LONDON (Reuters) - Top British police officers are to be given training as magicians, but in a bid to improve their communication skills, not to pull the wool over the eyes of criminals, Scotland Yard said on Friday.
"It is a one-off trial to be held in May,'' a spokeswoman said. "It is to develop officers' communications skills and rapport.''
Magician Michael Vincent is to undertake the training of 30 police superintendents for a fee of $144 per head under the title of "The Magic of Networking."
"It is considered as a legitimate use of the training budget,'' the Scotland Yard spokeswoman said.
There really is no limit as to where your magic skills can take you. Use your imagination and add consulting as one of your multiple streams of income.
Lesson 18 - Theatres (Back to Index)
There are several different ways a magician can make arrangements to do a show in a theatre where the public buys a ticket for the performance. You can book the theatre for a rental fee and keep the ticket sale profits. A theatre could hire you for a set fee and handle all the other details. Another scenario is a co-pro (co-production), which is a combination of risk and reward sharing. You can also run a phone promotion operation.
In my area, the average theatre rental cost for a 200 - 400 seat venue is $900 per day. If you are to bear all the expenses of the show, there is also technician, front of house staff, advertising, promotion, ticket distribution, and concession considerations among other responsibilities and expenses above and beyond producing the show itself. The risk/reward figures are fairly easy to work out with a little research and scratching out possible scenarios on paper. The exposure by way of publicity generated in conjunction with the venture has some value, too.
Often an entertainer will work with a Producer / Manager and share profits or losses equally. There are also various showcases of theatre bookers looking for talent. A friend of mine who has an illusion show and is well known in his corner of the world has an arrangement where the theatre pays out 65% of the door to his company with an $8,000 guarantee.
Bonus Interview - John Kaplan on Booking Theatre Tours
RC - How is it that you are touring the Country, performing in Theatres, year after year?
JK - I purchased Stan Kramien's course years ago. Although I never pursued the main focus of his fundraising show technique (telemarketing), nonetheless I received a tremendous amount of practical information that over time I've derived tremendous value from in building my own system and fundraising career.
RC - Okay, so you are presenting your show in conjunction with a fund raising effort?
JK - Yes, I started out by going through local white pages and contacting individual groups within an elementary or high school. Not targeting the school itself, but the parent committee, or the school Band Leader, or Drama Department or High School Grad or Year Book committee. Basically, any group that needs to raise money for a specific reason.
For example, the parent committee may do it to raise money to upgrade the playground equipment for the school.
Typically, a group will want to do something that costs money, the school doesn't have the extra funds, so if they want to do whatever it is they are planning - they have to come up with a way to raise the funds themselves.
JK - Using components of Stan's original course, I developed a step-by-step guide for the sponsors that takes them from their first committee meeting, right through to the day of the show. It is a fill in the blanks system.
JK - Included in their system is a lot of camera ready ads, promotional tools, flyers, posters, and over time I developed and provided radio and television commercials too.
RC - What year did you start, and what did you start out with?
JK - In the 80s I started with a small packet, a fold over booklet and posters.
RC - Great. Now John, give us an idea of the scope, the depth of this market. Detail the opportunity for us.
JK - It's a huge industry catering to a high demographic market. We are catering to baby boomers that are raising families. Lots of schools, minor sports leagues, Scouts, Cadets, they all need money.
Government funding and cutbacks make them even more reliant on raising funds themselves.
RC - Okay, let me get this straight. You approach community oriented groups that have a need or desire to raise funds for a specific purpose. You provide all the tools they need to raise the funds. The primary function of their campaign is based on selling tickets to your family oriented Illusion show. Right?
JK - Yes. I give them a failsafe, hard to mess up, fundraiser to run. A lot of groups I work with, schools, community groups, small grassroots organizations, usually only think in terms of how much does the show cost, how big is the hall, how many seats does it hold, how much can we sell tickets for, or how much do we have to charge for the tickets to make this work. That's as far as it goes. So the project kit that I give them, with the additional revenue source opportunities and all the other tools, blows the lid off that narrow thinking and really opens their eyes up to the potential opportunity of bringing my show in. That's how I can go to a small grassroots community and bring a $3,000 - $5,000 illusion show to their town that they can literally not only afford, but will actually show them a profit at the end of the day.
