street magic

All beginners in magic should address their questions here.

Postby Magia » 01/24/10 05:28 PM

How do you get people. It would be rather awkward to just say, hey, you want to see some magic? Do you just stand around doing flourishes?
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 01/24/10 05:47 PM

Never fear. I will tell you when I am in the mood. I assume you are one of those young people who want to go up annoying people in the street rather than a professional busker who does it for money.
I hate the way the term "street magic" has been hijacked to mean something else.
Still when I was young and silly (as opposed to old and just as silly) I used to do exactly what you want to do. I was doing this daft so-called street magic before David Blaine was even born and that is one of the reasons I became so good and learned my craft. I never approached people directly. That would be a very silly thing to do.
It hasn't dawned on young people that when DAvid Blaine does it he has a full camera crew in tow and that is the reason people give him the time of day.
My approach is described in my memoirs but I may put it here when I am in the mood.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/24/10 05:49 PM

Building your edge is one of the hardest parts of street performing. Luckily there is a good amount of information out there, but there is no substitute for trial and error.

Flourishes can help, but they are by no means a certainty. Engaging with people will usually get more response, but you need to be able to keep the attention of the starting group while continuing to build.

Confidence has a lot to do with it, and I can give you an example; in the early 90s I did four years of street performing, on and off. I then took ten years off, and three years ago I went back onto the streets. I thought, before I got to the pitch, that I knew what to do but it took me fifteen minutes of looking at the pitch before I even had the guts to start the build. In the end it was Todd Various who sauntered up behind me and quietly said 'you have to get rid of the fear, dude'.

You haven't said what type of street performance you are attempting. Are you aiming for small table shows, hit and run or large circle shows (if you say circle shows, I'll have to say you are not ready).

Resources you may want to look into include Pete Wardell's Crowdpuller DVDs, The Art of Krowd Keeping by Gazzo or Kozmo's DVD (I've not seen Kozmo's, but have heard good things about them) You would also learn a lot from befriending the local performers, but be sure to be humble and make it known that you want to learn. if you show willing, there's a good chance they will help you, but if you go in gangbusters you will be frozen out _very_ fast.

Hope that helps,

Ian
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 01/24/10 05:54 PM

Kendall old chap. I think we had better find out from the young man what he means by street magic. I bet you he is thinking of doing it not for money but accosting people in the street a la David Blaine.

I am afraid that the term "street magic" has been stolen from the buskers and now means something else.
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Postby Magia » 01/24/10 06:22 PM

Young man, how would you know that, it's true, but I wonder where the assumption came from.

Well, I started magic about a month ago, and I have been practicing constantly, and have gotten rather good for having been doing it for a month. People that know me well, say, that they think I have the personality for magic. But, anyway. When spring comes around I was thinking of donning, my tux, and going to the quirky, retail, street downtown(Cary Street in Richmond, for those of you who know the area)which is full of street performers, and, trying my hand at magic. My father thinks I should just setup a card table and put a white cloth on it, that just seems rather odd, so, do you guys think the table is the way to go?
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 01/24/10 06:32 PM

I am psychic, my boy. It is my job to know these things.
It seems that you have busking ambitions rather than street magic ones. You are very brave indeed to go out on the street after doing magic only a month. You are going to get naysayers who will advise you not to do it but I am not one of them. I met a guy who had only been doing magic 6 months and he was indeed busking on the street and actually making good money out of it. He admitted he wasn't much good but he did better than the pros simply because he worked longer hours than they did out of pure enthusiasm.

So go ahead and you will probably learn from the more experienced. And you can listen to Kendall's advice after all.

At first I thought you just wanted to accost people in the street as all the annoying young magicians want to do nowadays so I cut and pasted advice for that situation.

You may not need it but some other young irritant might. It is an extract from my memoirs "The Lives of a Showman"
..................................................................
All my magic was done in an intimate close up situation for friends and any strangers I could find to amuse. I would perform on the bus, in the park, in the street and even in hotel lobbies. I did not go up to people asking to show them tricks but rather would subtly inveigle them into asking me rather than me asking them.

