For many years I never considered turning down working a gig, so that I could go to a magic convention. I guess in my eyes I was so focused on providing for my family that I didn't see the benefit of spending money to hear other magicians talk. Well this year I made it my goal to attend as many as I possibly could. Well I achieved that goal and I am so thankful that I did. I have leaned so much from these conventions about so many aspects of entertainment. Not just about new magic tricks I could learn either...though I did learn a lot of new magic tricks as well. One of my favorite conventions was one I didn't even have to leave home to attend, The Magic Masters Summit. I loved how there were so many topics that I had the chance to hear discussed from some of the biggest names in magic. Topics that no one talks about but are tremendously important to the industry. Such as Wardrobe and Costumes, Video Editing, Systems for Contacting Clients, Promo Materials, and much more. At the Atlanta Harvest of Magic I was expecting to learn some amazing magic from the Eugene Burger lecture, but instead I was amazed by his teachings in a completely different matter. Instead of teaching something that is overly complex or requires a tremendous amount of time to practice. He brought out the simplest magic tricks you could think of and performed them in a unique way that was mind blowing. Yes, I knew how the tricks were done because I learned them when I was in elementary school, but the genius part is that there is a concept I hadn't thought of before from his lesson. That concept is that a layman doesn't know what your about to perform, nor the amount of time you have spent learning it, they just watch you perform something and wait to be amazed. So of the simplest tricks in magic performed masterfully are still amazing tricks. You know there are great magicians who have spent a lifetime learning slight of hand, and they do it beautifully. But when you factor in that your audience isn't typically a room full of magicians, you come to realize that your magic needs to be focused on the type of audience you perform for. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle I had never really applied to my show before, and after hearing that lecture I immediately applied and the results were incredible. I couldn't believe I was able to mystify my audience with simple magic. With one specific routine, I took Eugene's idea of a shot glass produced from a paper bag and put my own spin on it by building a routine that involved using a spectator borrowed phone, crushing it inside a paper bag, and then restoring it inside of a balloon which they blew up. I took several basic ideas and combined them into a routine that caught the audience as well as the spectator off guard.
Something else that I loved that Eugene said was that it's important to turn down clients and choose the right clients that will better your career. Not everyone who contacts you for an event deserves to have you perform for them. Bad clients and bad gigs do exist, but more importantly some gigs are better than others, and it's critical when talking to clients to ask them the right questions to know if you should do the gig yourself, or if it's better to refer someone else. Knowing when to say No to a client isn't an easy task, especially when money is the motivation. It can be extremely difficult turning down a gig not knowing if another one will come along. But you have to have faith that the Lord above will provide, and he will test you. So these gigs may just be a test to see if you are willing and able to say No. Its not always about the money, sometimes its simply more important that one day is spent with your family and God is wanting you to spend that time wisely. Don't look at it as a challenge to find another gig elsewhere, but rather an opportunity to seize the day. Thank you Eugene for this lecture and advice.
(The Amazing Ziggy)
So there is always that one kid or sometimes adult in the audience that offers a spoiler alert for everyone else. People at the party hate this, just as much as the magician does, but I want to give a different perspective. Don't get me wrong...it's really annoying when someone ruins the trick for you. It's no different than someone telling you who won the football game before you've had a chance to watch it, or what happens on the next episode of your favorite TV Show you haven't watched yet. Magicians are forced to deal with this on a frequent basis because lets face it, with access to the internet at their finger tips these days many of the tricks we magicians are doing have been revealed on YouTube, or the masked magician has given away the secret. But for me the issue isn't that they know how its done, but rather that they have to broadcast it to the rest of the audience, while it's happening live.
So as I said I want to defend the spoilers out there, and it is because as a young boy I distinctly remember my mother hiring a magician for my 8th birthday party, and I was that annoying kid! I loved magic so much and I was definitely the kid that thought he knew it all. I guess I'm getting paid back now, considering I have made magic my career. I remember that magician at my birthday party did a coin vanish and I saw the move and called him out on it in front of all my friends as I yelled out "it's under you watch." And sure enough he takes off the watch and there it is...Nope he wasn't fooling me! I felt like I was on cloud 9 because I figured out his trick. But I never really thought about how the rest of my friends felt who attended my party. How did they feel about me ruining the show for them? I mean after all it was my party so I probably wouldn't have really cared at the time, but that just goes to show I was a spoiled little brat I guess. Now as an adult I can only imagine how my mother must have felt, or how the magician at my party felt for having so many tricks ruined for him. He probably thought that was the worst show he's ever done, but little did he know that the magic he did just added fuel to the fire for my desire to learn more and more about magic.