RC - Talk about being creative in your approach. And what a wonderful win-win situation you have created. The group raises funds, the town gets a show, and you do the kind of work that you enjoy. Nice. Triple win actually.
I want to back track a bit and refer to a comment you made regarding telemarketing as a more common method of raising funds in these situations. I have my own thoughts and experience on this from a performers perspective, but please expand on your previous comment about the topic of telemarketing.
JK - When I discovered Stan Kramien's course, I loved the idea of doing fund raising shows, but was reluctant to take the telemarketing route to sell the shows. I was just not comfortable getting involved in that because of the negative stigma associated with it. The concept of finding a way to make a good living in a market that has no money appealed to me. Stan's book was a springboard for getting started, but I just didn't want to run a phone room. In addition to the bad press some of these operations were receiving at the time, running that end of the business was just not my thing. While there are many reputable and highly profitable companies and entertainers doing this, I just wanted to find another way.
JK - Yes, with my method, there is no need for telemarketing or me relying on a percentage of the door and hoping there will be a large enough crowd to make it worth my while. I get a guaranteed performance fee, and they get the show, and all the tools they need to help them raise funds above and beyond the cost of the show.
RC - Please share some numbers with us. If you don't mind, I would like you to be candid about your fees and expenses as well as the kind of dollars your sponsor typically ends up with after running with your program. Also, outline the responsibilities that are divided between you and your sponsor.
JK - The client, the sponsor, is responsible for paying for the show. Included is the project kit that I put a value of $250 on. If they book by a certain date they get the kit free. Also, there is a money back guarantee attached to the kit. If they do not make a profit after using the tools, they get $250 refunded (whether they pay for it or not).
They are responsible for providing the venue, promoting the show, and selling the tickets. I take them by the hand and show them exactly what to do in order to sell the tickets to the show and raise money though various other methods related to the show. I call this piggyback fund raising.
For example, I have developed a souvenir program that the sponsor can sell advertising in. They get the template and then sell ads to businesses. I do not take a cut of this additional revenue stream, it is a value added service. I have a couple dozen similar ones now, but it all started with that souvenir program. It enables the groups to cover their base cost so they can get my show completely paid for right away. It can double and even triple the earning potential of each show. It enables me to offer a more attractive package to the group.
By providing all these opportunities beyond just selling tickets, it is pretty much a fail safe system.
The show sells for $2600 for a single show or $3100 for two. They can buy their cost down by close to 50% by using certain fee reductions that I offer.
JK - For example, if they provide 2 motel rooms for my cast, and myself they can deduct $150. In many cases they get the rooms donated, and it is a cost I would need to incur anyway. We travel in a truck with a 20 foot equipment trailer and carry our own concession. Our sponsor can deduct $500 from our show fee if we get exclusive rights to the concession for food and souvenir items.
RC - Popcorn, cotton candy, chocolate bars, drinks?
JK - Yes, and magic sets, t-shirts, videos, and souvenir programs. They also get a reduction if they provide people to help us load and unload the truck, set up and strike.
RC - How much do you deduct if they actually do the show themselves (grin)?
JK - (laughter) Good point. A lot of groups do take advantage of the $500 concession discount and either way it works out about the same for us. This enables me to sell a higher price product (the show) to a group that doesn't have the money to pay for it. I give Stan credit for the idea of carrying a concession.
RC - Tell us about the other products besides the food items.
JK - I put together magic kits by getting pre-packaged tricks from wholesalers in bulk, and add custom packaging.
RC - Which wholesalers?
JK - Robbins, Royal, EZ Magic, Oriental Trading, Adams. I stick a photocopied label sheet (doesn't even have to be color) to the box, and shrink-wrap it. Shrink-wrapping is relatively inexpensive and adds high perceived value.
