To really fully understand this aspect of show business, the first thing you have to do is to eliminate the notion of a “market price”. A market price is but a mere guideline but in no way binds you to charge a particular fee.
A perceived “market price” is a rough median of what magicians may generally charge in a specific market but this does not need to apply to you if you are not in that specific market or if you are completely unique from anyone else in that same market.
It is because there is no such thing as a “market price” that some magicians can charge 10, 20 or even 50 times more than others. Yes, you read correct. If you charge $500 for a show, there is someone who can command $25,000 for the same duration of show.
The biggest fallacy I have heard a magician state is that clients want the cheapest magician they can get. That is completely false. While it might apply to a small percentage of budget-conscious clients who just need some kind of entertainment and are not concerned with quality, clients DO NOT always want the cheapest. What they always want is – the best value for money that they can afford.
But, the point of interest in this article is to understand why some magicians can command a significant premium over others.
The first most obvious reason is that some magicians have some level of celebrity, influence and mainstream media attention. Realistically, only top 1 – 2 % in any given market or region can reach this level. And even so, there are A, B & C-level celebrities.
More often than not, a magician who has risen to a mainstream celebrated status within a regional, national or international market has something unique to offer that intrigues and creates commercial interest. Whether you like them or not, they have something of high value to offer that the media, clients, the market and their fan base appreciate.
There are many variables that distinguishes these “celebrity” magicians. Some of these variables include:
- Superior technique, skills & knowledge in their field of magic.
- Distinct Personality. Whether you like or hate him or her, a celebrity with a distinct personality stands out from the rest.
- Physical Looks. The media/saturated world is unfortunately a very superficial one. The fact is – The best-looking people do have it easier. The good news is that even if you aren’t good looking, you can still cheat through styling and wardrobe.
- Originality & Innovation. There is something original or innovative about their magic or the way they present their magic. Do not underestimate the latter. The perception of a different presentation of magic is very powerful.
- Work Ethic. Most celebrity magicians are known for their strong work ethic. Do you work 18 hours a day? Probably not,if you want a life. But, then again, most celebrities don’t have a life because they work hard to get results that make them a celebrity. It is a vicious cycle.
- Mass Commercial Appeal. While you might have superior skills, the personality, the work ethic and originality that differentiates you from other magicians, the important question is whether your differentiating factor is commercial and if it appeals to the masses? If it does not, you will either cater to a very small cult audience or you will be typecast as a deviant.
- X-Factor. This is the elusive ingredient that is usually some kind of combination of the above factors. It is almost impossible to define it but you will know it when you see it.
In addition to the above, there is an element to luck. But if you truly examine the careers and success of celebrities, you will realize that that their “luck” was really their talent and ability to capitalize on an opportunity and continue to leverage on it for future success. They stepped up to the plate and delivered when it mattered. Many people do get opportunities but unfortunately when it counts the most, fail to deliver that would catapult them to the next level.
If there is someone who has reached a high level of success and is constantly operating at a high level over a significant period (for e.g. 10 years of more), it is unlikely that “luck” is the only factor for his/ her success. Chances are, there is something extraordinary about him/ her that creates high value to his/ her market.
Don’t confuse a strong celebrity brand that is sustained over a significant period of time with “flash in the pan” media spotlight. A “flash in the pan” may be in the news for the wrong reasons, or it may be just one lucky break that never goes anywhere.
At this point, you might be thinking that trying to attain a mainstream celebrity recognition is not within your reach (yet). Yes, we can all try to reach a celebrated status, but the reality is, it is not a reality that most of us can enjoy.
But, there is good news! You can still command a premium fee even if you are not a celebrity.
There are a significant number of magicians worldwide who make a six figure income by positioning themselves in their market in a specific way. How do these magicians command a premium fee when they may not be considered mainstream celebrities?
The reason can be summed up in the following sentence:
“The market believes the magician offers a differentiated product in a high value niche market.”
Read that again because, there is a lot involved in single sentence.
Let’s first examine “A differentiated product“. This is the most important offering of a premium-priced magician.
This is not the article to go into how to create a differentiated prop but it is important to have a mindset to be different, not just good. It is good to be great, but great to be different. (Incidentally, that was the title of my TedEx talk that I gave… shameless plug)
While it is not possible to go into how to be different in this article, here is a short checklist that will tell you if you are NOT different:
- Is your signature/ trademark act original? Is there anyone else in the world performing a similar act
- Are you performing acts that another magician also performs in your market/ region?
- Are you replaceable with another magician for the same price if you are unable to take on a show?
- Do you use the same music used by other magicians, even if the music is from a different type of act?
- Can you describe what makes you unique from anyone else in your market/ region in one sentence?
If you answered the questions honestly, you will realize how much work you need (or do not need) to differentiate yourself and be in a position to charge a premium.
Let’s next examine “high value niche market“. First, I’ll explain why a niche market.
It is much easier to excel in a specialized market. In today’s economy, the market is highly segmented and there is a need to be in order to be successful. Just think of how the department stores that dominated the retail market before the 1990s have given away to specialized boutique stores and online specialty shops.
You also want to target a high value market so that it can bear your significant premium asking fee. For example, if your market is to perform magic in fast food restaurants, it is unlikely that you can command thousands of dollars a show, simply because the market will not bear it. However, if you specialize in high-end $1000-a-plate restaurants and private parties, there is a possibility to charge a significant premium fee.
For illusionists specifically, charging a premium over other magicians is expected by the market. I highlighted the reason in my essay here. However, illusionists have also got the highest capital investment compared to other magicians.
Finally, let us examine “the market believes“. The market will not know if you do not tell it.
Regardless of what you want to charge, all aspects of your work, marketing material and even yourself reflects this value. Naturally, the higher the fee, the higher the expectation on the value received.
So, if you want to charge a premium $10,000 a show fee, your show content, presentation, equipment, props, dressing, haircut, communication skills and support team must all reflect that $10,000 value.
And, above all, you are a reflection of your quality & value. “You” refers to your professional conduct that includes your integrity, moral ethics, benchmark standards and professionalism.
For example, when you rant and complain on Facebook about how bad you think a client, audience or competitor is, it only makes you look bad, small-minded and unprofessional. Definitely not someone a client will be willing to pay a premium fee for.
I sometimes hear magicians comment that a particular magician can command a certain high fee only because there is no one else like him/ her around – duh! That is the point!
Be a magician that no one else can be and you can charge whatever you want – as long as the market is willing to pay for it. You ultimately want clients to book you because of you, because they believe no one else in your market/ region can fulfill their needs.
While not easy, this is by no means unattainable. You can do it!
The first steps to commanding a premium fee are creating a high-value differentiated product and just as importantly, marketing it well so that your market knows about it.
Don’t let the invisible glass ceiling hold you back from realizing your full financial potential. Just do it.
Learn how to book more shows that pay more, check out the Backstage Business Academy, a website dedicated to creating highly successful entertainers