I believe that online videos provide the greatest and most devastating source of magic exposure. Here are several ways to combat the problem. If you post a video of yourself performing magic, monitor the viewer comments. Viewers like to study magic videos and then post what they think is the secret, usually with a time stamp at a crucial moment. And other viewers chime in with feedback of their own to contribute to the group effort. Simply check your online videos regularly and remove the offending comments.
Perhaps most harmful are videos of prominent television performances that have been dissected by viewers. But if a performance aired on television, it's copyrighted material that probably doesn't belong on YouTube. If we alert the copyright holder, perhaps we can have the videos removed. Sure, it means that we magicians won't be able to go online and enjoy the magic routines that air on television, but I can accept not viewing the latest routine on "America's Got Talent" if it protects magic. And if the copyright holder has legally posted the video, we can contact them and ask to have any offending comments removed. Together, I think we can make a difference.
Always Perform the Most Entertaining Magic That You Can
Good magicians have to constantly make up for the many awful clowns and incompetent "magicians" out there who present something that vaguely resembles magic and offer little to negative entertainment value. And please don't get me started with the costumed characters - the Sponge Bobs, wizards and others - who carry five bucks worth of cheap tricks and actually show them to paying audiences.
Unfortunately, it's the performances by these inept entertainers and their abuse of audience members that most lay spectators long remember and make them conclude that they dislike magic. It's up to magicians to make up for these so called "entertainers" who desecrate our art.
All working magicians have accepted shows that didn't pay enough, required too much travel and were in parts of town that everyone tries to avoid. And to top it off, were greeted by surly and even unreasonable hosts. One's initial inclination is to finish the show, collect the money and get away. But somewhere at each party, there was someone who wanted to see magic and believed that magic was the best entertainment for their event. And you never know when your magic may create a new fan for our art or inspire a kid to one day learn and perform magic.
It's our job to always provide the best magic that we can under any condition. We are ambassadors for our art and this applies to every time that we perform.
Always Respect Your Audiences and Volunteers
Many people hate magic because they had a bad experience with it. Some boorish performer used magic to show off, or worse, humiliated and embarrassed an audience member on stage.
While there's little we can do about those obnoxious magicians who don't know any better, but for those who care about our art, we need to always respect audiences and volunteers.
How about getting rid of those irritating magic bits that try to get laughs at a volunteer's expense? Can we please stop asking kids to hold a handkerchief up in the air until their arms hurt? (A pet peeve of mine.) Please, retire that awful bit where the magician gestures for a kiss on the cheek and quickly turns his head to catch one on the mouth. It's not funny in our era of hand sanitizers. And finally, can we please stop performing "20th Century" with the lady's undergarment.
Put Together That Effect or Show That You've Been Thinking about
There's no time like now to study that effect or put together that show that you've been thinking about. If you're so inclined, make a plan. Set March as the time when you've mastered the sleights and built the props. By May, have your routine choreographed and the patter written. In August, test your routine in front of friends. By next New Years, you'll be performing it.
If you're a beginner, use the new year to study and build your magic foundation. Read and study the classic texts by Mark Wilson, Bill Tarr, Corinda, Anneman, Bobo and more.
Give Back to the Magic Community
The magic community needs your participation to remain healthy and viable and maintain a strong and positive presence among the lay public.
Use the new year to not only learn, practice and improve your magic, but be active in the magic community. Join the Academy of Magical Arts (Magic Castle) or Magic Circle and participate in your nearest IBM Ring, SAM Assembly or local magic club or organization. These organizations can use your support. And in the long run, you'll benefit as a magician.
With a membership, both IBM and SAM include a subscription to their excellent magazines (respectively, "The Linking Ring" and "M-U-M") . Other worthy investments are subscriptions to the major magic magazines such as "Genii" and "Magic Magazine."
And if you're an experienced magician, take the time to encourage and help a magic novice. Chances are, there were influential people who helped you begin in magic. You can return the favor and make a world of difference to someone who is starting out.
Be Civil in All of Your Dealings with Other Magicians
The art of magic brings us together. Just because radio and television commentators are rude doesn't mean that we as magicians should be equally rude at meetings and when interacting online. Criticism is a part of all good discussion. Personal attacks are not.
Don't Support Magic Ripoffs
It's human nature to want to save money or get something for free. But when you knowingly purchase an un-licensed, ripoff item, you're robbing from the magic inventor and supporting a castoff, notorious industry. And illegally copying a DVD or downloading a pirated video is just plain stealing.
You'll probably pay more for an original magic item, but you'll be doing the right thing. And better yet, you'll be supporting the inventor who will be financed so he or she can create and market more magic. It's these inventors and creators who offer us new possibilities and routines and make us look good.
Just some food for thought. Happy new year.