So for any magicians reading this I encourage you to step up your game, and make your sleight of hand better because of those magic spoilers out there. The bottom line is you need to anticipate someone spoiling a trick, plan for failure, and be witty and clever enough in the spur of the moment to prove you are better than them! This will help you win over your audience and it adds improvisational humor to your performance which makes for a better show.
The most important thing I hope you take away from this is that you need to realize how every time you perform you are also inspiring someone in that audience. someone that may decide when they grow up to pursue a career as a magician. The art of magic is a dying art and it can only be kept alive if we magicians are working to inspire the youth that are watching us perform. I truly wish I could go back and shake that magicians hand from my 8th birthday party, so I could thank him for encouraging me. His magic may not have been that hard for an 8 year old to figure out, but it was certainly entertaining enough to help shape the type of performer that I wanted to become.
Aaron Clark (The Amazing Ziggy)
As a full time magician how many hours a week could you possibly work?
Well I personally work about 60-80 hours a week...now that doesn't mean I perform 60-80 hour a week. I typically work 3-10 events a week each event is 1-3 hours typically. So at most I am performing 10 hours...you the other 50-70 hours are spent driving to and from gigs, and the rest is spent working from home. Majority of my time is spent marketing, updating my website, blogging, writing contracts, emailing clients, and the remaining time is spent learning and practicing new magic.
There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to be able to prepare for each performance I do. The show is constantly changing so that each time I perform clients always get to see something new.
How much material do you need to perform a magic show?
Well in the beginning you need to have at least enough materiel for 45 minutes stage and at least 20 minutes of roaming. But that will only get you by for about a year, then you have to change things up and add some new material and bigger tricks.
I have enough magic to perform 7 different magic shows with different themes. Each of my shows is 1 hour long. Then I also have enough close up magic to perform for 1 hour without doing the same trick twice, but that never happens! You repeat the same 5-7 tricks over and over for every roaming performance I have ever done.
So why have so much material? For me I need to be able to perform for many different types of events...the kids show magic isn't going to entertain the adults and vice versa. So I have to know my audience before I perform so I know what magic I should perform for them.
Do I need a script?
YES! One very most important parts of performing magic is coming up with a good script for you show!
Then videoing yourself and going back and tweaking the performance until you're satisfied with how it turns out. If you think you are just going to wing it, you are basically setting yourself up for failure. That being said you need to know your script inside and out, if you sound like your reciting dialog from your script and not telling a story that is smooth and flawless then you haven't practice enough and you shouldn't be performing for a live audience yet.
Like in movies, theater, or novels, in magic everything starts with something very simple: an idea. Ideas are the cornerstone of any art piece. In magic the path from the idea to the illusion is different from other arts.
No matter if you are working on a routine in card magic, coin magic, a manipulation effect, etc...ALL MAGIC including stage illusions to the simplest close-up magic, will all have the beginning idea as the starting point. An idea is much more than a set of linked effects which is something really powerful, but meaningless in its essence. Ideas give meaning and make magic bigger allowing it to become beauty.
Scripts are the tools needed for anyone who’s transforming an idea to the real world, to the stage, and achieving a goal to make it into an art form. Becoming a professional magicians is a natural evolution that happens in three phases: 1.) You begin performing a magic effects to family and friends. 2.) Create a story, magic involves a tremendous about of story telling to express an idea and share that idea with a beautiful effect. 3.) You need to learn how an audience will react to the effect so you can then mold the trick into a spectacular performance. There are many ways to achieve this but busking is my favorite method as I get to get tips for showcasing my newest trick that I want to add to my show.
Some questions you need to ask yourself when in the design phase of your new trick: Why this effect? Where in my show can I best perform this trick? What do you expect to happen with your volunteer? What is achieved with the effect? Does it have any meaning placed at that particular point? Does it flow well with your other tricks? Does it fit your style of performance? These are all questions that magicians have to ask themselves in the idea stage of the trick. By making a script magicians answer those questions which will help give coherence and meaning to the performances. Which in the end is what matters to the audience.