I throw in some booklets and instructions to maximize the number of tricks without adding extra props. And, I have more expensive sets that include a video and a few extra tricks. By adding and actually selling the kits, I realized that some people will spend money on higher ticket items. I added the magic kits at $49.95 and $69.95 and was surprised, but they outsold the videos two to one. I sell a few each show. Oh, and I bumped up the price of the t-shirts and videos and it didn't decrease the sales volume. By the way, when I first started, I just sold the wonder mouse and a few small tricks for 2 - 3 bucks.
RC - Right. So, at the end of the day, how much does everything, your fee and product sales, typically net you? What would be your average take per date?
JK - On average, I end up with around $1700 a day. We do $200 -$1,000 gross in product and average above $500 in profit on that end.
RC - Right on. Now, who travels with you?
JK - I travel with a sound man, and 2 dancers.
RC - And describe a typical performance scenario. Venue and size of audience.
JK - We mostly perform in school gyms. Some towns only have 500 people, and most will come to the show. The sponsor from a small town often taps into close by community businesses to buy the tickets for the show and advertise in the program. We average 300 - 400 people, and the range is 200 -1200 people.
RC - Okay. Now I am going to think like the sponsor. That is, before you educate them. How much are tickets to the show? Do you dictate the amount, make suggestions, or need to approve the amount? How does it work?
JK - They can charge what they want for ticket prices, but I suggest $8 and $12. $8 for kids and $12 for adults. The range is $5 - $15.
RC - So, if they bring in, say $3,000 in combined ticket sales and your piggy back fund raisers, and have taken advantage of your fee reductions, bringing their cost for your show to as low as, say $1500, they have made $1,500. Right?
JK - Yes. And that is a fairly typical scenario.
RC - Any real success stories displaying higher numbers?
JK - One group grossed $8,000 with a profit of $5500 (for a single show) with my program. They had a unique style of promoting it. They paid $1,000 to rent a theatre. This was against all of my recommendations to get a school gym for free, and keep their expenses low in order to add to their bottom line. But this person's plan was to sell lots of ads in the souvenir program and make it a bigger event. She raised $2,000 from the program, covered all her costs for the show and theatre, and then every ticket sold was their profit. They sold 1200 out of 1500 seats, at $5 each.
RC - I imagine you modify your manuals for your groups as you discover new possibilities and surprising results. After 20 some odd years, just like a performance, I bet you have a pretty tried and tested system happening.
JK - Yes, thank you. I believe I do. And yes, what they did, by booking a larger and more costly venue, worked for them. So I no longer strongly advise against it. Every year I update my manuals for the groups and add what has worked for others during the year.
RC - So, what kind of entertainer is this work suited for? Certainly they do not have to put on a full-scale illusion show to duplicate your system.
JK - Any variety act that performs family shows could do this. As long as they can do a great show.
RC - What is the typical requirement, or standard show length, and number of performances in a given day for a single sponsor.
JK - 90 minutes of performing. First half is 50 minutes, followed by a 20 minute intermission, then a 40 minute second half.
RC - The two halves so you can give them a break from sitting, and it allows for sales during the intermission.
JK - Right. A solo entertainer could put together a variety show if they were concerned about keeping the audience entertained for this long. We usually do one show, sometimes two, rarely three in a day. Let me also point out, that they should be able to perform anywhere and should bring their own sound system. The more self contained you are the better. You may find yourself, as we have, performing on the Gym Floor, in an Arena, Recreation Centre, Community Hall, a Theatre, and even in Church basements.
RC - And your typical sponsors are?
JK - A good mix of schools, clubs, and youth groups.
JK - I get the municipal directories from the town or municipal office, or chamber of commerce. Some give them for free, some may charge around $20. More and more are becoming available digitally too.
JK - I knew you would like that.
RC - Exactly. So you gather the directories and then phone, fax, write, and email potential sponsors?
JK - Yes. Well, I used to phone initially for the directories and now I send out a fax with my request. How I receive the lists dictates how I contact the potential sponsors. Often, I send a one page lead generation fax to the groups. I have a database of 20,000 prospects in Canada. I update it every couple of years by referring back to the last time they helped me out, and request new information.
RC - Is that how you started. I mean, finding the groups, the sponsors? Sounds possibly expensive and quite time consuming.
