Hire Magician - The Complete Guide
Zach Waldman - Comedy & Magic
Hire Magician, The Complete Guide: Let's be honest, there's a decent chance you've never hired a magician. Most people haven't, because most people aren't event planners or agents.
You may be the CEO of a company surprising your employees, or maybe you're a husband planning a birthday party for his wife. You could be just about anybody who's suddenly being taxed with hiring a magician near you.
I'm going to help you hire your first magician. Even if you hired one in the past, this guide will ensure you get the best magician for your event.
I've had many clients over the years hire me and tell me about nightmare experiences they had with previous entertainers. Sometimes, things went so poorly for them, they contemplated never hiring any kind of entertainment for their events again!
I'm here to help you avoid the embarrassment, the expense, and frustration that goes along with hiring the wrong entertainer. Instead, when you finish this guide, you'll be confident and relaxed when it comes to hiring a party or corporate magician.
Hire Magician - Where To Find A Magician?
There are an overwhelming number of places where you can find magicians, but I'm going to tell you the best and worst places to do so.
Hire Magician - The Best Places:
- High-End Entertainment Agencies - If you have a big budget for entertainment, you can hire just about anybody through their agencies. However, if you're simply looking to hire a magician near you, I doubt you'll be going this route. After all, if you or your company hires David Copperfield, I'm sure you won't mind paying for his flight.
- Referrals - If you ask your friends and family, you might be surprised who they know. Of course, you can hop on Facebook and ask for recommendations. The good thing about getting referrals is that if the magician sucks, you can blame whomever recommended him. Blaming friends and family is always fun.
- A Magician You've Seen Perform - If you were at an event with a magician you loved, by all means, track him down! Also, many professional magicians perform in restaurants and bars during the week. If you do a Google search for restaurants with entertainment, you may be able to see the magician's personality and what kind of performer he is firsthand.
- The Magician's Personal Website - Unless you've actually seen the magician perform in person, then this is almost always going to be the best way to find magicians to hire near you. For one thing, you'll be dealing directly with the magician instead of a middleman charging a commission. Second, you can speak to the magician and see if you click with him.
Hire Magician - The Worst Places:
- Lead Mills - The Bash, GigSalad, Bark, Thumbtack, Yelp, and anything like them are the bottom of the barrel. To be fair, some of those are better than others. For example, Yelp doesn't charge you or the business owner, which is better for everyone. The main problem with these websites is that hiring a magician off of one is like panning for gold. I'm on every one of those websites, and so are many other top-notch pros, but we're outnumbered by hordes of amateurs. Most of the magicians on those sites are beginners, hobbyists, and part-time magicians. When you post your request on these types of sites, you will see quotes as low as $200 and as high as $5,000, or even more. Most people go with someone in the middle, because they're only considering the price, and the result is they get exactly what they paid for. Mediocrity.
- Small-Time Agencies - These are the complete opposite of the big-time agencies, and usually have a roster of variety entertainers, not just magicians. For example, they represent fire dancers, jugglers, mimes, tarot card readers, singing telegrams, and belly dancers. Their talent is usually made up of people just starting out. I worked for agencies just like these when I was 13 years old. You're going to pay between $200 and $500 for these entertainers. Also, the agents typically take half of the fee as a commission. When I was 13, the agency charged $250 for a kids' birthday party and I got half plus the tips. It's still like that today. As a kid just starting out, it was great. However, I'm telling you this so you know what to expect. Performers going out cheap are not going to be great.
Hire Magician - Can Be Good Or Bad:
- Magic Shops - If you happen to have a magic shop in your city, you can call them up and ask for recommendations. Even better, actually visit the shop. The good thing about going this route is the magicians they recommend will probably be near you. However, people who work in magic shops will usually book themselves before anybody else. Not everyone who works in a magic shop is a great performer. They may know a lot of tricks and how to sell them, but demonstrating merchandise is different from performing at a corporate event or wedding. If they do recommend a magician, he may not be the best for your event, it may just be his best friend or customer. Lastly, I will point out that the magic community is small, so they probably do know every magician close by.
Hire Magician - When Is The Best Time To Hire A Magician?
The simple answer is to hire a magician as far in advance as possible.
Every December, which is the busiest month of the year for magicians, I get calls from people at companies desperately trying to hire me last-minute. Usually, this is because the company planned their holiday party a few months in advance and decided they didn't need entertainment. Then, as they get closer, someone realizes that they do, in fact, need entertainment. I think this happens because they don't realize how important it is.