Let’s think about an example, how many times you’ve seen a sub-truck routine? Think about the ones you liked the most, how was that performance and the history behind it. When performing is not just about the technical level of the magician, it is about how a story is told in a performance.
Master the technique, learn the theory behind the art or magic, and most importantly learn how to make a script. Your Magic will improve because of it and your audience will certainly appreciate all of your efforts.
Salvador Calderon – a.k.a. Conde Magnum who is a semi-pro magician from www.magicshowbuilder.com
Salvador has the following to say about the importance of scripting for magicians:
Not that long ago, after reading "Scripting Magic" and "Maximum Entertainment," I decided that to improve my act and move to the next level of earnings I needed to begin writing scripts.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t written very much when I quickly ran into a problem. Keeping things organized was very hard. The truth is the whole thing quickly became a mess. I got confused easily, my acts started running together, my performance suffered and instead of growing my career it began to look like I was actually destroying it.
I needed to do something and I needed to do it fast. I could either stop writing scripts and basically give up any hope of growing my magic career … or I could find another solution.
Well, I definitely wasn’t ready to give up my dreams of being a successful magician so I began to desperately look for a solution to my problem.
The first thing that came to mind (besides being a semi-pro magician, I also work as an engineer in my day job) was creating some type of database that would allow me to catalog each of my acts so there would be no more crossover confusion.
But I figured finding a database program that would work for magicians would be impossible. However, I began to research the subject anyway, simply because I was desperate to find anything that might help me succeed as a magician.
But I found nothing. Well, I actually found a couple of magic programs that say they can be used for this purpose but both were very poorly done and in the end weren’t able to do what they promised. They were just a waste of money.
So I kept looking and just when I was about to give up I found Celtx, an open source scriptwriting software.
This software sounded promising. A few magicians that I talked to said they used it and that it did a lot of great things.
But unfortunately, I found the learning curve for Celtx to be HUGE. It is an incredibly difficult program to use and I didn’t have time to devote the hours and hours and hours a it would take to learn to use this program effectively.
In today’s busy world, who does? Plus, I also wanted to be able to keep my growing list of magic acts in YouTube videos and Celtx didn’t offer me this option.
So I went back to researching and looking … but again I found nothing … until one day I got so frustrated that I decided I would just create a program myself.
I figured I can’t be the only magician struggling to organize their acts. So I decided to tap into my engineer’s training and design my dream magician’s software and then have it programmed by the best professionals I could find. The result … MAGIC SHOW BUILDER
Here are some of the testimonies:
“'Magic Show Builder' isn't a very precise name for this magical software. It not only builds your show, it BUILDS YOUR BUSINESS! Keeping your material, show, and schedule organized will not only help to improve your show, but more importantly, help to save you a lot of trouble on the business side of your career. Highly recommend it!” -
“I don't want to recommend Magic Show Builder to anyone... It's just THAT good! You have to use it to know how effective it is in dealing every aspects of your magical art! Wow, it reminds me all the elements of a good magic piece, and I'm intrigued at the powerful system and organizer it serves to all the fellow magicians! Perhaps the pioneer in its field!” -
Perl, psychological illusionist, Taiwan Kaohsiung
“Magic Show Builder is a very useful tool for magicians or anybody else who is putting together a performance and needs to organize, search, and store information related to his work. If you have not yet figured out an efficient system for yourself, I recommend Magic Show Builder.” -
“Magic Show Builder helps every magician do what he should be doing to create a strong, clear and cohesive performance. Use this tool in conjunction with your scripting and rehearsal regime to be the best you can be!” -
John B. Pyka,
-Aaron Clark (The Amazing Ziggy)
So I have purchased some music on itunes so that makes it my property and I can then use that any way I please right? WRONG! Just because you buy the music does not give you the right to then profit from that music. This can get you into some major legal issues if the artist who created that music decided to sue you for using their intellectual property without permission. Now the chances of that happening for a local performer is pretty unlikely, but if your performing for Major Corporations, or in front of large audiences, then it's probably in your best interest to only use Royalty Free music for your promotional materials and for your stage performances.
Finding the right music for your promo reel, your stage show, or even your YouTube Videos is no easy process. Regardless of if it's royalty free, or not it requires a tremendous amount of searching and planning to pick just the right music. However, I can't even begin to tell you how difficult it is to find royalty free music. Not to mention to cost per song is EXTREMELY outrageous, but you are buying the rights to that music to use however you wish so it is an investment into your business.