JK - If you buy 200 lists at say, $20, and each list may be good for 2 -10 viable prospects, the acquisition cost can be expensive. I did build up gradually over the years and started off by just finding groups in the white pages. Now, I also buy ads in the newsletters of groups like the Rotary, Lions, Kinsmen, and Elks.
RC - Right. How many of these shows do you do a year?
JK - I work around 50 dates a year. Have done up to 70 one-niters in a year, which take about 3 - 4 months to complete.
RC - Okay, and is there a high, low, busy, slow season to this market.
JK - Good question. Summer is dormant for this market as the schools are not open. I mostly do Fairs and Festivals during this time.
RC - This is slightly off topic, but will prove interesting for the readers, I'm sure. What other streams of income have you created to fill in the slower months of touring with your fund raising show?
JK - I market the Hades Finger Chopper, and some information products for magicians. Like you, I want to spend more time at home with my family. I also book a second performer, Tony Eng, and his
Illusion show to do the overflow dates that I cannot do. You know Tony.
RC - Yes, Tony's a great guy. A really kind man, excellent performer, and straight ahead kind of fellow and businessperson. Are you at liberty to share with the readers what type of deal you made with Tony? In the interest of their education on this topic.
JK - Sure, I pay him a flat fee for the tour. This way I keep and service the client, and give work to another performer that I admire. Some clients book the same show 3 - 4 years in a row, most often they want me every second year or so. It depends on how transient the community itself is. I have worked for one group, 6 - 7 years of the last 10 years. Personally, I like to use the same show for at least 3 years to amortize the investment of creating the show.
I needed someone who has a good show and integrity. The sponsor gets a different show each year so they can bank on the fundraiser event.
RC - Truly another multiple win situation. How far in advance do you usually book your tour?
JK - I book up to a year in advance. Sometimes I will market right up until February for dates in the coming spring. I will market right up to June for my Fall and Halloween season of local fundraisers. Six months is typical. I do an advance marketing campaign to existing clients and offer a discount for booking early while giving them an opportunity to pre-book and lock in the date.
RC - Well, John, I think I have sucked enough out of you for now, and I appreciate your candidness. Let me ask you about your philosophical approach to marketing and performing. As well, I am interested in knowing what you attribute your success to and why you are sharing this information. Two sentences or less please (grin).
JK - (laughter) Okay, the main reason for the success is because I am able to sell a product for a flat fee to a group that has no money to pay for it. I am competing with fundraisers that cost them no money and offer them no risk. Having a good show and reputation helps, and the idea of a family event, as opposed to selling chocolates or whatever, appeals to the sponsor.
It is challenging because my competition is every other opportunity to raise funds. Free, no risk options, as opposed to my show that will cost them up front money. I have managed to package it in such a way that it is appealing regardless of those potentially negative perceptions of getting involved in my program as a fundraiser. I have packaged it in such as way that I still have a sellable commodity. And I don't do all the work for them like a telemarketer does. The key thing to that success is that the sponsor receives my package that makes it safe and easy for them to profit from my show. The key is that I am thinking from their perspective. What can I do for my sponsor to make sure they are going to be successful. What kind of additional revenue streams can I create for them. What promotional tools and strategies can I give them to help ensure their success.
I have groups working with me year after year. All as a result of putting them first as opposed to what's in it for me first. I never thought about it in terms of marketing before.
RC - We think a lot alike John, perhaps that's why we have always gotten along so well.
JK - You know, I just came across the concept of lead product marketing by seeing what you are doing with your "Secrets" book. You offer a terrific product at a very low acquisition cost to your customer. You are giving them a ton of value up front as a way to prove yourself to them. You then build a loyal and dedicated customer base eager to do more business with you. You continue providing excellent service, products, and value, and your initial acquisition cost of the customer begins to pay off in dividends.
RC - Okay, fine, here's a hundred bucks for the plug (laughter).
JK - Seriously, without realizing and analyzing the fact until now, I have been operating in a similar fashion in my business all these years. Sometimes, it is okay to go negative on the front end. Often I accept dates that I have not made a lot of money on in the past, but the spin off has made it all worth it. I always look at these things as long term, and building a career. Marketers think of that in terms of what it costs to acquire a client, and then what the lifetime value of that client is worth to their business. Right?