Food, drinks, and a nice venue are all important, but are also standard requirements for a party. There's nothing memorable about a hotel ballroom, appetizers, and chicken. Employees don't really feel like you care about them if you don't do anything thoughtful.
Of course, if you're calling me in December for a show that month, there's a good chance I'm already booked.
There are several advantages to hiring a magician far in advance of the date you need him.
- You have more time to research and find the perfect magician
- You will have peace of mind knowing that aspect of your event is taken care of
- You can tell the venue all of the technical requirements you'll need the night of your event
Hire Magician - What To Ask?
After you've found a magician you're interested in hiring, you basically need to conduct an interview. Don't worry, it's not elaborate and won't take long, especially if you're speaking to a professional. A professional magician will guide you through the process and will determine if he's the best fit for your event. If he's not, he'll recommend the proper performer. An amateur magician will try to shoehorn himself into your event, even if he isn't the best choice for you.
The Information You Should Have:
Before calling a magician, there are basic pieces of information you should know beforehand.
- The date of your event
- The city/state of your event
- The venue (home, hotel, restaurant, etc.)
- The number of people attending
- Your goals (celebrating a birthday, generating leads, brand exposure, simply having fun)
- Your budget
Hire a a magician near me, important note: Don't be scared of telling the magician your budget. People will call me and when I ask what their budget is, they don't want to tell me. I believe these people think I'm going to charge them based on what they say, but that's simply not true.
I'll ask, "What's your budget?" They'll say, "I don't know, what do you charge." I'll say, for example, "Based on what I know so far, the fee is $3,500." They'll say, "Oh, that's too much, I can only spend $500." So, they do have a budget! It's really weird, because if they would simply tell me that their budget is $500 from the start, I would be able to suggest different options, maybe even a different type of entertainment, like a caricature artist. It saves everyone a lot of time.
The Information You Need From The Magician:
- Does the magician have experience performing the kind of show you want for the audience you have? If you're hiring a magician for a wedding, you don't want a magician who specializes in kids' birthday parties. If you want a magician for kids, you don't want a magician who performs for adults. Just because a magician knows tricks, doesn't mean he'll appeal to every audience. Trust me, there are magicians who know how to entertain children, and will do an amazing job because that's their specialty. The bottom line is you want a specialist, not a magician who advertises, "Available for all occasions."
- Does the magician have video of his performances? There's a difference between a promo video and a performance video. I have both. A promo video is a flashy montage of what the magician has done, which is a fine starting point. However, to really know what the performer's personality is like, you'll want to see at least one full routine from an actual show. I have completely unedited videos of my full show so clients can see exactly what they're going to get. Those videos are only sent in the proposal, as opposed to being available on my website.
- Does the magician have reviews or testimonials from verified customers? These reviews may be on his website, but you should also check to see what's available on review sites like Yelp and Google.
- Do you connect with the magician on the phone? This is one of the reasons it's so important to actually speak to the performer you're considering. If you call the magician and feel an instant rapport, you're on the right track.
You Must Speak To The Magician!
My phone number is 310-935-3684, and it's listed on every page of my website. Call me, and we can discuss your event.
This may seem obvious, but it's become very difficult to get people on the phone to have a conversation. Hiring the right entertainment for your event is important. A 15 minute phone call will make everything about the process easier.
People often want to communicate with me via email or text messages. There are too many details that need to be explained for this to be effective. Every event is unique and I want to make sure everything is perfect for you.
Hire Magician - Technical Considerations:
Inside vs Outside:
First off, if it's possible, always plan for the show to be indoors. The acoustics are better, people stay together, and props don't blow around. Performing outside is an option, but it's never the best choice.
If you hire a magician for a party and have him perform in your backyard, there are certain tricks that simply can't be done. Not only that, but people tend to keep their distance, and will even get up during the show and walk around. This is especially true if kids are present. However, even adults will just get up and grab something to eat or drink during the show.
To begin, for a stage show, a stage or a riser is required so the audience can see the performance.
- The bigger, the better.
- Adding pipe and drape to the riser makes for a much more pleasing presentation.
- It must be clear of obstructions. The most common obstruction, especially at corporate events, is a podium onstage. That has to be removed.
