If you want to move forward performing as a magician commercially, it’s worth examining how to get work doing magic tricks in restaurants and bars. Restaurants and bars can form a staple regular source of work for close up magic, but getting new gigs in those venues can be hard work. There really are no two ways about it, you have to put in the time and energy to get out and offer your services. Once you become established, plenty of work will flow in from recommendations, and previous clients, but to begin with, you need to get out and find some venues to perform in.
With customers socializing, drinking and eating, restaurants and bars can be a perfect location for you to perform your magic. However, how do you approach a new restaurant or bar and introduce yourself? These are a huge number of ways to approach restaurants and bars for work and each magician tends to find their own way of doing it. Here’s how I did it, when I started out.
There really isn’t an excuse for not doing this. If you perform magic full time, you have several days each week, during the day, which could be spent ‘marketing’. If you perform part time, you need to spend at least an hour on a Saturday, calling, writing and visiting at least one company or venue. Time spent doing this, is much more productive than watching more magic DVDs, or browsing magic shop websites. It’s the real business part of being an entertainer, and should be your main focus, once you have mastered enough magic, and understand how to build them into a routine.
Step 1 – Collect data.
Do some google-fu to create a list of all the venues in your local area. These can be hotels, restaurants, bars, country clubs, golf clubs, basically anywhere that serves food or hosts social functions. Keep in mind, that your working area, does not need to be based where you live. Look for affluent cities or towns and create your ‘turf’ in one or more of those areas. There is no need to limit yourself to the venues local to you.
Step 2 – Sort your list.
Consider the type and style of magic you perform and divide the list into categories based on the following:
- Family: Do you also offer a kid’s show? If so, then family restaurants should feature high on your list.
- Bars: Low paid. Are you happy to entertain ‘high energy’ adults in a crowded bar?
- Restaurants: Low paid, but regular work and great for marketing
- Hotels and event venues: Harder to acquire, but the ideal venues for magicians as they have a restaurant, bar and host a wide range of events, weddings and parties.
Step 3 – Test visit
Once you have a list, you should commit to at least one night per week to canvass for work.
Visit each of the venues on your list and enjoy an hour or two being a guest. Go for a meal at the restaurant, have a drink in the bar. Check out the environment and feel of the venue, and decide if it is the sort of place that would welcome live entertainment for its guests. Find out the following:
- Does the restaurant or bar currently offer live entertainment?
- Which night is the quietest each week at the venue?
- What is the name of the restaurant or event manager?
- What is the price of an average meal at the restaurant?
Once you have this information, you can easily shortlist the venues with would be more open to trying out a magician.
Step 4 – The pitch visit
You now have a shortlist of venues that you can approach. Visit at least one per week. Choose their slowest night, so the staff can pay attention to you, and you are not going to get in their way.
In a bar, order a drink at the bar and chat to the regulars. Don’t sell your services to them, just be friendly and after a little chat, show them a magic trick. If the regulars that ‘prop up the bar’ like you, the bar manager may judge that you are a good ‘fit’ for their venue. Show some tricks to the bar staff, but remember not to hog their attention, you don’t want to be a distraction. The goal is to get the regulars on your side and tweak the interest of the manager/owner.
Explain to the manager that you are a close-up magician and describe what you do. Say something like:
‘I’m looking to work with one restaurant in name of town, and thought name of restaurant would be perfect for live magic’.
Focus on how useful close up magic can be for a restaurant. Keep this pitch brief and not pushy. Give the manager your card and ask if they would like you to visit for a couple of hours one night in the following week, to perform some magic for their customers. Reassure them that it will be free of charge and there is no commitment, and that their customers will really enjoy it. If they have an event coming up, ask if they would like for you to attend free of charge to entertain their customers. If you impressed the manager, and if you are lucky, he or she will agree. Set a time and date and leave.
Dealing with NO.
If they don’t seem interested, don’t push the matter, as that will turn them off even more. Just thank them for their time and leave. You can follow them up in a few days time with a letter, asking them if they have reconsidered and would like to ‘try you out’. Most restaurants and venues will decline the offer, but that’s fine. You have a huge list to work through, so don’t be disheartened, simply move on to the next one. The goal is not to close each and every venue. You only need a couple of regular venues to act as your ‘residency base’. It’s a simple numbers game, that eventually, as you approach more and more venues, one or more will ‘bite’. Once you have a couple, you should start getting more and more work from customers of those venues over time.
Things not to do when you visit:
Don’t turn up dressed as a magician. – Just be smart casual, well groomed and presented. You probably wear a suit when you perform close-up, so that would be fine, but resist any temptation to add a ‘playing cards tie’ or bright magical waistcoat etc. If you do get work, whilst wearing things like that, it’s probably in spite of them, rather than because of them.
Don’t perform too many tricks – Keep them wanting more, and avoid them worrying that they will be inviting a show off or bore, to annoy their guests. Show a few very powerful and quick tricks. The restaurant owner may love magic, but he or she understands that it’s the restaurant and food that is the most important part of the evening, not some guy wanting to be the centre of attention all evening.
Don’t argue for a chance – Charm the staff, show a few magic tricks and make a quick offer to return for free. If you get objections, don’t argue. You will appear pushy and a pest. Simply leave your card and recontact them later.
Avoid talking about money – The goal is for them to agree to try you out for a few hours for free. You can deflect questions about fee’s or how much you charge for magic, by simply suggesting it’s similar to hiring a live pub singer for the evening. The best time to discuss a fee for a regular night, is after the free trial, when they understand how much their guests loved seeing close-up magic.
Things you should do when you visit
Win over the regulars that are propping up the bar. – They will talk about you for a long time afterwards.
Make sure the manager or owner sees a great trick – The bar staff are great, but they don’t make the decisions.
Suggest that you can pop back next week and perform for a couple of hours for the guests, ideally on a night the restaurant is running an event.
Swap business cards with the owner of manager – you will need this for a follow up later.
It’s pretty easy really, and you can visit several venues over the course of a single evening. Yet, most magicians have not done it. They prefer to stay at home and practice their magic techniques or invent more magic moves. That’s essential to build an act, but it’s not the whole story. Getting out and canvassing for work, is just as important as learning more magic tricks.
DO THIS: What should you be doing right this minute? Whatever it is, it’s not as important to you as reading about performing magic right at this moment. This post is about to end, so don’t keep reading the next post, or click off to search for something else. Open up Google right now and type in:
Start making a list of them right now and if you can, visit a few tonight. Let us know how you get on and share your experiences in the comments section below: