In the past couple of years, especially during the recession, there seems to be an advent of “budget” products. Budget meals, budget airfares, budget hotels, etc. The business model adopted seems to be working well for these providers because the products they offer are tangible. You know what you are paying for; you can see what you are paying for before actually paying for it. Customers fork out money to purchase these products, knowing full well exactly what they will be getting. Hence, the business model for budget products works.
It is trickier in the service sector. Clients do not know what they will eventually get until the service is already paid for and in operation. This makes it more cringe-worthy when you hear about budget doctors, budget tuition or even budget magicians. Would you really entrust your health, your child’s education or your reputation as a host to “budget” operators?
I think not.
A couple of weeks ago when I was engaged for an event at Mandarin Hotel, a guest came up to me telling me about this magician that his friend had engaged. I could sense a tinge of embarrassment as he related the story. Essentially, the magician, while passable in his techniques, had difficulty communicating with his audience. He spoke in broken English and with a lot of “Singlish” (Singapore’s colloquial English), and cracked a lot of “kiddish” jokes too. Pretty awkward for the host, as well as the the guests, as they were put in an extremely uncomfortable position.
From this sharing, I was once again reminded that my role as a magician is not to “fool the heck out of everyone”, but to communicate, interact with and entertain my audiences with magic. I believe you can “fool the heck out of everyone” but really, no one will care. But if you are able to communicate with and engage the audience in your performances, then they will better appreciate your magic. This is Meta Illusions, going beyond the illusions. There is so much more to magic than what happens before the audiences’ eyes, so many more intricacies than the deception itself. That is the difference between professional magicians and budget magicians.
Well, back to budget magicians. I believe that they do have a place in the local entertainment scene. They are suitable for organizers with excess budget who are just looking to “fill” the event up with time-filler activities not directly relevant to the event. I also think they are suitable for peripheral entertainment, where the guests are aware of the side entertainment provided by the magicians but do not pay much attention to them. Lastly, budget magicians are suitable when the organizer’s budget doesn’t allow for a better magician.
But also know that when you engage a magician of a lower calibre, you run the risk of putting your guests in an awkward position and it could taint your reputation as a host. I believe it is difficult for laymen to tell the difference between a good magician and a great magician as the differences are subtle and both categories of magicians would have already passed a certain benchmark. However, it is easy to detect a mediocre magician from a great magician, especially if you put them side by side. That is why we never go for price cuts as we firmly believe that given our calibre, repeat bookings from clientele, positive reviews and media exposure, we are not in the league to brand ourselves “budget magicians”.
In sum, given the ecological nature of the market, as unconvinced as I am, I think there is a right place for everyone, whether you are a budget magician, a hobbyist or a professional. Unfortunately, the implication is that there will always be a place where you can and will find “bad magic”.