I would do this by various means but I think my favourite was to read a book on magic in a public place and appear to be learning a trick from said tome. I would have a deck of cards in my hand and start to do fancy shuffles and cuts or do some amazing visual card trick that I seemed to be learning from the book. I would make sure the book had plenty of photos and preferably a garish cover with the word Magic plastered all over it. I would flash this cover accidentally so that onlookers would know why I had a deck of cards in my hand. Sooner or later someone would ask what I was doing and away I would go. Within minutes I would be doing tricks and an audience would gather around. People would come up out of nowhere. I learned magic by doing it and these early impromptu sessions were very valuable to me in gaining performing experience.
................................................................

I will post another extract describing another technique I used to use when I was young and foolish.
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Postby flynn » 01/24/10 06:47 PM

Do it. And learn from it. For me one month would not be enough practice for presentation and piecing together a routine or a set of routines.

Jimmytalksalot.blogspot has got some pretty cool info and tips for beginners in street performing.
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 01/24/10 07:03 PM

Here is more from my memoirs on this subject:
...............................................................

When I got there, however, I employed my old technique of attracting attention. This is the procedure I used:

I removed the four aces out of the deck and then shuffled them back in making sure that people were watching me while I ostensibly studied the book to apparently learn the trick. After shuffling by various nefarious means known to magicians the world over I controlled one of the aces to the top of the deck, turned it face upwards to display it, then laid it aside. I repeated the procedure twice more, each time making onlookers raise their eyebrows and gasp. I appeared to be studiously ignoring the attention I was getting although in reality I was keeping close tabs on it from the corner of my eyes. Finally I seemed to make a mistake when producing the last ace for display. It was a deliberate mistake and part of my plan. I took the indifferent card rubbed it face down on the table and when I turned it face upwards, it had apparently changed by magic to the missing ace!

After a while of doing this sort of thing somebody asked me if I did card tricks. I said yes and before I knew it, away I went performing trick after trick. A crowd gathered out of nowhere and suddenly I was a sensation!

I had garnered good audience reaction in the past from my magic but nothing compared to what was happening now. Suddenly I was surrounded by admirers who were gasping and laughing in a way that I had never experienced before. I must have performed for about an hour or so and it was a heady experience to have so much hero worship and astonishment just from a deck of cards.
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Postby flynn » 01/24/10 07:57 PM

My spots to do tricks, so I can hand out business cards, was bus stations or bus stops on friday afternoons when people were going home wating for the bus. I would be practicing ACR moves or vanishing and producing a hanky to get people to ask if I did magic or asked to see somthing. If they asked if I did magic
I'll tell them and ask if they wanna see something. Well anyways thats how I got peoples attention.

As for busking I would do several tricks get into a short routine and do several more tricks and do another short routine and keep going like that for a lunch time crowd. I'd have a mason jar in front of me with change and some bills so I never had to ask for tips. It worked for me. It was also good for making contacts. Never did the "full show" thing busking. Tuesdays was a good day for me doing this.

I know this isn't text book but it worked for me.
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Postby Magia » 01/24/10 09:22 PM

Well, I am not actually doing it now, to cold, not enough practice, but soon. First nice, spring, day, on the weekend.
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Postby Magia » 01/24/10 09:34 PM

There were a few comments on how old I was and what people thought of that. Nobody will think I am 13, I would bet $100 on it. For 2 reasons, physically, I look much older them I am, and when I wear a sports sports coat like I normally do(or a tux for sure), people think I look 20 to 25, I have been hit on several times, by women in their 20s. And, as much as I am trying not to sound like a conceded jerk(which, in making this statment is not easy to do), I am not like other people my age(I don't even like them, all my friends are adults), most kids concern themselves with, who's popular at school, making odd looking little drawings,where they can get legal hallucinogens, and video games, I don't, I concern myself with, science,poitics,art,music(or at least real music, not that rubbish that kids listen to these days), so basically, as everyone says, I was born 40 years old. So, when people see me from a subjective point of view, they think I am much older.
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Postby Mark.Lewis » 01/24/10 10:50 PM

Methinks you should not be busking at your age. The street can be a dangerous place with drunks, hecklers etc; At the very least some responsible adult should be with you while you are out there.
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Postby Magia » 01/24/10 11:42 PM

My friend, drunks, if I went out at those hours, I would have much worse things to deal with then drunks(murders,muggers, etc).
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Postby Chris Henderson » 01/26/10 11:05 PM

Magia wrote:Well, I am not actually doing it now, to cold, not enough practice, but soon. First nice, spring, day, on the weekend.