Here are some websites I have found that sell Royalty Free Music:
Be aware though that it will be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, as you search for hours upon hours until you finally come across exactly what you are looking for.
As a magician it's critical that the music you pick be dynamic and it needs to enhance the performance to captivate your audiences attention and make them intrigued and on the edge of their seat. Picking the wrong music can not only deter a potential client, but it can kill your chances of ever seeing a standing ovation!
Rich Ferguson is a magician and a professional prankster, he has a YouTube channel where he has a ton of videos that all have music which he gets from www.StockMusicMarket.com to help him in hes content creation. The music Ferguson finds must not create any problems not only with YouTube, but also with TV Stations as most will require you to provide release notices in order for them to air your videos. Many of the videos Ferguson creates go viral, and if the music were not royalty free then he wouldn't be able to have those videos played thus it would prevent him from being able to grow his business, as well as his number of followers on his channel. Not to mention the copyright claims that are avoided by simply using royalty free music is simply unfathomable! Rick Ferguson has been a guest on Ellen, The Today Show, & The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and many more!
-Aaron Clark (The Amazing Ziggy)
Recently I was performing at On The Border which is a restaurant chain in the Atlanta area. I was performing closeup magic and balloon art for a table, and I had just wowed them with magic and proceeded to make the little girl a butterfly balloon as per her requests. As I start twisting the balloons 2 tables down a young man about 15 years old stands up and is freaking out to which his mother says he is autistic and asks me to stop making balloons, which I did. I explained to her I work with autistic children very often and I can help in this situation with magic. To which the boy gets very excited and hugs me. I had a connection moment with him and he was calm and wanting me to show him magic...but his mother wouldn't have any part of it, she dragged him outside and waited until I was out of their section to bring him back inside. This had such a great potential to be a moment of pure joy for him, which I find so often with any one who has autism, all ranges of the spectrum. Children and adults faces light up seeing me perform magic for them. These people face life every day with autism being over stimulated by sights and sounds in their environment, and I can completely understand how the sound of twisting balloons is like nails on a chalkboard to them. But what I can't understand his how this over protective mom could not see to joy and excitement in her sons face, and how the situation was resolved. She was selfish at that moment when she took him outside and didn't allow him to see the magic trick I wanted to show him, and more importantly that he wanted to see. All she cared about was not being the center of attention any longer in a crowded restaurant, but all she did was make herself look worse. I felt so bad for him and I pray his mother can some day realize that those moments don't have to always be a negative moment and that after 15 or so years of dealing with them she should know that by now. Her reaction I am sure was so routine that I don't think she has ever tied anything else to resolve that type situation, so she didn't believe me that it works...even though he clearly had calmed down and was ready to see some magic!
Here is a blog post from the Autism Speaks website from 2014 about a magician named Cody Comet who performs magic for people living on the spectrum:
-Aaron Clark (The Amazing Ziggy)
What's more important a client being satisfied, or staying true to yourself?
Has a client ever requested for you to do something you feel is not appropriate?
For example: Recently I was asked to perform magic for a baby shower, I explained what all it would include and the client booked my services. Well the day of the event I come to find out more info about what the client truly wanted and expected of me. They wanted someone to babysit the kids and keep them entertained while the adults enjoyed the baby shower. Well here is where I stuck to my guns and it paid off...but potentially could have made the client cancel but considering that the party was the same day it was doubtful.
I explained to the client that I am not a babysitter, I am a professional magician and that I am not responsible for what those kids do at the event. My job is the entertain them not to monitor them, nor discipline them for misbehaving. I told the client that for every 10 kids there must be one adult to supervise the kids or I wasn't going to perform at the event.
I put my foot down and it turns out that the event went off without a hitch as the parents rotated in shifts so there was always an adult present and everyone had a blast.
So I wonder what unusual situation has a client requested you to take part in? And did you do it or did you tell the client No?
At some point you have to ask yourself is it more important to make the client happy so you can get paid? Or is your reputation, ethics, and your character what's most important?
You are your own boss, so you make the decisions, and I hope that you choose to stay true to yourself and tell the client they are out of line to even consider asking you to do something unethical or that could give you a bad reputation.
