, it could elevate our own image and marketability. In other words, just as there can be such a thing as “guilt by association,” there also seems to be “credibility by association.”
I had not thought about this before. Now I see it as a matter to seriously ponder. Who we associate with as performers can affect our image and opportunity to get work.
IV. FIND A WAY TO DISTINGUISH YOURSELF FROM OTHERS IN YOUR FIELD
Continuing with Angela’s remarks…
“Make each show an experience to remember.”
Expanding on this she further said…
“There are so many bands out there making great music and, depending on your city, many of them are putting on shows the same night as you, so there has to be a reason to come to your show and not someone else’s. Part of this is creating a reputation for always giving your fans an experience.”
On this matter she quoted James M. Davis, of Cade Michaels Management. He said…
“Come up with themes, giveaways, hire a clown, have another musician sit in on your set, or debut some new music. Give us a reason to be engaged with your marketing and your show.”
My takeaway from that observation is we must not assume, simply because we are doing magic tricks, the show will be appreciated. There is a need to figure out ways to add “bells and whistles” to what we do. Rather than being “yet another magic show” or “just a magic show” we need to be the ones with the extra-special show or the show with the unique and exciting theme. We should ask ourselves, “What can I do to ensure people especially remember me and the kind of magic I do? What distinguishes me from other performers?”
V. NEVER STOP WORKING TO GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT YOUR WORK
Finally Angela said…
“Promote, promote, promote. Seems obvious, right? But when I say promote, I don’t mean just post it on your Facebook and Twitter once or twice and call it a day. I mean seriously get out there and promote it hard. The truth is that sometimes people need to see something five times to actually feel the hype and be inclined to go.”
This takes us back to what we said near the beginning of this article. We cannot expect bookings to magically appear. We must understand it takes work to get shows. If we want to be on stage often, we have to put time into making contacts and connections that put us on stage. It is not something that will happen by itself.
Note: Concerning Angela’s comment about people needing to “see something five times…”. When I worked in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for the Fee/Hedrick Corporation (in the Magic Beyond Belief show) my boss was of the opinion that people need to see something seven times to be motivated to buy a ticket. This reinforces the idea that promotion must be ongoing.
Challenges that come through Angela’s remarks are…
- Performers must work at getting to know people and at giving people opportunity to know them. (If people do not know we exist, they are not going to hire us nor recommend us!)
- Posters and print media are important. We need to get our image in front of people.
- Social media is important, but in-person networking is more important.
- Associating with successful performers, entertainers and celebrities can add to our success. Being labeled with, or grouped with, inept and/or boring performers can hurt our success.
- There is a need to distinguish ourselves from others who do what we do. We must be perceived as the ones who have “added value” in our performances.
- Promotion must be a constant and on-going effort.
I needed her advice. I am in a situation where I am working to establish myself in a new region of the country. I need to do a better job of letting potential clients know I exist. If the kind of bookings I desire are to come my way, I’ve got to get to work to make it happen!