Here’s an idea I have found to be wonderfully helpful. I do not remember sharing it before. I hope it will be as useful to others as it has been to me.
Whenever possible, I play “pre-show” music. I don’t push too hard on this, but I do make a reasonable effort to convince clients to let me play my own music rather than theirs.
This is done for two reasons. First of all; clients are not always wise about how music effects the mood of a crowd. Therefore their music may not create an ideal atmosphere for performance.
I remember a time when I was performing in San Antonio, Texas. The event organizer insisted on playing his own music saying, “It is Texas appropriate.” He played Norah Jones.
I happen to like Norah Jones and think she is a great singer. I have her songs on my iPod playlist. However, her sound is not good for building excitement in front of a show. Her music typically is soft and soulful. It is easy listening, not Wow is this ever going to be fun! And her music does not relate to what a magic show is about.
I wasn’t happy with the lack of energy in the room before my performance began and I think the overall show suffered from that choice made by the organizer and by other decisions of his as well.
Usually a performer will have the best understanding of what kind of music helps prepare the crowd for what he (or she) will do.
The second reason I want my own pre-show music is I use it as an audio clock. I stumbled onto this idea years ago. When preparing for a show, I need to keep track of time. My team does as well. However, I do not wear a watch nor do I carry a phone. Our team is not allowed to use their phones within an hour of show time. (Maybe another article should be written on why “no phones” for the team within 60 minutes of showtime.) Since young people today rarely wear watches, without phones or watches, how do we keep track of time?
Now and then it is possible to see a clock on a wall, but this is not always an option. As well, when conversing with audience members or event organizers, it may seem rude to be constantly looking at a watch, phone or clock.
I learned to deal with this problem with music. Our pre-show music starts 40 minutes before a show. When it begins, our team knows exactly 40 minutes to go! At the 30, 20, 15, 10 and 7 minute spots in the pre-show music soundtrack, I always play the same songs. This allows me to vary the music somewhat, so we are not always hearing the “same old” songs. I can have whatever songs I want between the 40 and 30 minute spot, between the 27 and 20 minute spot, between the 18 and 15 minute spot, etc.
Yet, when I hear “Go Daddy-O” I know thirty minutes to go. When I hear “Could This Be Magic?” I know twenty minutes to go. When I hear “How Sweet It Is” I know fifteen minutes to go. When I hear “You’ve Got The Magic Touch” I know ten minutes to go. When I hear, “Are You Having Any Fun?” I know seven minutes to go. From that point forward (the final seven minutes of the pre-show soundtrack) I and my team know all the songs in the final buildup to the performance. This easily helps us keep track of the exact amount of time we have before we go on stage.
This may sound complicated, but it is not. When in a theatrical setting, we have found that even people who work in concessions automatically learn the soundtrack within a few shows and become conscious of its message about “how much time to go.”
Strangely enough, when we had animals in the show, they too seemed to know the time by way of the music. When certain songs played, our dogs expected someone to come get them so they could be loaded into an illusion. This was evident by how they got up and moved to the door of their waiting room. At Magic Beyond Belief in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on his own, at the perfect time, the tiger would head into the chute that prepared him for his trick. I believe the show music gave him his cue.
It is great for our team. They can be out, before the show, meeting and greeting people in the audience with no worry about What time is it? They know the time by way of the music. Specially, they know that when they hear the song, “Are You Having Any Fun?” It is time to leave the front of the house and get back stage. (This isn’t much time, only seven minutes, but it is all it takes for them to get into costume and do their final presets.) I do not need to go out and get them. No one needs to voice a reminder. The song is all it takes for them to get the message.
It is great for me. If I am speaking with an event organizer, or dealing with a distraction, in the back of my mind the music is telling me whether I can relax or if I need to be in a hurry.
It is simple. Put together 40 minutes of music. At key spots in this 40 minute mix, put songs that stand out to you. Always play them at the same time. You probably will not need to make a conscious effort to know what time each song means. It will become a natural part of your preparation and you will “just know” how time is moving along.
Note #1: I prefer a 40 minute pre-show soundtrack, but also have a 30, 20 and 10 minute version. There are occasions where the situation does not allow for a long pre-show buildup.
Note #2: What if a show doesn’t start on time? It occasionally does occur and typically frustrates me. I like to start on time and always aim at doing so. Nevertheless, there are times when factors beyond my control necessitate a late start. When this happens, I just restart the pre-show soundtrack and make the best of it.