RC - You are a very wise man my friend. Okay, any final words of wisdom, advise and/or explanations as to what you are planning for the future.
JK - I have never been reluctant to invest in myself because I believe in my abilities to do what I do. I have always been comfortable with putting money into the show and promotional material and anything that requires a hefty investment. These investments don't always pay off, but overall it is a philosophy that works for me.
The opportunity to share what I've learned, and pass along useful information that can benefit others interested in considering this field, is another reason for my releasing the Fundraising Magic Program.
RC - John, thank you for your time and for sharing this information.
End of interview and note to reader: John agreed to answer all my questions without holding back, exclusively for the benefit of the readers of this book. He has provided enough information for you to try his booking system now, as outlined in the interview.
If you would like more in depth information from John, and his complete system, go to: http://www.millionairemagician.com/JK.htm
Lesson 1S - Resorts and Casinos (Back to Index)
Performing in showrooms at casino resorts and hotels is similar to working non-casino theatres. There are many ways to cut a deal, and oddly enough, casino/hotel owners are extremely risk adverse when making deals with entertainers. I guess they know all about gambling and have seen enough people lose money and don't want to join the losers.
If a casino is going to hire you, expect to earn $3,000-$5,000 per week for your act, or in the neighborhood of $30,000 - $50,000 per week for a self produced show.
There are three main ways to work a casino:
1. You are hired for a fee to perform: reserved for proven entities.
2. 4 Wall: Least common. Performer pays all the expenses including bar staff, etc. and gets the door and a percentage of liquor sales.
3. 2 Wall: Most common: Performer pays for expenses only related to show. Takes the door (ticket sales).
Do not gauge your potential windfall on Lance Burton's success. He worked his way up over many years from a hired act in a revue show, to a self-produced show and ultimately, as you know, received a dream deal in Vegas. This is the exception and certainly not the rule. From a realistic business standpoint you need deep pockets to 2 wall, which is likely what you will do. Even if you have the money and/or backers, there is major competition for room space in cities like Las Vegas.
You could possibly get booked into a small showroom at a hotel in Vegas, as did a couple of young fellows I met there last month. It is possible. Anything is possible and it's up to you to make it happen with your strong desire and tenacity. I am painting the most likely and common scenario for you so you have actual knowledge as to the way things often work.
I clipped the following article from the newspaper to share with you here:
LAS VEGAS - Robert Goulet has pulled the plug on a summer stint at the Venetian hotel-casino, saying he can't afford the $15,000 US nightly showroom rental.
"I am angered and I am saddened," said the Edmonton-born singer. "I was hoping to be there for about three or four years. I enjoyed myself, I never sang better in my life."
Goulet ended the show after Monday's performance, four weeks into a nine week run. The showroom withheld box-office receipts on Tuesday.
Rogo and Rove, the company he runs with his business-manager wife Vera, was dealing with an overhead of $200,000 a week. Goulet said the company would have broken even with 50 per cent attendance.
But attendance averages were only in the 30-40 per cent range, he said. Ticket prices ranged from $50-75.
"We came at the wrong time of year," Goulet said, adding that audiences would have been better in September during the city's convention season.
So, even a well known celebrity that you would think would do well in Vegas had to make a 2 wall arrangement with a major casino/hotel there and obviously lost a lot of money in the process.
If you really have the desire to work this type of venue, plan carefully as you would any other business venture. If you can get backers with deep pockets, or if you want to risk your own money, or if you can convince an operator to hire you, perhaps one day you too will get a 100 million dollar, 13 year contract and your own showroom. Oh, it just may help, if you also happen to be one of the finest magicians in the world, exuding with class, and have teamed up with a well-respected and brilliant manager! Speaking of which...
Peter Reveen and I have been friends for several years now. I greatly admire him in many respects. He is a wonderful and kind man. On top of that, he is the epitome of a consummate show business professional. Not only is he one of the worlds greatest showmen to ever grace a stage, he is also responsible for pursuing and negotiating Lance Burton's 100 million dollar contract in Las Vegas.