An exception to this is a medium-sized show. For example, a show taking place in a private dining room at a restaurant. In that situation, there are usually around 50 people, and they should be able to see, even if there isn't a riser or stage.
Most magicians control their own audio through a remote control system. All that's required is a sound system to plug the receiver into. If you don't have a sound system, for an additional fee, magicians will bring their own.
If the show is outside, and at night, there has to be lighting. One time, I was hired to perform on a stage outside. The group's dinner ran late, so the show started late. By the time I got onstage, the sun went down and they didn't have lighting. Nobody could see what I was doing. Not fun. This actually happened in front of Senator Al Franken and Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid. After the show, Al Franken, who was a professional comedian before being a Senator, came over to me to commiserate. He told me how the same exact thing happened to him so many times, he now insists on lighting whenever he's scheduled to speak outside. It was actually pretty funny because he told me he got a reputation for being a stickler for lighting, and my show proved his point. It was a drag to perform in front of so many luminaries in the dark. Live and learn.
Very few magicians have their own lighting systems. However, almost all hotels/venues can provide the following:
- Two lighting trees at a 45 degree angle to the stage (two ellipsoidal or four par cans). Lighting with dimmer packs are preferred.
- If there are gels, please use no color pink or no color straw.
While every magic show will have different technical requirements, I've provided examples of the two most common seating plans that magicians require to put on a great show. One is for a stage show, and the other is for a close-up magic show.
Improper seating will destroy a magic show. The best magicians in the world will bomb if the audience isn't properly configured. There's a reason comedy clubs have low ceilings and the audiences are packed in tight. Laughter is contagious and live entertainment is a communal experience.
Stage Magic Show Seating Plan:
Most stage shows happen in hotel ballrooms. The two biggest problems magicians face in these rooms are the angles and the dance floor.
If audience members are seated on the sides of the performer, they won't be able to see many parts of the show. For example, if a magician is holding something up to display to the audience, he's going to be showing it to everyone in front of him. The people on the sides will just see the side of whatever he's holding.
The dance floor creates a chasm between the performer and the audience. The dance floor needs to be filled with seats, or the riser should be set up on it. I've done many shows where they needed the dance floor after the performance. If that's the case, simply have the hotel set up rows of chairs on the dance floor for the show, and then have them removed afterwards. This is something the venue should be told in advance.
The audience has to sit close to the stage. Sometimes, people don't want to sit in the front row for fear of being chosen. Sorry, it's a magic show, and audience participation is part of the deal. One time, I performed at a corporate event that was setup perfectly. However, nobody wanted to sit at the tables in front of the stage. People were going to those tables, removing chairs, and even taking the place settings, and moving them to other tables! They were literally squeezing into tables that were already full just to avoid those seats. If I took the stage, I would be performing to nobody, because everyone was so far away. No magician will start a show like that. I had to watch and wait as the organizer forced people to sit at those tables. It delayed the show and was very awkward. Still, it was a better option than having a bad show.
Close-Up Magic Show Seating Plan:
Close-up magic is intimate and is typically done for audiences of 35 or fewer. I'm talking about a formal, close-up magic show, which is different than strolling magic where the magician is walking around and entertaining people. There's also stationary close-up magic where the magician sets up in one spot and people come over to watch a few tricks between mingling, like during the cocktail hour. There are basically no technical requirements for that type of magic.
However, for a formal close-up magic show, the audience needs to be as close to the magician as possible. Most close-up magicians use a table, and a lot of the action will happen on top of it. If people can't see the top of the table, they'll miss a lot of the magic.
When I peform a formal close-up magic show, I have two spectators sitting at the table I'll be performing behind, which you can see in the diagram.
Magicians Need The Full Attention Of The Audience:
Hiring a professional magician isn't cheap. Why on Earth would you want to go to the trouble and expense of hiring a professional entertainer, just for him to be ignored, interrupted, or heckled?
When it's time to start show, it's incumbent on the event organizer to set expectations. The best way to do this is with a proper introduction. If it's your event, you or someone you choose needs to announce the show is starting and to have everyone take their seats.
In my experience, something along the lines of this works well:
- Announce the show will be starting, and now is the time to grab a drink or use the restroom. Explain that once the show starts, you would like people to stay in their seats.