Until then, and in between practicing, get and read the following books:

Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz

and

Maximum Entertainment: Director's Notes for Magicians and Mentalists by Ken Weber.

Neither one has any tricks in them. But they do have the real secrets to being a better entertainer. Read them now and you will thank yourself later.
"I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief"

--Gerry Spence
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/27/10 04:15 AM

Neither of which will help on the street.

While they are great books for close up workers, and doubtless our hero will benefit from reading them, the advice they give has no bearing on street performing.

It's a common error for close up magicians to believe that what works in a restaurant will translate onto the pavements. The fact is that this is far from the truth, and instead of helping can often hinder a budding street perfromer's progress.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Chris Henderson » 01/27/10 03:24 PM

Ian, I respectfully disagree. Because it's not about the magic. or the venue. It's about the entertainment from the audience's perspective.

Just as when a person attends college they don't only study their one narrow field that they want their degree in. They study a broad range of courses. The knowledge gained in those courses may not seem remotely related to your chosen field. Yet it can, and often times does, come in handy.

The advice in the books mentioned helps all those who want to be a better entertainer and better relate to an audience via the performance of magic. It matters not whether it is in a busking situation, on a stage or in a restaurant. There's always going to be a dynamic between magician and audience regardless of performing situation. Is there a difference between busking on the street and doing close-up or platform work? Absolutely. I'll even grant a huge difference. But as I said, it eventually always comes down to entertaining your audience. And those books can help all magicians. Perhaps they can help some more than others, but the help is there nonetheless.

Are they the only books he should read? Of course not. But those should be in every magician's library.
"I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief"

--Gerry Spence
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/27/10 05:31 PM

Maybe so, but the advice in Strong Magic will be of very little help on the street. There is some good information in there, but it is geared to close up performance, and a lot of it is aimed at formal shows. I can't think of anything in that book that is relevant to street shows.

Before we get into a heated discussion, may I ask whether you have any experience of street perfoming (and by that I mean building the edge, doing the show and bottling at the end)? I'm not trying to get into a pissing contest, but there is a lot of conflicting information around about working on the street, and a lot of it comes from people who have never been there.

Street shows are very different to 'just another venue'. If the kid were to read Strong Magic and head out with that information he'll get eaten alive. Or, more likely, starve. He would be far better reading the _other_ books first, and then, when he has those skills, read the threory books.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Chris Henderson » 01/27/10 07:16 PM

Thanks for your thoughts Ian. And no heat here. Just discussion. :)


No. I've never done busking. But I do know what I like when it comes to watching performers. :) So I've been on that side of it! ;)

And I was just talking about that aspect of it. I know there is much, much more to it as far as how to go about doing certain aspects that are specific to the street and busking. That's an entire different discussion (with its own set of books) of which I admit I have no idea. But the one thing I do know is that it has to be entertaining for the audience. That part never changes. It hasn't changed since the times of the Greeks giving their plays. Human nature doesn't change.

But you are right, he needs to read books on busking as well as others. A wide spectrum can only help.
"I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief"

--Gerry Spence
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/27/10 07:43 PM

I understand your point of view, but the problem is that it is, as you say, from the other side. This is where all the misinformation comes from.

The advice in Strong Magic (I've not read Maximum Impact, but it's on my list) is, as mentioned, aimed at close up magicians, working in very specific environments. These are no closer to busking as they are to lion taming, and I would suggest that lion taming is closer to busking than Strong Magic.

To take an example from my flying days; a modern civilian fixed wing aircraft has positive stability - if you let go of the controls most of the time it will fly itself into straight and level. A helicopter flies by fighting six different forces against each other. If you change one, the other five also change and none of them likes to be left alone. Flying rotor aircraft is a constant juggle of inputs, but it could be argued that since it's just flying, why is it not the same as fixed wing?