Recently I phoned Peter and asked if I could record our conversation in the form of an interview for my book (this one). Without hesitation he said "yes", and I had barely turned on the recorder when he went into a fascinating and insightful monologue that blew my mind. I barely interrupted, so really, it is not an interview. I just let him talk and asked a few questions here and there.
Without further adieu, here are the words of Peter Reveen:
"It is very, very necessary to develop an act that is wanted. You can't just come in and say, "Hey, I have just bought all the equipment in the world and I'm going to be great". You can't do this, they're not going to book you, they do not know you, and you do not have a name.
To get into Vegas you have to make your name somewhere else first. Lance Burton did this through his success on the Johnny Carson show. He was making a name for himself. And then he got a little three month shot in the Foles-Bergere. And then, because he was doing great work and did not become a problem, he stayed there for nine years.
Not becoming a problem means he did not get into back stage gossip, things of that kind, that get back to the bosses or often have very thin skin. You just finish your work and you do it very, very well. You do not allow yourself to be drawn into that. You just finish your work, go back to the dressing room, study, or do something like that.
Be very pleasant to everybody and always be there. If the Hotel asks you to attend some function or meet some people they are bringing in, you be very cordial and help out. You do these things, and you just do good work. And this is very, very, essential. And don't go up and immediately demand a big raise as soon as you think you are a big hit.
To get involved in the first place, you develop an act somewhere else and get yourself a great reputation from it. Then, you send out invitations to the various buyers in Las Vegas.
Note from Randy - Contact the Hotels directly and simply ask who books their shows.
Or, maybe you are playing in a town nearby and can convince them to come see you. Then if you do a great job, maybe they will think they could use an act like that, and that you have promise, and talk to you about it.
Remember though, the Vegas scene is changing. The 'Cirque du Soleil' type shows are in now. Lance Burton is a huge success because he is a personality. You must be a showman first. Magic by itself is not particularly entertaining unless it is combined with great showmanship and the ability to make the people laugh.
Also, you look at all the great magicians in history that really made it and they were also very good businessmen.
You look at Maurice Rooklyn who was very brilliant in other phases of business. I think I said in his obituary that we often wondered how far he would have gone with his artistic integrity of been able to stage very beautiful shows and with the skills of sleight of hand that he had, if hadn't been so successful in other forms of business that kept drawing him away from the theatres to do this.
Note from Randy - I was fortunate enough to meet Maurice Rooklyn while I was performing in Sydney in 1984. He and his lovely wife had me over to their house for dinner and took me to the local magic club meeting in the evening. He was a great man and I miss him very much.
Levant was a brilliant businessman too. He knew how to make a show that could get in and get out very inexpensively for the music halls in London. He always gave them a great show. He did not go huge and massive like Dante did, but he was a great entertainer and a great businessman.
You must believe in yourself. Not to the stage where you get a false belief in yourself. You have to be able to turn it off. You cannot always go around living and acting like the great magician 24 hours a day. You have to have a life away from that.
You know, I was always able to go out and do my show, give the audience their moneys worth, but then turn it off. When we went out of there, we were Peter and Coral and the kids. We did not make a lot of friends over the years.
Note from Randy - This is the only point in my talk with Peter that I disagree with. Peter certainly has made a lot of friends over the years. A mutual friend, and Vancouver radio and television personality, Dave Abbott, introduced me to Peter initially. Peter is well loved and respected throughout the world by people like myself, proud to be his friend because of the kind of person he is and not because he has achieved fame. He does have a lot of friends and is so very humble.
We didn't go out and do the party circuit. I went through that very early during my first success in Vancouver. I use to take 20-30 people to the Cave and would think isn't it really great to be a star, people really love you. Then as things went wrong after going through a spell of losing some money, all those people disappeared. This made me realize very early in my career that this was not the way to go and I changed all that.
Note from Randy - Of course, these were not the type of people I was referring to in my note above.
The Cave was a popular nightclub in the 70s. I saw Harry Blackstone Jr. perform there several times. Mitzi Gaynor, Rich Little, and others played there often too.
