First of all, I don’t want any of this to sound uncharitable, but charities can be quite annoying.
Any professional magician will tell you that they get countless calls and emails asking for free entertainment from charities. Many will offer the chance to hand out business cards or the possibility of being in the ‘name of town Gazette’ as payment. Most of all, many local business people will be there so it will be “good for you”.
I have a few thoughts on this that I thought would be helpful for anyone throwing a charity event and would like a professional magician to entertain their guests.
Firstly, if you are guilty of asking magicians to come along for free on the promise of a mention on the table menus and the ability to hand out business cards then, unfortunately, you are a bit misguided. Magicians can hand out their business cards at ALL events – yes, even the ones they are been paid for. This isn’t a selling point. A mention in the paper that “a magician was entertaining guests” is hardly likely to lead to anything promising and the fact that local business people (Mrs Miggins who runs the local pie shop) are present isn’t enough to convince a professional magician to give up his evening and perform his miracles for free I’m afraid. It usually doesn’t work like that.
So, what’s the solution?
Well, there are a couple of ways of getting a magician to perform at your event. Firstly, if you have zero money (ie you’re not charging people much money to come to the event) and don’t mind the quality of the performance then try asking an amateur magician to come along. Amateurs are quite easy to recognise – they don’t have professional websites and don’t have to pay the rent/mortgage with magic. When magicians are starting out they love the chance to be able to perform and we all have to start somewhere. They will be happy for the experience. When I was starting out I performed at care homes and charity events all the time to get experience.
If you are charging guests good money to come to your swanky charity dinner and you are looking at a professional magician then they will usually want/need paying. Evenings are most magicians peak performing times and weekends especially. Most of my weekly income is made up by performing on a Friday and Saturday evening. By asking me to perform for free, is a bit like asking someone to work all week for free and not take an income that week – it’s not just a matter of providing that time, it’s the fact that the magician wouldn’t be able to make any money elsewhere.
I’ve performed at some events over the years for free and the only enquires I’ve had afterwards are from other charities to also perform for free. Also, although I’m not a diva and demand any white puppies or red M+M’s in my dressing room, I do find that the more I charge, the more people who are booking me appreciate me being there. They are more likely to offer me somewhere to change or a drink when I’ve charged them a living fee.
My advice to any charity booker who would like a professional magician (as I said before, an amateur will be happy to come for free if you are not worried about the quality) would be this – expect to pay the magician a fee but there is no harm in asking for a discount. Many magicians would be prepared to offer a discount for charity events so feel free to ask (nicely). The venue is charging for the food (they might give you a discount if you are lucky) and the staff are being paid. It seems that almost everyone is being paid but charity bookers expect the fun time trickster to come along for free. The best way to make a charity event a huge success is by having quality food and quality entertainment to make sure a) people have a great time b) they come back next year c) they donate money in the auction/raffle.
How about this for an idea – you can get one of the companies attending the event to sponsor the magic. Meaning they pay for the magician and as such they can get the credit in the programme. Win/Win!
And remember, a magician isn’t just for X-Mas – they need feeding the rest of the year too…