October 2012 Newsletter

October 2012


Ring #320     The Blue Ridge Magicians


President            Eddie Tobey “Tobini”

Vice President      George Buckley

Treasurer           David Clauss

Sgt. at Arms       Jim Champion

Secretary          Dennis Phillips


Breaking News
Mark it down:
The October Meeting is the annual SWAP MEET!


****OCTOBER 16th****  


Make a note!  Bring your dusty treasures! Get a bargain!


Mark Fuller, dealer from Roanoke will be there.


Ring Report
September 2012  Meeting


Our September meeting was filled with excitement about the Waynesboro Magical Weekend where Ring members performed in local restaurants. The weekend was a success.
Our swap meet is traditionally at the Ring Meeting in October so everyone is getting out their dusty treasures.  Nominations were made for next year’s Ring Officers. The full slate and election will be at the next meeting but tentatively the nominations are for George Buckley to become president and Eddie Tobey to take the Vice President spot. The other officers will retain their positions.
This month’s Ring show was themed on Holiday Magic. Dennis Phillips opened the show with a dancing cane. He explained that in his Christmas show he floats a Candy Came which is a dancing cane painted white and red striped. He then showed a Robert Harbin designed collapsible device that he re-themed as a Christmas ornament. Finally, he played an MP3 example of his Christmas Show opening produced on the Freeware audio editing program, Audacity. He explained how easy it was to do.  He then played a DVD with Christmas Show ideas on transforming standard magic effects.
President Eddie Tobey showed a card effect with a red and a blue deck.    A card selected in one deck sympathetically appeared revealed in another.  He then did a color changing effect with four different colored backs on cards using the Brother Hamman Frustration Count. David Clauss then showed, the Rumba Count, another great way to do the count.
Dennis Phillips


Dennis Deliberations….      Editorial and Comment


By Dennis Phillips


Dan Stapleton just wrote a Linking Ring review for David Seebach’s book, “So You Want To Be An Illusionist”.


I have had Seebach’s book for a while now… It is good stuff… David is a good friend.  I would rank it as one of the top 5 books that anyone interested in doing illusions should have. It is chocked full of practical advice from a full-time professional with a long performing track record.
David’s book mostly addresses the props and routines, which is fine and useful, but the most important part of being a performing illusionist-magician is the business side!  The late Roy Huston said that being and illusionist was mostly being a furniture mover and truck driver.
Show Business is 99% Business and 1% Show, so why there is so little decent material on how to prospect, book and sell shows
There are lots of books on routines and props and presentation but that is only 1% of the whole story when “you want to be an illusionist”!
All the stuff out there on “selling a show” is vague or designed to sell you some additional tack-on scheme or plan which is more carrot-on-a-stick. Many are merely pyramid programs where you sell to others the “secrets” of making it in magic! No actual shows are booked but you make your money “selling” the “hidden secrets” for booking shows. The plans are written so that when you inevitably FAIL at booking a show, you feel like a worthless failure and blame yourself for your personal defeat but then you turn to selling the “hidden secrets” to others and lying about your own success!
John Kaplan’s ideas on “add-ons” to enhance show revenue are excellent but he is doing Canadian Fund-raisers in very small isolated towns and already has an established route. He says he does all his prospecting by post cards. His materials are worthwhile just to see how you can make all kinds of extra money when you do a show buy using concessions. His club-run ticket-sales information is great. His basic show-type probably works in Canada but no longer works in most of the United States!  The business end of his style of show (group-club fund-raisers) was almost gone here in the 70s. Most community groups are dying in the United States as we cocoon with the Internet and TV.
Stan Kramian’s stuff is the best of how to do illusions in the 60s and 70s but it is out of date. I know, I played many shows like he did.  He has lots of good performing ideas and his VHS tape of his own illusion show is excellent but he still does not discuss how to efficiently find prospects and book shows. He has a few good tips such as don’t waste money on printing hundreds of postcards but use cheap photo prints with personalized information stickers on the stamped side. He played one type of show-market: fund raisers using telephone sales boiler rooms. Those have been gone since the late 80s.
Almost all promotion materials usually have a short vague list such as:
     1)       Do mailings