I did shows there too on occasion. Of course, I was not headlining like Blackstone and Reveen. I forget the circumstances actually. I do remember doing shows there though. Maybe local talent nights or opening acts or something like that. It closed down years ago and I was quite young then.
Look, the main thing is to have a good product, believe in it, and continually try to improve on it. Listen to your audience, they are going to give you the best critique you can have. If they don't enjoy what you are doing, don't push it. When you find something they do enjoy, develop that, and make it very, very good. Always listen to the audience. Always give your audience your full attention, that you are doing it for them. You are not up there to do something just to make yourself happy. So, it is very, very important that you always listen to the audience, always respect the audience.
And I would say the greatest advise I can give to any entertainer, is to always play it clean. You can go out and you can try to put out an absolutely filthy hypnotic show, as some of them are doing. You know, we have one guy out here who is telling them that they are going to have an orgasm every time he shakes their hand and stuff like that. Well that appeals to a certain audience, but I can't imagine people wanting to go back and have that humiliating experience twice.
And by having a clean show, 100% of your potential, is your potential. It doesn't mean that you are going to get them all, but it means that 100% of the theatre going people are your potential because there is nothing in there that is going to turn them off. But if you work dirty and you work blue, then you are limiting that very, very much. Because later on that same audience that go to these clubs and enjoy this will grow tired of that. They grow older and they grow more mature and more discerning in their selection of entertainment.
And that's why I have been able to keep a career going for all these years. It's now what, 40 something years since I started playing
Vancouver, and all the other cities in Canada building up to that. And I can still go back and draw an audience.
Note from Randy - The audiences in Vancouver love Reveen. He is a big hit and sells out every time he comes here.
Next, I asked Peter how someone could duplicate his success as a touring act.
The conditions that existed when I started off do not exist anymore. Touring is tough because you are fighting the 200 channels of television - and the Internet itself. Many of the young people who would normally go out looking for shows, jump on the Internet and start talking to each other. And these are very important things to consider. People are becoming more cave dwellers now, they are doing more things at home. So, to draw them out of there is not as easy as it was.
It actually wasn't easy in the early days. I had to take a type of entertainment that was virtually unknown except out of night clubs and prove that it could be a top theatre experience. And I did this, and worked on the crowds. We played runs that were very, very long.
My biggest mistake, when I tried to build the big magic shows, which I loved, you know, I loved magic and tried to bring it back. I believed I could perform it the same way as I performed the hypnotic performances. In other words, the long runs. Well there is a big difference. There are only a certain percentage of the audiences who really want to see magic. And it's a very small percentage. And once you have gone through those people, they are not going to come back and see the same magic show again. You cannot change your magic show every two nights as I could the hypnotic show.
I remember there was an ex-partner I had, and he once made a very nice comment to me in Edmonton. He saw me do a big show in the 70s, it was a beautiful show, and we had a lot of equipment and beautiful scenery, it was a very spectacular show.
He said to me "Peter, this is a lovely show and people that love magic will enjoy this. But you may come back in a year or two from now and some of those people may come back and see it if you have some things new. But only so many people can see this." He said, "With your hypnosis show, I saw people coming in on the Monday night, and then I would see the same people come back with friends on the Wednesday when you changed the show. And then they would come back on the weekend with even a bigger crowd around them."
You see, he said, "that show had something that could touch the audience, and in a very, very personal way. And magic could never do that." And he was right to a degree.
I remember when David Copperfield came to see me when he first went out on tour. And he was asking me what he should do and what he shouldn't do. I told him, don't break your promoters. Don't go out with these big, huge shows, where they suddenly hit you with 15-20 stage hands like they did with me. I said this is not the way to go.
I said, if you are going out, do your Lear Jet, on stage, the film of that, and do your other magic, which is very personable. He had a great personality and was very fresh. I said if the promoter loses maybe a thousand bucks on you, they're going to bring you back the next year because they are going to know the people enjoyed you.
