I should preface this by saying that I think magic is a wonderful hobby and I begrudge no one for enjoying it -- the house of magic has many rooms, so come on in and have fun, but please don't pee in the pool.
I can't speak to the experiences of others. For me, unfortunately, when I cross paths with a hobbyist in my working life, they're often causing a problem of some kind for me or for professionals generally.
The most frustrating for me has been seeing hobbyists leaping into professional venues for which they were unprepared. People see a lot of comedy and music, so when a comic or a singer bombs they will still come see other comics and signers. When a magician bombs, they walk away saying "I don't like magic."
I made the mistake of advertising a series of theater shows on the Genii forum last year. My client -- who had never been approached by a magician prior to me -- was suddenly inundated with solicitations from magicians (which, in and of itself, is sort of lazy and boorish) . He made the mistake of booking one. The act was un-professional and un-prepared, and bombed. The local theater critic, who had published an article announcing the show and a brief interview with the performer, received 11 letters of complaint from readers.
An unprepared, inexperienced hobbyist wanted to play magician for a day, and the result:
- this particular booker will never book a magician without seeing the show live
- this theater, like every theater, lives and dies on its reputation for quality -- which took a hit
- the relationship between the theater and the paper, on which it depends for publicity, was strained
- the reputation between the critic and her readers was strained
- and, while my shows have been extended at the venue through Spring '10, there's no way of knowing how the negative word-of-mouth from this guy's show will affect my ticket sales.
Likewise, there is a local magic club I've been to that is in the habit of performing strolling magic at upscale restaurants for free...while they're nice people, they don't have the experience to professionally entertain...so they're setting an expectation of a.) the quality of table-side magic, and b.) the value of table-side magic in the minds of up-scale restaurant management in the area.
The same club has a "library" of duped VHS' that members can check out...guys spend their lives refining strong material, then give it to you on a platter for less than the cost of a nice dinner...and you're going to steal it from them?
I know amateur magicians who are terrific magicians and fine human beings; but when you keep bumping into this kind of behavior (and I'm sure it is a case of the squeaky wheel getting the attention) it's hard not to be a touch resentful of the group as a whole...
So, just as a thought:
- if a magician is performing publicly in your area, rather than try to get booked yourself, why not get together a group of friends and support the show?
- If you'd like to perform publicly, but don't have significant experience, start off with a starter venue -- a place where you can learn and grow without the pressure that comes (or ought to come) from a professional venue...there are so many organizations -- hospitals, nursing homes, etc. -- that would be ecstatic to have entertainment but cannot afford a professional...why not make their day?
- Don't believe the hype from your magic club buddies...the real world is not populated by the people who write ring reports...take an honest and deep look at the quality of your act and the venues that are appropriate for it
- If an accomplished performer comes to lecture in your town; please consider that the guy is sharing -- in many cases -- the secrets that feed his family; and he's doing it for a birthday party fee...don't berate him if he doesn't teach everything, and consider that the product sales are what allow him to come to your town for a fraction of a professional fee
- Not exposing secrets, sometimes, means not exposing to other magicians...it's his/her material, s/he decides when and to whom it gets tipped
- you don't always have to be the center of attention, when you show up to someone else's gig with your own cards you look like a tool...to everyone
- if a performer comes to your company with a polished act of classic, laymen-focused material; it doesn't make you look any bigger to have a dismissive attitude about the performer because you are familiar with the basic secrets of the material