      2)      Make phone calls


      3)      Encourage word-of-mouth


      4)      Try for repeat bookings


      5)     Pass out business cards everywhere
But they contain no specifics such as WHO to mail to, What to Mail, WHO to call and WHAT TO SAY.
I get my contacts, phone numbers and leads from listings on the Internet. (Country Clubs, Schools, Corporation HR Departments, Resorts, Festivals, Clubs, Community centers, Sr. Citizen etc)
What would most magicians say on a cold call?  “Hello, I am Dennis Phillips, I am a magician and I want you to hire me to……”  CLICK….buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  I personally use a lot slicker and better phone pitch. 
I believe that I know how to create great sales pitches either on the phone or in print.
Little seems to easily work in delivering paid shows without a lot of labor, time, disappointment and aggravation. Most of the time I feel that if I spent all that time selling something else, I could make a whole lot more money for all my effort.
Recently the focus of most marketing is away from costly direct mail and time-consuming cold-call phone lists and worthless fax blitzes and on using Internet tags and search engines and targeted E-Mails.   Can you say “Spam”?  Of course the people who tell you this are selling their services to manage your on-line presence.  The Internet is mostly a tub of warm vomit and not a “Gig-Salad” or “Gig-Master. The Internet seems to drown people.  I hate to go swimming in it with no hope of making the defilement worth it. The same frustration outside can be found on the inside of Internet marketing. It is very tough to brand yourself as unique when the Internet basically sells your product as a commodity based on the lowest price.
I have worked in broadcasting for many years and I often used walk through the sales office at my radio station and they have a wealth of training materials, check lists and weekly “ideas” and prospects available to them. There are presentation templates, marketing data, prospect lists and time management checklists. RAB (Radio Advertising Bureau) even provides local calling lists, updated new-business listings and new permits and licenses, listener ratings, promotion ideas etc.
The method, technique and plan for sales operations is fairly standard, the main requirement in broadcasting sales is perseverance, motivation and personality. “You must make 10 calls a day”. “You must make 4 presentations a week”. “Be at work at 7:30 AM and on the road by 8PM”.  “Your life should be radio!”
 Moreover, the sales lists and prospects are divided internally among the sales-people so you can look to other salespeople in the station for emotional support when you hit the daily brick wall and when you celebrate your “victories”.
The sales staff in broadcasting is a tight team. No one is a lone wolf who is paddling in a small skiff against a hurricane.  In contrast, magic sales are that small skiff. Local magicians and all other entertainment are your competition.  They will cut your throat and even if they don’t do your style of act they will try to duplicate it and bad mouth you and undercut your price.
I have had local magicians contact the same prospects that I did for shows and then try to “rent” my props to undercut my price and get furious with me when I would not do that!
The problem is that in a local marketing area, prospective buyers for entertainment are considerably less in numbers than for radio advertising. If marketing is a “number’s game”, you need to have a lot of numbers as prospects.
If you expand your magic marketing into another Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area your expenses skyrocket and you face the additional competition in that that area.   Thus radio sales do not parallel magic show sales. In marketing terms, selling a magic show is not proportionally scalable. Adding other markets explodes your marketing costs.
I guess that I should adapt radio advertising time techniques on paper to the task of selling magic shows and the just sell the paper like all the other gurus do. To heck with doing magic; just sell paper. (Isn’t paper shuffling what actually sunk the American economy?)
So, to cut to the chase here: I believe that I and most other magicians, who are working, are spending 99% of their effort and money on booking!   I am not given to strong drink, but at the end of a long business day with people laughing at you, slamming down phones, telling you to disappear and asking you if you are serious, you need your nerves and emotions medicated. There are long unavoidable gut-wrenching dry-spells. It is always feast or famine.  Maybe I am getting older but it seems that it was a whole lot easier to book shows 20 and 30 years ago. Back then a mailing would get a 2 to 3 % response.  Today, you get the same buying response as if you threw the mailings in a trash can.
I do get an enormous amount of calls for free shows… They are from the half of the two states where I have done the $5,000 worth of post card and brochure mailings.
Apparently they believe that I should make some time to do a free show for them. The problem is that there is no “free show”. I have to make something before i have anything to give away.
One local non-magician friend says that my materials are “too big time” and “much too professional for the market you are trying to appeal to”
He says that “they convey the idea that you are too expensive” for them. I don’t think so, but then, what do I know? I am old school.
The struggle continues.
Dennis Phillips




About blueridgemagiciansring320

Secretary of Ring 320 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians located in the Western Virginia.
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