It’s very hard to make a career in magic. Especially creating and releasing magic. Sorry to burst that bubble.
The richest magicians are performers…
- David Copperfield.
- David Blaine.
- Penn & Teller, etc.
Performing always beats creating for income potential, because of the vast difference in market size.
There are far more people who want to see magic than want to learn magic. It’s just a fact.
So the bigger the pond, the more room you have to grow.
There is a famous book that covers this theory called Blue Ocean Strategy if you want to look into it further.
BUT WHAT IF YOU WANT TO BE A CREATOR?
90% of magicians who consider themselves creators can’t make a living from it.
The stories of selling 20,000 this and 10,000 that are few and far between. But you hear about them because they are so impressive.
Ellusionist is known for making best sellers - but we also have tricks that bomb. The worst that I can remember sold like 84 units or something.
There is a lot of bravado and ego-protection that is perpetuated when it comes to sales numbers. I don’t want to say it, but it is the case that some people (not all) lie about how many they sold.
Those lies inadvertently create competition.
“If they sold 10,000 of that trick, and I think mine is better, I should make a load of money too.”
The saturation of magic products begins.
WHAT IS THE TRUTH?
The top 10% of creators make a ton of money. It can sustain their career. They have a good life.
This incentivises the other 90% of creators to rush their ideas out. Some put out any old s***.
Creating is cool. So then everyone wants to be a creator, which then crowds the magic market, making it harder for creators to make their living.
Maybe Ellusionist itself has contributed to this rise in popularity to create. By making celebrities out of creators. By going to exotic locations. By whipping around in Mustangs while flying drones out the back.
It’s attracted 1,000 hyenas on a carcass. Not everyone will get fed.
This unfortunately is the nature of competition - and solidifies the need for marketing.
It’s why working with magic companies is the route for most people, because magic companies have distribution, robust email lists and experience marketing to the correct buyers.
But I’ve heard some horror stories recently (of which I take all with a pinch of salt - and so should you).
Who knows if it’s true, but we’ve heard that royalty rates are dropping and now creators are being charged ‘production fees’ by other companies.
Financially speaking, this is smart for the companies to do. And not illegal. They make the deals. People can always turn them down.
Morally speaking though, it turns the creator into an unwilling partner.
If production & meal costs are deducted from the product sales, then the artist is technically paying half of a cost they have no control over. The studio space, the camera guy's day rate, the coffee runs etc.
If you come out for a meal and it costs $50 per person, but I bring 2 camera guys, a director, photographer and my mate Saav - and the bill is deducted from sales, then the artist is paying half the cost of the meal.
The artist (She or He) would have been financially better off if they’d just paid for themselves. Or gone hungry.
If they are on the hook for the costs, then they should have 50% of the decision over what costs are added on or a bigger royalty percentage. That’s a fair partnership.
If they are a lesser percentage partner, they should have less liability & fewer deductions.
So to hear that artists can release a trick and not make a penny (because they haven’t covered costs of flights & filming) is wild.
I can only speak accurately about what we do at Ellusionist. The standard deal (us making everything) is 25% royalties, and the only cost that’s taken out is the cost to make the physical product/gimmick. If it’s a download, no deductions to the artist are made.
We get the lion’s share of the pie because we take on all production costs like flights, studio fees, editing costs, meals out, marketing costs, warehousing costs, customer service, returns etc.
None of that gets charged to the artist.
You can learn more about becoming an official Ellusionist artist, here.
THE CREATOR/PERFORMER PYRAMID
Right now, because too much magic is released, there is a saturation. Buyers are too split between all the new releases and they can’t keep up.
I like to visualise this as a pyramid. Where there are too many creators in respect to the number of performers who can perform those new creations.
So 90% of the wider magic market makes minuscule sales. Maybe 20, maybe 100, maybe 500. But after costs are recouped, they may as well have got a job driving for Amazon.
Not everything is a winner - and eventually winners fade as you reach market saturation. There are only so many people that need the trick. You could sell 1,000 in a day, but by day 30, you’ll be selling 4 a day.
By day 300 you’ll be selling 4 per week. Or none.
