A magician is an entertainer who performs magic tricks, slight-of-hand routines and card tricks for the amusement of the public at weddings, functions and public gatherings.
A magician is a professional entertainer who uses various methods of magic or illusion to astound watching audiences. Magic is a performing art which uses natural means to achieve the illusion of supernatural feats. It is an ancient art which has been popular in Western culture since the 1500s, when contemporary logic was applied to so-called ‘witchcraft’ in order to better understand those seemingly otherworldly abilities.
Modern magic for the purposes of public entertainment typically falls into one of several categories; table magic, performance magic (such as wedding magic) and illusion. Techniques differ, but in general the desired outcome is to ‘wow’ watching crowds by making an achievable, practised routine seem impossible.
The routine often involves the use of props, such as cards, glasses, coins or rope, but the total scope of possible routine is vast. The magician or illusionist will seek to learn new tricks in order to improve their public performance and, ultimately, their reputation.
The salary range is very wide, depending on experience, type of function and locality. Large corporate events in London pay £200-£400 per hour, whereas a magician working on small, local performances (such as a children’s birthday party) outside of the capital may expect to receive £70-£100 per hour.
As magicians are typically self-employed they are free to fix their own rates, although this is dictated primarily by market demand and price tolerance.
- To learn new tricks and practice them to a professional standard.
- To be entertaining when performing for the enjoyment of public audiences.
- To arrive at the venue in a timely fashion and perform for the pre-agreed time span.
- To be courteous, approachable and enthusiastic to members of the public.
- In the case of table magicians, the illusionist must engage with the immediate public in an entertaining way.
There are no formal academic barriers to entry, although most working magicians choose to become a member of The Magic Circle. This is an organisation to which membership demonstrates that working magicians are able to perform to a high standard. Membership fees are £150 per year, and joining is subject to an interview where the magician must demonstrate their level of ability. New members must also be approved and seconded by existing members of the society.
- Must have an excellent understanding of the routines and techniques which are to be performed.
- Must be able to use props and tools in a safe manner, as there is a potential that some may be harmful to participants and performers.
- Must ensure public safety for routines which involve direct audience participation.
- Should have an understanding of marketing techniques and promotion in order to grow their potential business.
- Magicians must also handle their own administration, so an understanding of tax and invoicing is helpful.
As the magician is typically working in close proximity to members of the public, an understanding of common sense health and safety is paramount. Whilst it is not deemed to be a hazardous occupation as such, there may be times when the magician is expected to handle members of the public who are drunk or who take exception to magic being performed in close proximity to them.
For this reason, the performer must be able to present themselves in an entertaining and engaging way, and be able to ‘work the crowd’ properly. The magician should also be comfortable speaking and performing in public, or their practised routines will count for nothing.
For virtually every performer, involvement in magic starts at home. It takes quite some time to learn enough material to perform for an hour-long set, so a basic hobbyist grounding in the discipline is usually the first step. Sometimes a new magician will choose to perform for free at public events in order to grow local awareness of their talent.
As a magician becomes known in their local area, they may be subject to word-of-mouth advertising and repeat bookings, but this is down to the magician being able to deliver a credible and entertaining performance. The potential for increased earnings improves as the magician’s skill set and reputation improves.
Most magicians are self-employed, and a great many work alone, so there are no major UK employers in this respect. This does not preclude the magician from registering with a local entertainment agency who, for a commission, may be able to find additional work for the working professional illusionist.
The pinnacle (or rather, the higher earnings potential) exists in corporate entertainment. Magicians who work on retainer with entertainment venues as table magicians (who cater towards staff parties and Christmas/summer events) usually attract the highest £-per-hour. Weddings also pay well, but under these circumstances there is more onus on the magician as a self-employed entity to find work for themselves.
Also known as…
- Table magician
- Wedding magician
- Performer of magic
What’s it really like?
“Roger Lapin is a successful, self-employed magician who operates in the UK. He covers the Hampshire, Surrey and Dorset areas, as well as in and around London. Roger has also been featured on Sky Television.”
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
It was a very slow process. It started out as a hobby for a few years, and then I worked part-time in the evenings and at weekends for a few years. It was only when I was working more as a magician than I was in my day job as an IT consultant that I decided to become a full-time magician.
Do you have a standard day?
Every day is different. Most days early on in the week are relaxing, because I deal mainly with paperwork, administration and promotion. Then Fridays and Saturdays are my busiest days. There is occasionally the odd trade show or party on a Tuesday night, but mostly it is weekend work.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you have to deal with?
The most common problem is getting between jobs on time. I have to go where the work is, and if I have a wedding in Hampshire and then a corporate job in London, I have to ensure I can drive or catch a train and get there in sufficient time.
What do you like most about the job?
Entertaining people, making them laugh, seeing the audience reaction and the freedom to work when I choose.
What do you like least about the job?
The late nights. When I am working a long way away I often don’t get home until the early hours. However, the relaxing mornings make up for it!
What are the key responsibilities?
To ensure everyone is entertained at any event I attend.
What about academic requirements? Any formal demands such as A-Levels?
There are no academic requirements – just me and my skills.
What is the starting salary, and how does this increase over time with promotion?
You can charge whatever you like, but it is getting people to pay the price you have set. For a typical 2 hour slot, I charge £395. For a corporate event or large wedding in London, I have to charge a little more, or it could be a one-hour slot for a dinner party for which I charge £200. You can make a living at it if you are prepared to work hard and travel.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Join a local magic club and just get out there and perform. Offer to perform for free at any event just to get you well-known locally, and also get yourself a good website. You can view my site by way of an example at http://www.rogerlapin.co.uk
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
People skills. You could be the best magician in the world, but if you can’t connect with people you are dead in the water. You can be an average magician and a great ‘people person’ and be a far better entertainer than an amazing magician with no people skills.
Any closing questions, comments or additional advice?
This is a very enjoyable career. You are your own boss, and your success is down to your own promotion and dedication. If you want the work and are happy to put in the graft and work at it then it is there for the taking. You have to be good, but you only become good with practice. For me, it is the best job in the world.