Chances are you’re just like me..totally obsessed with magic. It’s become your passion and you work at improving your skills at every chance possible.  You seek out friends who also love magic, read books on the subject, watch magic DVD’s and practice your magic tricks like crazy.  Because of this, you will have perceptual vigilance about magic. You probably will be the first to notice magic sets on sale as you walk around a superstore. You will spot magic shows advertised on TV far more often than non-magicians.  Because of this “magic glasses” view of the world, it’s easy to assume magicians are everywhere and common place.  The truth is that most people are as blind to magicians being all around then as they are to everything else.

A friend of mine runs a wedding photography service.  It’s amazing when we compare how often her subject, “wedding photography” is searched compared to “magician for hire.”  Read some books on ventriloquism, watch some shows and read some blogs on the subject for a week or so.  You will start noticing how much more popular it has “suddenly” become.  But type in “how to do magic tricks” in YouTube and it may depress you.  You will find countless children performing close up magic tricks in their bedrooms with varying degrees of success.

In my previous blog, YouTube Magic,I talked about some of the perils of “learning magic” from YouTube, but so many of you have emailed me about posting your own videos on YouTube that I thought I should cover this.  Granted, there is a definite age skew to all this YouTube posting.  It’s easy to conclude that more young people are performing magic than before.  However, this is not the case.  Ever since the first magic sets were sold, kids have been playing with them in their bedrooms.  The only difference is that they film their play and put it on YouTube for their friends to watch now.  Nothing has changed other than our ability to watch kids at play. Alexandrite Casey from Winnipeg writes, “How exactly, Mr. Great, should I go about creating YouTube magic videos?”  Can’t wait to get that video camera out and get started, huh Casey?  If you want to stop to get some constructive criticism on your magic, a live performance for trusted friends will tell you much more than a YouTube post.  There are angles, interaction and the fact that the camera may hide things that a live demonstration will not.  However, if your trick is ready to be seen by the world and you want to show them, that’s a different matter altogether.

First, let’s assume that your trick is actually ready.  Let’s stop to consider the top YouTube videos.  What do people like to see?  A search of this will reveal everything from images of Dancing Man, Michael Buckley, Trump Girl, Will It Blend? and OfficeMax’s Penny Prankster, and who knows what else is big this week.  These individuals and companies have been successful on YouTube (just look em’ up) and you want to be the next success story.  Splendid.  But you’ll need a couple things before you are actually staking your magical claim in a corner of YouTube.  You’re going to get lots of great theories, facts, details, and advice about creating your own successful YouTube videos from people, but please keep in mind that the subject of creating great videos has been covered in many excellent books.  I could have included everything you’d need to know about the technicalities of videography here, but then I wouldn’t be able to explain how to make it so people will find your videos on the site once you’ve posted them.  Video recording is not my area of expertise, but my friend John Fitzsimmons has done a great service showing magicians how to “Vlog.”

I will instead share with you the wise counsel of the many successful video producers who I’ve spoken with and were happy to share what they’ve learned along the way.  We would not be offended if, by the end, you feel I’ve stirred your appetite, but not filled your belly with all the information you’ll need to become a video producer.  Consider this blog the appetizer.  When you’re done you can decide if you still want an entrée.  As with all creative processes, there are two essential parts to creating YouTube videos, and the one that is less fun comes first:

  1. Preplanning.  This is where you put on your thinking cap and let yourself dream.  Just how do you envision your final video?  What will it look like?  Once you have your creative image in mind, you’ll need to break the project into manageable steps, not only so you’ll know what you need to do next, but also so that you can put all the equipment, sets, people, and props together before you begin.
  2. Creating the video.  Here’s where you get to actually start filming your magic and learning firsthand how to tell your own story through video.   You can’t rush into step two until you’ve thoroughly completed step one. You’ll see the difference careful preplanning can make even to your first few video attempts.  Although those first attempts may not become smash hits, you want to feel that you learn something useful with each video you make.  Careful planning makes that more likely to be true.  Don’t forget that this part of the process also includes careful editing.  Editing is what turns the filming into storytelling.  Not to rattle your confidence, but there’s also a very important third step, and that’s getting as many people to view the video as possible after you’ve created it.

Here’s what you’re up against.  You will be competing for the attention of your audience with other YouTube video producers as well as with all the “noise” that accompanies life in the early part of the twenty-first century. I’m not necessarily talking about the kind of background noise that Manhattanites endure each day or about that obnoxious neighbor who insists on dragging out the leaf blower at 7:30 on a Saturday morning.  Instead, I’m referring to the many forms of media and so many associated messages competing for your attention every day, no matter where you live.  All of us reside with a certain level of noise going on in your head all the time; it’s the modern-day battle for your mind space. The AdRants advertising blog has compiled a list of media that’s swirling around us these days for what’s competing for your head space that’s worth checking out.

All these are also your competition, and I didn’t even include your wife, husband, kids, pets, job, civic organizations, and chores. So now you see very clearly that there are some compelling reasons why you need to make your videos stand out. Most people have the attention spans of flies, and it’s not entirely their own fault. It’s just the way the situation has become as folks adapt to the bombardment of all this input. This attention span challenge is especially acute for younger people, the so called digital natives who have grown up with the Internet and hang out in numbers on YouTube. And remember, even once someone is on YouTube and watching that video of yours, millions of other videos are merely a click away.

People grab a lot of attention and views through a series of steps they take.  Once you have a lot of views, many things can happen. YouTube partnership is just one of them. YouTube partners earn revenue from the ads YouTube places on the page showing its videos.  You can also create a magic website or even a “microsite” where your viewers can land to take an action such as hiring you for a show or purchasing your magic.  That’s called a “landing page.”  So, as you begin your planning, the first thing to ask yourself is, “What do I want my viewers to do when they’re finished watching my magic video?”  The answer to this question varies greatly depending on each video producer’s goal.

The reasons for going onto YouTube are varied, and your own reason may not have even made this list. But you have to know what you hope to achieve with your magic videos before you start to produce them.  Even if that goal changes dramatically as you post videos and gain experience, at least decide the motivation behind your first video before you get started.  Is it to show your magic, sell your services or get constructive criticism.

There are many reasons to post your magic on YouTube.  At the very least it’s a wonderful tool that makes sharing the magic almost instantaneous.  Don’t be swayed by all the beginners who are also doing this.  Magic is fun.  We’re not talking about accounting.  The life cycle of a beginner in magic is, on average, 6 months. After half a year, most people with a casual interest move on to their next new hobby. If they continue past 6 months, there is a second drop off point after 2 years.  Every day, hundreds of people discover magic, and hundreds forget about it. It’s a constant renewing cycle, and on the whole is a good thing. Out of this ‘churn’ rises a handful of magicians that continue to develop and become excellent.  I hope you’ll join them.  It’s just like panning for gold.  The more full pans of sand, the more nuggets of gold get found. The sand will simply drop back into the river.  So when you see kids or amateur magicians performing magic on YouTube, smile to yourself.  It shows that magic is alive and has a future!


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