- Once seated, the magician should be formally introduced. The performer can provide an introduction. However, before reading it, the organizer should say something along the lines of, "I hired this performer and it's important to me that everyone gives him your full attention. Please silence your phones and avoid talking during the performance." If people attending your event know the show is important to you, it will be important to them. Since it's your event, the last thing they'll want to do is offend you. Once you've established your expectations, you can read the magician's intro and welcome him onstage.
Hire Magician - How Much Do Magicians Charge?
Magicians to hire near me - When it comes to hiring a magician near you, you definitely get what you pay for. The truth is, you can get a magician for free, or you could spend a million dollars. Quite a range, eh?
How do you find a free magician? You ask a relative to do the show. Everyone has an uncle, a cousin, or a grandparent that knows a few tricks.
IMPORTANT! The vast majority of magicians you see, even the ones advertising, and even the ones who belong to the Magic Castle, the Society of American Magicians, or The International Brotherhood of Magicians, are amateurs! These are people with full-time jobs who do magic on the side.
As a result, there are a lot of magicians who love to perform so much, they'll take any opportunity they can get, even it means working for a meal. They don't care about the money, they simply want a chance to perform.
On more than occasion, I've had people call me and say something like, "Last year we hired a magician and it didn't go well. The guy charged us $500 and we didn't know any better. It was really embarrassing. This year, the boss told me to make sure I hire somebody good."
Magicians to hire near me - These fees are an average for different markets. Many factors can drastically change these numbers. For example, if you hire a magician for a Monday afternoon in the same city as you, it's typically going to cost less than flying a magician in from a different city to perform on a Friday night.
- Kids' Birthday Parties - $500 - $1,500
- Adult Birthday Parties - $1,500 - $2,500
- Mitzvahs, Weddings, Quinceañeras, Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties - $1,500 - $2,500
- Company Holiday Parties - $3,500 - $5,000
- Meetings, Conferences, Hospitality Suites - $5,000 - $10,000
- Trade Shows - $3,500 - $10,000 (per day)
- Virtual Shows on Zoom, Teams, etc. - $1,500 - $3,500
That's Too Expensive!
First off, is it really as expensive as you think? You're hiring a professional magician to perform for you at a private event. Ask yourself, how much are you spending on a per-person basis for entertainment?
Let's say you expect 50 people at your party and you multiply that number by $30, that's $1,500. Do you expect to pay less than that for any show you would normally go to? If you go to a comedy club, you'll pay at least that much, and there's normally a two drink minimum on top of that. When you ask a magician to entertain at your event for $500, you're telling him he's only worth $10 a person.
In Los Angeles, and other big cities, one cocktail at a bar can easily cost $18. Professional magicians are worth at least two drinks.
However, if the fees above don't work for your budget, I highly suggest choosing different entertainment. Here are some options:
- Psychic/Tarot Card Reader
- Photo Booth
- Balloon Twister
- Face Painter
- Caricature Artist
You would much rather have a highly skilled caricature artist at your event than a budget magician who embarrasses you.
Hire Magician - Is A Local Magician Your Best Option?
Hire magician in your city? Do I have to? Most of the best magicians in the world live in Los Angeles, CA. Not only is L.A. the entertainment capital of the world, despite Las Vegas trying to steal that moniker, it's also the home of The Magic Castle.
The Magic Castle is a private club in the heart of Hollywood for magicians. There's simply no other place in the world like it. There are other magic clubs, such as The Magic Circle in London, and they have some amazing magicians, but it's very different. For example, regular people can't go inside The Magic Circle to watch shows. The Magic Castle is sold-out seven nights a week and the magicians there are performing for real people on a regular basis. You can't replace that kind of experience.
I've been a member and performer at The Magic Castle since 2001. I was already a professional comedian and magician when I joined. However, being there and being around the best magicians in the world took my shows to an entirely different level. I've seen that happen over and over again over the years. A new magician arrives in town and he's pretty good. After a few years at The Castle, he's phenomenal.
I'm telling you this because hiring a magician simply because he's close by, may not be your best choice. Also, professional entertainers are used to traveling. It's not a big deal for us, and the travel doesn't add significantly to the cost.
If you want the best magician for your event, I strongly consider looking outside of your immediate area. There are excellent magicians in most of the big cities, but not as many as you'd think.
Like I mentioned earlier, most magicians, even the ones at The Magic Castle, are amateurs. Make sure when hiring a Magic Castle Magician, that he's not just a member there, but actually works one of the showrooms, and is a full-time pro. It makes a big difference.