The street is a unique performing environment which, and I know this sounds arrogant, can only be understood by someone who has worked there. This is why advice from non buskers, however well meaning, is seldom accurate.

I agree that performers need to connect with their audience, that's a no brainer. But the Strong Magic method is not the way.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Chris Henderson » 01/27/10 08:06 PM

Fair enough. And you are by no means being arrogant. Anyone who has been there should be listened to over those of us who have not. I respect your opinion.

But can we both agree Magia should eventually read the theory stuff? If he wants to concentrate on busking, then he can go out of his way to focus on that specific field. I just wish I learned earlier than I did that it wasn't all about the tricks and the method. But better late than never I guess! :)
"I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief"

--Gerry Spence
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/28/10 04:12 AM

Absolutely, but suggesting he read them before going on the streets (and in your original post it did sound like you were recommending them for that purpose) would be a mistake.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Nathan Muir » 01/28/10 05:54 AM

A mistake? Unique?

Street magic isn't unique. It has parallels with bar magic, trade show magic, working close up in restaurants for buck's and hen's nights, and doing comedy magic in less forgiving night clubs. All of which I have done. While each of these genres has specific differences, they each share various core similarities in terms of the challenges and audience management issues.

Many of the principles concerning performing magic presented in Strong Magic have utility in each of the above situations (the key exception would be Ortiz's advice on hecklers which won't help on the street), but the objective of the book is to focus on the performance of close up magic in general terms. Ortiz also doesn't waste any time talking about building crowds or haranguing people to build the tip - because he's not targeting the differences in street magic. But you can derive a lot of useful cross-genre info on how to perform magic by reading books on a range of genres, so why not add that book to the list? I'd also look at Ian Keable's book and several others, including Sankey's book on stand up comedy.

Having myself performed street magic after spending years in bars and restaurants and doing a few trade shows, it wasn't rocket science to figure the nuances of working for passing traffic on a sidewalk. Putting some kind of mystique around a variation of parlour magic is just "Who Busks Wins" machismo.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/28/10 06:36 AM

after spending years in bars and restaurants and doing a few trade shows


Nathan, there's your difference. The kid here has none of that experience. As for your list, I would say that busking is closest to trade show work than the others, and we all know that trade shows are a very different beast to other venues. Having parallels is not the same as being the same...

I'm not interested in any machismo, as you put it. I'm not trying to place any mystique on busking either. I'm just pointing out that a lot of the advice given on the subject comes from people who have no experience. Strong Magic was suggested as a primary source for preparing to hit the streets. If you think this book is a good first step for a thirteen year old magician with six months of magic who wants to do street shows then I would suggest you are mistaken.

In my first post on the thread I suggested some sources for learning. Perhaps you could let me know how Strong Magic is better than those.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Harry Lorayne » 01/28/10 11:57 AM

I don't think anyone has given the proper advice. Which is, IN MY OPINION, you don't go onto the streets (or anywhere else, really, publicly) to do magic when you've been into magic FOR A MONTH. Please! You'll not only hurt yourself, but magic in general. Just my opinion. HL.
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Postby Harry Lorayne » 01/28/10 11:58 AM

Oh, I neglected to say that my opinion holds NO MATTER WHICH BOOKS YOU READ. It'd take you more than a month to read and UNDERSTAND any good book.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/28/10 12:06 PM

Ironically I did mention that in a post on the first page when he said how long he had been in magic, but my web connection went down just as I was going to post, and I didn't have time to type up another long response.

However, it's my experience that when people ask such a question they have already made up their mind and it matters not what people say if it's not what they want to hear.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Nathan Muir » 01/28/10 04:49 PM

Harry Lorayne wrote: I don't think anyone has given the proper advice. Which is, IN MY OPINION, you don't go onto the streets (or anywhere else, really, publicly) to do magic when you've been into magic FOR A MONTH. Please! You'll not only hurt yourself, but magic in general. Just my opinion. HL.


This is indeed 100% true.
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