Hiring a magician for your special event can be a scary and challenging proposition for many people. How do you know if you're hiring someone good? Will the person who shows up to your event be an actual professional, or just someone who knows some card tricks? Will they embarrass you for having hired them in the first place?
If you find yourself asking these questions, you aren't alone! That's why I've made this guide on how to hire a magician for your event.
Tip 1: Make Sure The Owner of The Company Is The One Doing The Show.
We magicians are a small group - there's no "McMagician" service out there because the skill that it takes to do what we do can't be taught as easily as cooking a cheeseburger. When you hire a magician through a party agency, they're usually not sending you an employee who takes pride in his job. Typically these agencies maintain a list of the cheapest magicians they can find in any area (I know because they call me and try to haggle my price down to get a better spot on their lists). And although they charge you a premium price, when you contract with them they simply start calling names from the cheapest to the highest they can find. You will pay more money and get a lower quality magician.
Now, to be fair, there are some good agencies out there who don't operate in this way. "Matt Matthews Magic" is part of The Party Troupe, a party planning agency that I own, here in Connecticut, and I can attest to the fact that I screen every magician for quality before I send them to you party, but most agencies don't have such ethical principles. Whenever possible, hire a magician from a company where the owner is personally providing the service.
Tips 2: Watch Videos of Your Magician Performing For a Real Audience.
We are well in to the 21st century. We all carry around professional quality video cameras in our pockets, and those cameras are capable of sharing any video captured on the internet within seconds. There is honestly no excuse for a professional magician not have a video of their performance on their website for you to check out before your hire them.
Watching a video not only lets you get a sense of whether or not the magician is any good, but it also lets you get a feel for if they are a right fit for your party. A magician can be an amazing magician but not be right for your event. Piff The Magic Dragon is a famous magician who performs at comedy clubs and on TV specials. He's hilarious, but his comedy is crude, crass, and often quite vulgar. You wouldn't want to hire him to perform at your child's birthday party! Watching a short video demonstration of his act before you hired him would show you that.
If the magician you're interested in hiring doesn't have a video for you to see, consider looking for someone who does.
Tip 3: Read The Magician's Reviews Online.
Any magician who's been performing for a year or more is going to have at least some reviews online. Those reviews may be on Google, Yelp, or Facebook (be sure to check their Facebook wall to see what people are posting there), but there should be at least some reviews. If a magician has bad reviews, it goes without saying that you should hire someone else. But if the magician has no reviews, what does that mean?
Well, it probably means that they're either too new to have reviews or they perform so infrequently that they aren't doing enough shows to gather reviews. In either case, the magician is likely not as polished as someone with a few dozen five star reviews.
Tip 4: Don't Shop Based On Price Alone
Of course, pricing is always a factor you consider when hiring anyone for anything. But price alone shouldn't be the only factor unless you're okay hiring a lower quality magician for your event. Consider this picture that one of our face painter friends sent us.
Believe it or not, these photos were taken at the same event - the boys are brothers! This large event had hired multiple entertainers. Can you guess which one was painted by the higher priced face painter? There's always someone willing to do it cheaper!
Tip 5: Book Directly With Your Magician (Don't Use a "Gig" Site)
There are a proliferation of "gig" sites out there that profess to have a collection of all the best magicians in one spot. You enter your information into the site and they send it out to their "top" magicians who all send you quotes. Avoid these websites and just hire the magician you want, through the magician's own website.
The way these gig platforms work is by either getting participating magicians to pay a fee to be listed or by getting magicians to pay a percentage of the booking once you hire them through the website (sometimes both!). This means that the listings on these websites are incomplete and don't show you all of your options when it comes to who can hire, and often the magicians on these sites are marking their prices up beyond what you would pay off the site in order to compensate for the percentages these gig sites will charge them for using the service.
To find a magician, just use a tried and true web search. Search "magician" plus the specialty (like "kids birthday party") plus the name of your city or county (like "New Haven")
Put it together and search: "magician kids birthday party new haven"
Just go to the Map listings and look at local businesses. Look for reviews and videos as we've discussed!
Tip 6: Ask Your Magician What Their Specialty Is.
There are lots of talented magicians out there, but magicians aren't one size fits all. Here's Chriss Angel, star of the once-popular magic TV series Mindfreak (he now performs regularly in Las Vegas).
Many people consider Chriss Angel to be a talented magician. And he's certainly commercially successful! But do you really want someone that looks like this and performs scary illusions involving body mutilation to perform at your child's birthday party?
By the same token, if you're hiring a magician for a college event, you don't want a magician who's going to perform silly children's magic, pulling scarves out of his pocket and bopping himself on the head with magic wands.
This of it like this: Blink 182 and The Wiggles are both musical groups. You'd hire one of them to play a 21+ show at a nightclub and another to play at a children's birthday party, but they aren't interchangeable.
You can suss out what kind performer the magician you're thinking of hiring is by asking them. Tip: if they say they are a magician for all occasions, consider them a "jack of all trades, master of none." There are lots of magicians out there who will take any show that comes their way, but they have their passion that they really spend their time getting better at. You want to hire a magician that specializes in the type of audience you have.
At The End Of The Day It's About Trusting Your Decision.
Whether you're hiring a magician for a child's birthday party or a corporate holiday party, it all comes down to trusting that the magician you've chosen to hire will do a good job. If the magician is terrible and embarrasses you, you may be able to argue with them and get your money back. But you can't get back the opportunity to experience a great magician!
Matt Matthews is a Connecticut based magician, available for hire, who specializes in magic for kids birthday parties. You can find videos of his performance and read dozens of reviews of his performance right here on his website.