I wanted to talk about my experiences for the last six months…..
First of all I didn’t “Make it”, in fact I am currently sitting down and once again doing technical work as a product engineer/field service tech. My goal for the summer was in attempting to become a full time entertainer/juggler/magician, or create a working situation that would allow me to become a full time entertainer. I am writing because I want you guys to learn from my mistakes. I want you guys to learn from my blunders. Also know that I am probably doing a fair bit of crying as I write this as well, this the ground stall of juggling and performing magic professionally
Don’t get me wrong I still have my ability to do weekend bookings and get paid for that. But I don’t have the ability to focus on being a juggler and magician, and to be honest my heart aches at the unknowing of whether or not I will be able to continue doing the thing that makes me sing professionally. I will continue doing it but to come so close and just have it fall apart, it hurts and it is probably one of only two times in the last two years that I feel so broken.
#1 We are not a “community”
I have a question that I always have to ask myself when I make a rather large choice; how do my actions affect me, those I care about, and how do my actions affect the communities that I am a part. Community as we think of it is not just our friends or family, those are the people we care about, but rather community is the group of people with whom I share commonalities be they religion, interests, etc. In fact as humans we are part of a community connected by our humanity.
If I do something that helps my community then the entire community benefits because I am a part of that community. While in a larger community the effect might be negligible I will put it to you in this way. Here is a stark truth unless you are a juggler or magician that has name recognition (be it local or nationwide); such as Criss Angel, David Blaine, or David Darwin people are hiring you because you represent a trade or craft. You represent the “concept” of a juggler or a magician. If I do something positive then that affects their idea of that concept positively while if I do something negatively than the concept will be affected negatively.
There are countless moments during any engagement be it in email, person, etc. where I have the ability to affect their perception of our community. The big example is when I can’t take a booking for some reason (be it on a day I am already working or because I am outside of their budget) the first thing I always do is to recommend someone who they might be interested in whom I trust to be a good performer. It doesn’t matter that I like or don’t like that person what matters is that I trust them to do a decent job.
This is not something that happens…………at all within our community. We do not reach out and talk about shows or bookings unless we promised to fulfill them and can’t or, alternatively, we are trying to get warm bodies in the seats. We hide that information from each other. Almost as if we had reached a starvation mindset where if we let someone take something from us (even if it was something we couldn’t use) then we will never get that thing back. We are not a community in that we don’t really care if we help the community rather we help ourselves and only call upon the community if it directly helps us.
#2 What we would call the “middle class” or the “middle man” doesn’t exist.
When the topic of middle class comes up we normally think of someone making a median wage and having a comfortable living. These are people who work skilled jobs that require knowledge and experience, but might not be high pressure in nature. This simply doesn’t exist in the performing arts. Either you are performing birthday gigs and local events or you are traveling. There is a middle class gap between these two different sets of performers.
You might think of an agent as a person who can branch this particular gap but these agents as well don’t exist. With the rise of the internet and websites that cater to people looking for entertainment directly the amount of people who ran agencies dropped dramatically as more people jumped to google and other search engines to find their juggling and magical needs. But the problem is that anyone who can juggle three balls or perform a simple magic trick like a French drop can also use these sites. There isn’t any ability to discriminate. To that end these websites have become flooded with people looking hawk their talent or get their chance to shine.
In terms of equality the internet is amazing, it doesn’t discriminate. But the problem is that there are some times where discrimination and having a sense of taste matters such as it does with entertainment. And to be sad but true the cost of having a company that handles issues of SOE fall’s outside the cost range of most smaller performers thus inflating that gap between those who can and those who cannot.
#3 The people who judge you are not the people who pay you.
There is something that I learned from a vender at a ren faire.
“Rennies don’t actually have any money for normal day-to-day purchases for little knick knacks and gifts, they usually set aside large sums of money for costume pieces that they get from discounts from each other. What makes me able to run my shop is the guests coming in and buying 5, 10, and 20 dollar items”
And there is another quote:
“We are beggars, begging from beggars!!!!!”
This second quote is a quote from one of my favorite films, History of the World: Part 1. The idea here is that beggars will never make money from people who are having similar situations going on. When you do that you are attempting to create a “closed financial system”. But the problem is that rent, food, and bills are not a part of this “closed financial system”. Performers can never pay each other, yet we constantly rely on sending each other invites to shows, events, and performances.
- Ooooo look here’s a throwback to number 1#. How many jugglers or magician would advertise an event they were not performing at?
So understand this, the only people who can pay for you to live are everyday normal individuals, corporations, and similar folk who hire you. Performing or training other performers is far more difficult and decidedly undoable for most as well as the fact that training performers as a way to make a living tends to oversaturate the market with unseasoned performers and entertainers.
But these are the people who will judge you, these are the people who will blacklist you, these are the people who will make your entertainment life a living nightmare. On YouTube magical channels for every one or two people that praise an effect there is a magician waiting in the wings to both spoil the effect as well as judge the person. I have been that as a juggler I should never be doing magic or that I shouldn’t be taking gigs for a certain amount because I was “Better than that”.
Here is the crux of all of this: if the only time you ever care about my well-being or even the well-being of the community is when you are freaking out over the idea of the average cost per gig being lowered then you aren’t worried for my well-being….or even the communities….you are only worried about your own well-being and that hurts.
#4 Getting real work is not about how good you are as a performer but rather how good you are at everything else.
So often enough in order to justify to clients the expense of hiring a performer at an event we will usually talk about all of the things that go into being a performer, we might talk about the expense of having multiple accounts on multiple websites, cost of costuming, so on and so forth. In reality being good at all of these things is also what allows you to get real work.
The art of getting business connections, getting your material into the hands of those who are interested in it, crafting quality promotional materials, as well as the ability to effectively handle the public relations aspect of performing are all important. In fact to be frank it is far more important than the show or your ability to perform itself. So long as people walk away from your performances happy and having enjoyed themselves that is generally that which matters.
The only person in our current era who is going to be generally concerned about getting your information in other people’s hands is (to take a view from number #1) is you or anyone else who’s well-being relies upon you having a show (even though the concept of a booking agent for a middle of the line agency are few and far between oooo a reference to number #2).
In my own case I spent a good day of time and resources attempting to put together these necessary resources and I still am but I don’t think I was able to do so by the time I needed.