Andy Stanley I feel said it best at 18:00 minutes into his sermon (video below) when he preached about the apostle Paul writing letters in the "meantime" while waiting in prison he wrote 4 books of the bible which were meant only to be letters to be delivered to the churches he had planted along the Mediterranean. But those letters became the most widely read literature in the world, which is amazing considering he only wrote one copy!
So Andy Stanley is talking about adversity and decision making, he says: "You have no idea what, or who hangs in the balance when you decide to remain faithful, when everything around you says be faithless. You have no idea what God might be up to thru your faithfulness. When everything around you says there's no point in being ethical, there's nothing point in being moral, there's no point in being faithful, there's no point in staying, there's no point in telling the truth, there's no point in doing it the way that it ought to be done, there's no point in being obedient, there's no point in being submissive, there's no point in saying yes to God, because there is no win. You're just stuck, you're just living for some fantasy out there, and you have no idea what hangs in the balance. And the problem is, and the tragedy is, and the challenge is... You'll never know, unless you're willing to remain faithful in the midst of adversity. And what you have lived long enough to have already learned is simply this, that often times it is within the context of adversity, that God does his most amazing things in us, and thru us, and in the world."
And I couldn't agree more that when you stay true to yourself you may be blessing others, thru your character which can inspire someone else in their decision making. So don't be afraid to say no, and when you feel your backed into a corner stop and pray and God will give you an answer.
-Aaron Clark (The Amazing Ziggy)
While at events I am frequently asked the same question: How many children do I have?
You see I perform for children on a very frequent basis and I love entertaining children. I believe it takes a special type of understanding of a child to be able to entertain, teach, or even to work around children regularly. The main thing you have to have is patience, you must have the very best patience to work around children.
So why then do people assume that I have children? I guess it's because I am so patient with the children and they see the father in me with the way I interact with their children at events. Well they are correct, I do have 3 kids, and they are my whole world. I love being a Dad, and from a young age I always knew I wanted to have kids of my own. I distinctly remember growing up and always having younger kids flock to me, they always wanted me to be their friends. Even before I got into magic. I learned how to juggle from my uncle starting at the age of only 4 years old. I remember having a juggling club with the neighborhood kids. As I grew I became more and more interested into magic so that lead to the younger kids loving me that much more! What's funny is I can see that same thing happening to my children now as they are growing up...I guess I know where they get it from.
So does having children make you a better performer then? I think so...
Well I think it gives you a better understanding of what the parents are wanting. I have always been good at putting on a show and making the kids laugh. But it wasn't until I had children of my own that I understood the importance of having a personal connection with your audience. I will give you a great example of what I mean. If you have never been to the Georgia Aquarium I highly recommend you going, as it is an amazing experience. They have a brand new show called the Dolphin Celebration, and let me tell you, this show is fantastic! However, the show they use to have was not so great! The old show had the Dolphins doing pretty much the exact same things that they do in the new show, a few things are different, but not much...But here is what they did to make that show so much better. They gave a personal connection to the audience by allowing a child from the audience to come down and interact with the dolphins and be part of the show. That kid will never forget the experience and neither will the audience! The old show had great music and lighting, it had singing, choreography, acting and it was more of a Broadway type show. But the problem was this...its not Broadway, and the actors were mediocre at best. So there was a lot of "over acting" they were trying to hard, and they didn't connect with the audience at all. The dolphins were fun to watch, but it was painful to watch those actors & singers. I am so glad that someone gave the Georgia Aquarium the hint because their new show is spectacular and I highly recommend everyone check it out!
-Aaron Clark (aka. The Amazing Ziggy)
#DolphinCelebration #GeorgiaAquarium #KidsLoveMagic #ConnectWithYourAudience #Zmagicshow #TheAmazingZiggy
The new presentation is a fun and exciting experience that showcases dolphin behavior and their relationship with their trainers while incorporating important education messages. Focusing on the beauty, grace, athleticism, and intelligence of bottlenose dolphins, this presentation uses a variety of new behaviors that focus on each characteristic.AT&T Dolphin Celebration is included in Aquarium general admission. Seating is first come first served, based on available seating. Guests are advised to arrive at the theater at least 30 minutes prior to the showtime.
Show times vary daily.
My Name is Aaron Clark and I'm know as The Amazing Ziggy. I've been a Professional Magician for over 20 years performing all over the US and internationally, but mostly for events on the east coast in the Atlanta Area.