He (Copperfield) was very smart about one thing. I asked him how long he was going to play. He said just one night in each place. He said, I realize there are enough people who have seen me on television now to maybe fill one theatre. But to go for two or three nights is asking too much. Now he is at that stage where he can go in for close to a week and draw, but it took years for him to build to that. So he was very smart in business that way.
Note from Randy - Now, I asked Peter what someone would need to do today to book themselves in Theatres.
I think you have to work with sponsorship. You need to find people to raise money to go behind you.
Note from Randy - Peter is referring to sponsored shows where a charitable organization, like the Kinsmen, raise money from the community by selling tickets to the show. The money is divided between the show and sponsor.
I found sponsors to be counter productive when I started off. I would send all the publicity material to the sponsor in advance and then when we arrived in town we would say, "Hey where are all the posters?" and they would say; "Oh we gave them to Bill in the poster committee." And then, "What did you do Bill?" "Oh, I didn't have time so I gave them to Fred." So of course we would get into town and people didn't know we were coming. And the sponsor would still have big expectations.
We started to die on that and said this can't be, and we started to do it our own way. So we went back to those same sponsors and said we would come in and do the promotions and give them a smaller percentage and they would say "No, we didn't make enough money the first time." We went back to those same towns on our own and sold out.
Later on I allowed sponsors to make money with me and over the years I helped to raise hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars for Lions Clubs and other groups like that.
The only thing wrong with the telemarketing deal is that you may not play to the audiences that you want to play to. They raise the money and give the tickets away. They tend to give them to kids so you have to have a show that's scaled down to that.
The only other thing you can do, if you want to do a serious show, is to do it through the Temples where it's going to be sold to adults. All the Temples want to raise funds, so you take 25% and let them take 75% and they will really go out and sell them for you.
The main thing is, you have got to have a product first. And you have to have talent. The product has to be good and you have to believe in yourself. Then you have to believe in the audience. You have to respect the audience, that is the most important thing.
A great grandfather came up to me last year in Lethbridge (Alberta, Canada) and said to me "I am a great grandfather and bringing my great grandchildren to your show. I am bringing the fourth generation to your show and you have always given a clean show, and I wanted my children, and their children to see it."
I have played to eight and a half million people in Canada. Over the years, that's how many tickets we have sold. And it's because I respect the audience."
Lesson 20 - Comedy Clubs (Back to Index)
There are a few magicians making their living or supplementing their income as performers by working comedy clubs. A good way to get started in this market is by volunteering for open mike night. Most clubs will have one and it is easy to get accepted as an act to work the crowd for five minutes. You're not paid for this; instead, you are exposed to the club manager who may decide to book you. Also, you have an opportunity to test material and you'll quickly find out if you are cut out for this type of work.
I used to perform at the Yuk Yuks chain in Canada. It was fun and a great place to iron out new material. Working comedy clubs will probably not make you rich; it may however appeal to you as one of your many multiple streams of income. Here are the rough money numbers. (They vary from club to club, and in the US and Canada, and depend on whether you have a "name" or not). If you have an exceptionally funny act you may be booked as a headliner and receive around $2,500 per week. Most likely, however, you will be booked as an MC or middle act and earn between $500 and $1,000 per week.
There is another very important aspect to working comedy clubs for you to consider. If your goal is to become a well-known comedy performer, or if you wish to get into the acting field, then the exposure you will receive by performing at comedy clubs may lead to much greater opportunities.
Many entertainers have hit the "big time" by performing at the "Just for Laughs" comedy festival in Montreal. The contact information is in the directory below.
In order to be considered for the festival, send them a videotape of a recent performance (not longer than 10 minutes), with any pertinent support documents (headshot, bio, etc; not crucial but helpful). Be sure that the video is clearly labeled with contact information.
I am going to give you a list comprised of pretty much every comedy club on the planet. If you feel your act is already positioned for this type of work, then simply send your information to the clubs of your choice. If you're not sure if this market is for you, then phone a club in your area and sign up for the open mike night. If you wish to pursue this market seriously and travel the country (or world), then you could book a tour for yourself. Or, if you have a corporate booking somewhere and want to spend a week in that city or just book an extra night of work (for practice or exposure) then this is a perfect venue for you to do just that.
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