By Ben Williams
'I've been really pushing to get work as a magician in my home town as I feel I'm ready to start performing to the public regularly. I've been approaching bars, restaurants, hotels and charity shops to ask if they'd be interested in working with me or if there are any upcoming events I could be part of. I usually leave my business card regardless if they are or looking at present or not, just as a precaution.
However I've also been thinking about performing in a nightclub in my area as they do live acts. I've read lots of articles from your website and from other sources about performing in restaurants and table hopping, but, obviously, nightclubs are a very different environment. So my question is, what sort of things should I expect when performing in a club? Both from spectators and staff. How should my act change? What sort of effects work best? What do I need to consider? How should I handle very drunk/ tetchy spectators? I know that's a lot of questions, however I'd really appreciate your advice!'
I hope you are well. Great to see you getting productive and pro active about trying to find work!
So here it is, my advice on magicians performing in nightclubs versus Strolling/Table Hopping Magic at corporate or private functions.
What to expect when performing Strolling/Table Magic at a Private or Corporate Functions:
When performing in a corporate or private strolling environment you should expect to deal with small groups of people up close.
Normally the venue will have a loud environment due to the 100+ guests all talking at once. There may be some sort of disco but usually the volume levels will be low until later into the evening when everyone gets up on the dance floor. Expect to have to raise your voice in order to have people clearly hear you. Drink plenty of water so as not to strain your voice. Also expect decor and lighting that may detract from your clear cut visuals you would get performing in sunlight and within quiet surroundings.
You should also expect to have people interrupting your performance. Usually strolling gigs are much more about friends or clients reconnecting or getting to know each other than it is about your magic. People may join the group or try to pull someone away from it mid-performance.
Angles in any strolling environment are never ideal. You cannot control who walks behind you or around you. Also, people may just begin to gather around forming a circle or a much larger group so you have to be aware of the effects you are performing. Don't perform anything that relies too heavily on a small window of angles, unless you are confident that you have the space and control within the situation.
What to expect in a nightclub environment:
Nightclubs are usually crazy loud and crazy dark, not to mention just flat out crazy!
Expect to be performing to small groups of people. Usually, you will not get a huge crowd unless you are with a huge group of friends. Friends tend to stick together in nightclubs, so even if someone sees you performing to another group, they will not come over to that group as it will not be friends of theirs. Make sure you keep an eye out for anyone who looks interested in what you are doing. Approaching an interested group is always easier than a group that has no idea that you are there or why you are there.
The music will be very loud so you may not be able to patter at all. You could find yourself in a situation where you need to perform close up visual magic that does not rely on any intricate instructions or even simple patter. Think what routines you could perform with just gestures and simple body language. Simple is best, say minimal amounts of words. For example, instead of saying, 'I'd like you to reach in and choose any card you like' simply just say, 'Grab a card!' Also use your actions to instruct the spectators. Mime them putting the card back onto the deck rather than telling them, they will understand, as long as they are still coherent!
Expect there to be minimal space to work in, nightclubs get busy. Nightclubs like to pack out their venues to capacity to maximise revenue; it makes sense. Sadly they do not care if this makes the job of their resident magicians or staff difficult. You will most likely be bustled around a bit, nudged from behind while performing to groups, you may even have a group walk right through your space when performing so be aware of your surroundings.
Angles are not usually amazing as you have little to no control of the environment. However, you do have the advantage of the lighting being poor and massive amounts of misdirection so you can usually get away with lots of bold moves, so it evens out!
This next piece of advice is rated: V.I. – Very Important!
With nightclubs, there is also another consideration that you should be very aware of that usually does not crop up in corporate or private functions. Safety is that consideration. You should be aware that not all people who frequent nightclubs are nice and friendly, some are out to cause trouble, some seem just to attract it. Be very careful, choose your spectators wisely. If you approach a group of ladies with a couple of men within the group do not begin reading minds of the ladies and staring into their eyes. It is most likely that the men are with them because they are attracted to them or a looking out for them. Either way if you go in and look like you are a sleazy magician trying to impress women then you will find yourself potentially getting on the wrong side of the males in the group. Be prepared to have people be rude to you, sadly it can be part of the job in a nightclub. If you look at all the staff in a nightclub, everyone gets trouble. The door staff, the bar staff, dancers, everyone who works in a nightclub has the potential to have someone drunk be rude to them.
The best piece of advice is to be aware of your surroundings, be aware of the groups and their dynamics when you perform to them. If a group becomes too rowdy or a drama spills out, simply thank them and leave, if necessary tell someone from security if you think there is potential for it to become a problem for them. To deal with drunk or problematic spectators just stay calm, mostly they will just be trying to have fun or be funny so laugh along with them. If ever they do anything rude or problematic to you or any other person simply stop performing to them and use your judgement as to whether it is worth speaking with security. Security will appreciate you letting them know if a fight is just about to break out. However, they will not appreciate you informing them that your feelings have been hurt by someone rude. So use your common sense when speaking to security, they are usually very busy.
So these are the differences between the two types of working environments, it may seem that nightclubs are tough and unrewarding. They can be tough, but they can also be LOTS of fun. You will meet groups of people who are out for a great time, and you will get great reactions and have lots of fun with these groups. You can also test out new magic as if it goes wrong or not according to plan it doesn't matter so much as the chances are the spectators won't remember also! So if you do get a nightclub gig make sure you have fun yourself, nobody wants to be entertained by someone who isn't having fun!
Here is a list of some great magic that would be perfect for magicians performing in nightclubs
Your magic tricks should be quick and snappy. The more visual the magic, the better. Think vanishes and reappearances, colour changes and any magic with a borrowed items goes down very well.
Ring Flight – Borrow a ring and make it vanish and reappear on your car keys!
The Raven – Make a coin vanish off of the back of a spectator's hand!
Colour Drop – This is a visual card routine that is perfect for night club work.
Panic – Cause a deck of cards to vanish in your hands leaving just four kings!
Sticky Situation – Take out a chewed piece of gum, stretch it out to an unchewed stick of gum and then have it re-wrap itself!
Envylope – A Deck of cards visually turns into an envelope contain just the signed card!
Self Tying Shoelaces – Make your shoelaces tie themselves visually!
Loops – With Loops you can perform loads of great visual magic, make borrowed items moves, decks cut themselves to selected cards, rings levitate and so much more!
I hope this advice helps Mark. Just remember to have fun! After all that is what nightclubbing should be all about!