It’s exactly why our approach is ‘less is more’. Fewer releases and giving everything its time in the sun.
We can combat the saturation by doing more promotion of existing items. And more importantly, saying NO to submissions that don’t improve on/offer something new to the magic market.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE WINNERS?
Well, the winners are huge. They blow out, they can’t be kept in stock. Everyone talks about it. It creates a fire that can’t be stamped out.
The artist gets a fat old payment for their ingenuity, and hard work.
- maybe they buy a new kitchen
- maybe they take their entire family on holiday
- maybe they buy a new Mercedes CLA AMG-line & crash it (no comment)
- maybe they put a deposit down on a house.
- maybe they roll it into their next big release and turn it into a viable, profitable career.
The 10% of people that hit this bracket are golden. They are household names in magic.
Their creating is prolific and they’ve done something that we’d all love to be able to do. To turn their passion into their career.
NOT A CREATOR? HOW ELSE CAN YOU MAKE MONEY IN MAGIC?
There are multiple ways in which you can make money with magic:
- Perform the tricks and get paid as a performer (which we’ve covered).
- Release your magic with companies (which we’ve covered).
- Become a magic consultant for TV & stage productions.
- Expose magic online for the admiration and viewership of laymen and then collect ad revenue (we do not recommend this).
- Review magic online & collect ad revenue from the views.
- Become an affiliate for existing companies.
- Become a producer/company.
- Get on the worldwide lecture circuit.
Let’s cover a few more and maybe we’ll do a part 2 to this post…
BECOME AN AFFILIATE / BRAND AMBASSADOR
We'll keep this short, but there are many magician's making a few hundred bucks per month being a brand ambassador for Ellusionist.
How? Magician's follow magicians.
Brand Ambassadors promote our products on their blogs, Instagram, Facebook, forum posts & YouTube channels - actually anywhere relevant. And we pay them 20% of each sale they bring our way.
Someone spends $100 and uses your code. That's $20 to you. It's that easy - and is paid out regularly via PayPal.
It adds up super quickly and has made our top magic ambassadors thousands of dollars per month.
NOTE: Not everyone is killing it, just because you have 100 followers, doesn't mean you'll make 100 sales. Some people can make an extra $50 per month & that's their gym membership paid - and some will make hundreds to thousands and that's their rent paid. Set realistic expectations based on your reach & influence within magic.
You can apply to become a brand ambassador here: https://ellusionist.com/pages/brand-ambassador
BECOME A MAGIC PRODUCER/COMPANY
You could run your own magic production company. Just like Ellusionist.
It takes a lot of work and investment. Brad took out a loan to create Ellusionist - and it worked (that’s not financial advice).
But again, not all magic companies survive. You’ll have to have a USP. Something different to succeed.
Maybe it’s your own unique magic, and you sell it on a gum road or Patreon platform like Christian Grace’s Magic Monthly. Which is awesome.
Or maybe you create a storefront with a Shopify store and use your social media to sell other people’s tricks.
Again, the only caveat is the level of competition you’re up against.
There are 25 coffee shops on a single street. Not all of them are killing it.
- The place with the best coffee.
- The place with the cheapest coffee.
- The place with the most brand recognition (Starbucks)
- & the place you see first (most footfall).
The other 21 coffee shops are scraping by and won’t be able to sustain their business in the long term.
So what can you do?
The main lesson here is about competition. If you want to make money in magic, you need to find the route of least competition.
The path with the highest ratio of customers to businesses.
Right now, that's performing.
And a simple way to tell this is "if everyone is doing it, not everyone is winning."
I wrote a blog on 'the death of subscription businesses' on my personal blog, 10 days before Netflix's stock crashed by 60%. Because I could see the patterns emerging. I could see the competition they were facing.
The same happens within magic. But the truth is very rarely shared.
That's where we come in.
p.s. If you found this helpful, or have some unanswered questions, please leave a comment below.
Thank you, truly, for sharing and for everything you do it’s very much appreciated.
Love the honesty.
Very interesting post, as usual. If I may paraphrase the original Latin quote, “Truth may be harsh but it’s the truth”…
Excellent thoughtful overview and well worth the read. Thanks very much.