My intent was not to flame and if you took it that way, I apologize. It was blunt and direct and thats how I am sometimesand, as you can tell, this is a particularly sensitive subject to me.
With that said, I cannot accept you calling yourself a semi-professional as you did in your response, and then later tell us that youve only done two paid gigs, one of them you consider as paid because the mother of the child shoved a $20 tip on you. Sorry, Dave, that isnt a paid gig. Thats a nice lady showing her appreciation for your kindness, nothing more.
Re: previous entertainment hired by your company - In your own words, the hypnotist delivered a good show, but he was too expensive. That is a subjective judgment and has no bearing on his professionalism.
You claim to have sat for two hours waiting for the strolling magicians to come and entertain you, a situation that does not reflect well on themunless they were put in an untenable position by your company, the details of which were not supplied by you. Did they not know how many people were going to be present? Did they know and inform your company that for a crowd that size there would have to be more magicians to cover everyone in the time allotted? You dont supply enough information for me to form an opinion about them at all.
As I fully expected, you will continue to accept gigs but will never, as you describe it, knowingly put someone out of workknowingly being the operant word here. Your actions will, of course, cause people to lose gigs, you admit to that when you recommended someone and they preferred you. Of course, given what youre chargingyoure good enough for freeand thats good enough for them. It is very hard to compete against Free even when there is a huge difference.
Further, you fail to realize that friends and family are courteous. If youre bad, or just not particularly good, no one will tell you, but they will talk about it amongst themselves.
Youre not doing yourself a favor by trying to perform untried material of a kind of magic that you have no experience with in front of friends and co-workers. It is a recipe for disaster. Truly, George Jean Nathan was right when he observed that The confidence of amateurs is the envy of professionals.
To Avocat -
Part of the problem in discussing things on a forum like this is the use of pseudonyms. I have no idea who you are except that you list yourself as an attorney in Honolulu. In lawyerly fashion, you address some of my points and erect straw men to make your own.
You make the claim, Ive worked the corporate & tradeshow magic/mentalism arena as both entertainer and client, and while theres no conclusive way to prove or disprove it, I cannot agree that an in-house amateur deprives work from a real professional.
Corporate and trade show work was not what we were discussing here. It was club date, casual work, a far different market.
As you advance later in your post the idea that experience is the best teacher, I would observe that if you had sufficient experience in the club date/casual market by far the largest employer of magicians - you would already know a truism told to me over 40 years ago by Bill Chaudet, then one of the busiest club date performers in Southern California. Bill said, If they hire a bad comedian, a bad singer, or a bad musician, theyll hire another, but if they hire a bad magician, theyll think that magic doesnt work for their group and they wont hire another. That observation by Bill is as true today as it was 40 years ago, perhaps truer because there are more bad "semi-pro" part-time magicians working today.
You state that Hiring decisions are not made by tides of amateurs. They are made by clients, and clients who pay serious money to hire real professionals most assuredly do know the difference between an amateur and a professional entertainer. Of course youre arguing something I didnt bring up, but since you didin some instances, in some markets, yes, youre correct, but in the club date and casual market, often the answer is no.
If there is a situation where the buyer or booker of talent can compare one performer with the other, as in an audition for a professionally produced show, or for a high end corporate gig, the experienced pro has it all over the amateur because the booker usually (but not always) knows the difference between the two and makes his decision accordingly. (I am aware of one amateur who wrote a book, turned pro, and was hired to work a tradeshow almost immediately without the slightest professional credentials or experience working a tradeshow crowd, so not all tradeshow bookers know the difference.)
However, more to the point, if you worked the club date market enough, youd know that what Bill told me all those years ago was a fact of life because there are so many hacks who learn nothing from experience, but do endlessly promote themselves as magicians while supporting themselves with other work. Their skill is not as a performer, but as a marketer. They dont need to charge what a full-time working pro does, because this is playa hobby that makes them money. Amateurs and professionals perform for very different reasons - the amateur performs for his own needs while the professional performs to satisfy the needs of his audience, which is the major reason why most amateur never perform with the success of a "true professional."
Most importantly, far too often, buyers of casual entertainment are not experienced or sophisticated in dealing with purchasing entertainment, dont have a clue what a professional entertainer charges - needs to charge to make a decent living - and, again, far too often, base their decision-making on fee.
That the difference between what I do and what they do is obvious in the actual performing, but few private party gigs are acquired by live audition and even a poor performer can, with judicious editing of video tape, appear far better than he is. Too often people rely on awards won at amateur magic conventions as an indication of quality. To some in the public they carry the erroneous implication of quality, when magic convention contests are judged by completely different criteria than the needs of real life performing. For judging quality of entertainment, they are worthless.
By the way, I did not suggest, as you would have us believe, that my working for free as a graphic designer would get anyone fired. I used it as an example to prompt Gradock into thinking how he might feel if the tables were turned and someone wanted to do his job for free. From your responses, you both missed my point.
I know of one amateur who has the most gorgeous four color brochures and photos that would make you think he is a successful working pro when the truth is he is one of the worst magicians it is possible to imagine. He gets bookings because of his promotional material and low price but cannot possibly deliver a fraction of what his material promises. It is a long time before the clubs that hire him bring in another magician.
There is one semi-pro in the Pacific Northwest who low balls his competition to get the booking and then, if he gets a gig at a better price, he takes it and simply fails to show up for his first commitment. You would think the word would get around, but amazingly enough, he works steadily. Barnum, at least in his case, was right.
Now, add to the mix the erroneous idea in the publics mind that we all do magic when there is a huge gulf between the amateur and the professional.
Further, you fail to grasp the economics of the situation..that for far too many casual buyers of entertainment managers of restaurants to use restaurant magic as an example a body doing magic is a body doing magic. One restaurant I frequented had a young guy working for well over a year. He was snotty, overbearing and generally something of a jerk, thinking he was hot stuff for the $12.50 an hour he was being paid, but he had the gig because he was willing to take the pittance they were paying. Technically, he was adequatebut where it counted, in the personality, he was the pits. Management didnt care. He was a body filling up the space.
The criteria for hiring were not quality of work, charm, presentation, or entertainment. It was his willingness to accept what they were paying. Nothing else. He finally left and was replaced by a much more personable performer, but management saw little difference because he was another body doing magic and was willing to accept what the restaurant was willing to pay.
Ive talked to party planners who wanted to hire a half-dozen strolling magicians and the ONLY criteria was if the performers were willing to accept the price offered. Quality, experience, none of that really meant anything because the booker was only interested in bodies who would show up and do the work for the fee they were willing to paya fee that was tripled or quadrupled when billing the client. In Southern California there is no shortage of semi-pros who are willing to take the pay offered because they have other sources of income.
Further, you state, If not, either the professional should improve or the amateur should charge more. Or maybe, just maybe, the markets changed and the professional should charge less (current salaries of working professionals suggest this is NOT the case).
Absent the few superstars, current prices for working pros in Vegas and other venues is down, not up from what it was years ago because of the abundance of performers willing to work for less. Just this morning I received an email from an old friend, someone well known to amateur and professional magicians all over the world. While I wont identify him I will quote a portion of what he wrote re: prices for hospitality room work -
In the 1980s up to about '93 I was getting $1,000 a day and $1,500 plus on the road for several different companies for their rooms. Then the meeting planers moved in, the little girls with the clip boards who knew nothing about show business or entertainment, who told me that they were going to get me $200 for the night. I told them to go to hell.
And finally, this - if they are true amateurs, they shouldnt be charging more, they shouldnt be charging at all. When you take money for a performance, your responsibilities change, but few amateurs and part-timers seem to understand that.