LEARN AT AN EXPERT LEVEL
For my YouTube channel, I filmed over 100 Street Magic videos on the streets of Manhattan, New York City. They are all real-time performances for people who had no idea I was going to approach them. I will take you through everything I have learned and all you need to know to do Street Magic.
What is Street Magic
Simply put, street magic is performing close up strolling magic on the street. It is no different than if you perform at a mall, at school, or at a paid event. Years ago there were “street magicians” who used to perform at places where there were street performers- jugglers, dancers, mimes, etc. They used to gather a crowd, perform tricks, and then pass around a hat to collect money. This is no longer what street magic is.
Street magic is basically strolling magic. You walk around approaching different groups of people and perform some tricks for them. Since it is on the street and the approach is random, it is called street magic.
Street magic was popularized by David Blaine in his Street Magic TV specials. Blaine does not perform on the street. He only filmed those specials for television. Blaine performs at events mostly for high end corporations.
Tricks for Street Magic
The number one most important thing is to have amazing magic tricks, and a lot of them. Your tricks should be quick, visual, and mind blowing. People will watch your tricks if they think you don’t want anything from them. Since you are on the street approaching strangers, you should not borrow items such as jewelry or money. If you start asking for stuff people will get uncomfortable. More on this below.
I like using ordinary objects like cards, coins, bills that I provide, etc. You need to vary your tricks and not just do card tricks. You can do anything, as long as the trick is amazing. I also do mind reading when I perform street magic. Just make sure the tricks are not too long. I wrote an article on where magicians learn their tricks if you want to check it out.
The way to have an arsenal of amazing tricks is through PRACTICE. I cannot stress this enough- practice, practice, practice! Work on a trick, perform it for friends, family, coworkers, at your local Starbucks, anywhere. Then go back and work on the trick again. Repeat this until you can perform the trick perfectly. When performing on the street there are so many other variables which I will discuss. You have to be ready with your tricks.
Make sure that you only carry tricks you have perfected and are ready to perform. If you have a trick in your pocket that you aren’t 100% comfortable with leave it home. This is not the time to try out new material. For street magic make sure your tricks are mostly angle proof and can be performed surrounded. You cannot control where people stand.
Where to Perform Street Magic
ANYWHERE! You can perform street magic wherever there are people. You can even perform at the mall. I still consider this street magic. This is the great thing about street magic, you have no limitations. It is better during the day because it is less threatening approaching strangers when it is light out. If it is nighttime try to find a well lit area.
How to Present Yourself
This is the number one thing magicians get wrong. You do not need an image to perform street magic. Let your magic speak for itself. We see magicians with different street magic images on tv. This is for television, not for you and I who are performing in the real world. Here is what I recommend:
- Dress clean cut (jeans & sneakers are fine, as long as you are neat)
- Dress age appropriate
- Comb your hair
- Clean your nails and hands
- Carry breath mints and use them!
- DO NOT wear sunglasses (you need to make eye contact)
I am always polite. I say please and thank you constantly when I perform. I see so many magicians bossing around their spectators- “Give me your hand” or “Hold this card.” I don’t like to be commanded and neither do your spectators. Add please and thank you to your performances. I guarantee you will have more success.
How to Approach
So you are ready to go with your tricks, how do you walk up to strangers? The simple answer is just do it. I believe your opening trick should be something visual. I am putting a video below of me approaching people on the streets on Manhattan performing street magic. My openers are all visual tricks that show I am a magician and that they are going to see something amazing. I never ask if they want to see magic, I just do a trick.
Once you see a group you must approach immediately. If you linger and think about it you will come across as creepy. Also you will psych yourself out. Walk slowly and approach with confidence. Make sure you smile and act friendly. Don’t get too close, at least not immediately. Keep your distance until they warm up to you. Stand up straight and make eye contact to engage with your spectators.
I know that people are going to love the tricks I perform. I have amazed many other spectators before them with the same magic. Imagine you have a check to give them for 1 million dollars. Would you be scared to walk up to the group and give it to them? Probably not. You are giving them a great experience worth much more than money.
Perhaps you are still nervous, maybe even terrified. This is normal, I have been there. The only solution is to push through this. So what if you screw up? You could even be honest and tell your spectators that you are super nervous. Repetition and experience is the only way to get past this nervousness. You have to push through these frightened feelings and step out of your comfort zone.
YOU WILL GET REJECTED! You might even experience rudeness. Never react, never say anything negative, never get upset. Just smile, walk away, and let it roll off. There are plenty of people who will be happy and excited to watch your magic tricks. I made a video all about how to handle rejection. See below.
