Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Project 365 (356/365): On Longevity In The Industry

.:356/365: On Longevity In The Industry:.

We’ve seen so many magicians who have come and gone like the proverbial flash in the pan in the industry, but the ones we almost universally look up to are the Burtons, Hilarios, and Copperfields of the world, who have managed to capture the imagination of their audiences and with each passing decade, have successfully managed to reinvent themselves to stay relevant and marketable for bookers worldwide.

What does it take for a magician to last as long as these luminaries have? Is it all about being at the right place at the right time? Skill? Personability? Or do we go with the cliché, “a combination of all the right tools?” In actuality, I believe it has a lot to do with flexibility, more than anything else.

Very few magicians at present would make it and still make it in the next decade, because the new generation will always hold magic to a different standard. I believe only Paul Potassy would count as a performer who hasn’t had to change a thing about his act while still achieving a lot of success, but given that he’s the only one, I’m more inclined to say he is a massive exception, because even the greatest magician of the modern age, David Copperfield, has had to reinvent himself so many times with subtle touches just to keep himself from languishing as a has-been.

Among the people who has adapted the best to the times, Lance Burton would have to top the list. From his initial suave and debonair persona, he has become a hilarious but still every bit as affable performer that plays on the expectations from his classic persona.

To make it in this industry, you of course need to be a good magician. But beyond that, you need to know how to move with the times, and how to figure out your target audience at each point in your life. Mis-aiming your target audience at a crucial point in your career can spell a lot of trouble, as a performer like David Elefant found out early on enough that perhaps, children’s parties should be the least of his concerns thanks to his inimitable look and style.

An average magician could make a decent living for ten, maybe twenty years, but at no point would anyone say these performers are legendary. To truly stand out and stay that way, one needs to know how to create buzz for himself, and how to leave the audience wanting more. I think that’s the reason why the most successful non-tv based magicians of our time do not have their entire repertoire depicted on video for all to see and get sick of.

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