How Long Should You Perform for a Group
As a general rule I would say about 10 minutes is a good amount of time. Though there is no right or wrong answer here. If they are interested and you have a lot of tricks you can perform for 20-30 minutes. Sometimes you get into a good flow. Go with it. If you sense they are uncomfortable finish your trick and leave as soon as possible.
I personally don’t believe in set routining. I usually know my opening trick and after that I like to mix it up with different tricks. Take into account I have a huge repertoire of magic. I make sure to vary my tricks. Maybe I will open with a bill trick, then perform a card trick, then a coin trick, then a mind reading trick, maybe a few more card tricks, etc.
If you do get into a nice flow with the group and they are totally into the magic you can ask to borrow an object. There are so many great tricks with rings and borrowed bills. You will sense whether or not it is appropriate. If you are not sure don’t ask to borrow an object. Doing this could turn them off immediately. If you do ask and sense discomfort move on with your next trick.
Building a Crowd
- Stand up tall
- Make eye contact
- Speak loudly and slowly
- Don’t move around a lot
- Do a lot of tricks
Sometimes you will approach one or two people and next thing you know a crowd starts to gather. This is a good thing. You need to know how to lead a group. Stand up tall, plant your feet, and don’t move around a lot. Stand your ground, stillness is power. Try not to fidget, this is a nervous tick. If you watch the best speakers or performers they are always very still when they stand.
Smiling shows you are friendly and non threatening. It is inviting and will make people want to be around you. Same with eye contact. It draws people in and makes them feel comfortable. It is sometimes the only way to engage with somebody and make them feel a part of the magic.
You must speak LOUDLY. If spectators cannot hear you they will lose interest. This is so important. In addition make sure to speak slowly. This shows confidence. Confidence is the true mark of a leader. A leader is what you are when you are performing for a group. Confidence comes with experience and success. This is why you need to make hundreds of approaches.
Another part of confidence is competence. It is important for you to have a lot of amazing tricks ready to go. If you are nervous about your magic you will definitely be nervous performing. Repetition is the mother of all learning. Confidence comes with having been in that position before. I have been performing for so long I no longer get nervous.
Hecklers and Wise Guys
So what do you do if someone is giving you a hard time? BE UNREACTIVE! I usually smile and ignore the person. The heckler wants you to react, they want to be the center of attention. You do not want to add fuel to the fire. If they persist and don’t stop my best recommendation is to finish your trick and walk away. There are plenty of other people to show your magic to. You should never be rude to anyone, even if they are.
Benefits of Street Magic
Street magic is a wonderful way to gain performance experience. There is an endless stream of people to show your magic to. After you have practiced and perfected a trick the way to master it is to perform in real time. Since you are not being paid it doesn’t really matter if you screw up. If you do screw up go home and work on the trick and consider what went wrong.
If your magic is good people will ask for your contact information so they can hire you for an event. You should have a business card. There are many online companies that make it cheap and easy to get business cards. I like a company called Gotprint.com. Keep your business card simple.
Street magic is one of the best ways to showcase your talent. The number one way to get work as a magician is to be seen. Try to approach people who look like they might be able to hire you. If you perform at the mall for groups of high school kids they probably will not be hiring you. I like to approach affluent looking corporate types.
Performing street magic is also a great way to boost your confidence. This is important in life. If you get good at performing street magic I guarantee this skill set will serve you well throughout your life.
Can You Make Money Performing Street Magic
There is no money in performing street magic. Magicians you see on tv do not make any money performing street magic. They make money being on national television for the special they filmed and this leads to making more money. Yet you and I will not make any money going out and performing magic on the street.
Don’t ask for monetary tips, it is classless. You should tell spectators if they like your magic they should consider having you at their next event. Then give them your business card. If someone insists on tipping you then it is ok to take. Just don’t solicit money.
How to Film Street Magic
You might want to film yourself either so you can watch and critique your performance or so you can upload your videos to social media. You don’t want a big camera, it is too obtrusive when approaching strangers. People get scared off easily. My ex-girlfriend used to film me performing street magic. Now I hire someone. You can have a friend hold the camera and film you. It is pretty easy to do.
The camera I like using is the Canon G7X. It is an amazing camera. It is small and easy to use and the video quality is incredible. I keep it on auto and just press record. I highly recommend using an external microphone. I use the Tascam DR-10L. It is a lavaliere microphone that clips onto your shirt. That is all you need. Click here if you want to check these out.
You can film street magic with your phone. I have done that and the quality is very good. You definitely need an external microphone. I edit in Final Cut Pro which makes it simple to sync audio and video.
Always remember enthusiasm is contagious. You have to approach people in a friendly and positive way. However you feel is how your spectators feel. Performing magic is a skillset. You might be terrible at first. Keep at it. The more you perform the more you will improve. The more often you perform the quicker you will see improvements. Good luck!