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A marketing person worth his salt will tell you that performing charity shows is an excellent way to gain experience as a beginning magician in the Philippines. It is also an effective marketing strategy. It spreads the word around that you are available to entertain at events.
Like all grand things, though, charity shows can pose tricky issues. It needs sensitive tact and sensible tack to address.
If you are a magician in the Philippines, now and then, you will receive requests to perform at functions for free. The usual reason the coordinators will give you is that the event is organized to raise money for the benefit of some less-fortunate groups of society. Or that it is meant to give happiness to cancer stricken children, impoverished families, etc.
These are commendable goals. Charity works are good. They give you spiritual fulfillment.
Still, in dealing with organizers of charity events, a magician must be careful he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Talent coordinators have one purpose in mind. They organize events to make them successful. In most cases, they measure the success of the event by the amount of money they raise, the publicity they create for an advocacy, or the warmth of public acceptance they channel toward the product they push into the market.
That being the case, the well-being of magicians is not the event organizers’ primary goal. A magician, therefore, has to take careful steps to avoid being wittingly or unwittingly taken advantage of.
At IMC, we have drawn a policy on processing requests for free shows based on this general strategy:
We have designated a charitable institution to be the main beneficiary of our charity shows. This happens to be the Caritas of Manila. Every December, we set a date to perform a free show for the children of this institution.
Because we have chosen our beneficiary, Inner Magic Club, as a general rule, no longer entertains other requests for free shows during the year. However, if members would like to accept a request, IMC allows them to do so, reminding them to follow the Club’s general guidelines on handling this type of shows.
The reason we only have a once-yearly charity show is that we don’t want to be known in the country as the magic club that works for free. Also, since many of our members are professional magicians, we don’t want to muddle the market by giving performances that otherwise would have gone to the professionals as paid gigs.
We once had a request for 35 free shows for the benefit of children in the squatter areas. We turned down all the requests but one. Had we accepted all 35 shows, we would have raised a howl of protests among professional magicians, not only from IMC but also from other clubs.
In accepting shows other than our designated beneficiary, we test the requests according to these general guidelines:
1) We ask the organizers if they pay the other suppliers of the event. Is the venue free of rent? Are the stage decorations, the sound and light system, the food, the waiters, the chairs and the tables free also?
If the organizers say they are paying for all these stuff, then they should also pay the magicians.
2) In many cases, donors pick up the tab for the supplies and entertainment of the event. That means Sponsor A pays for the food, Sponsor B pays for the venue, Sponsor C pays for the sound system, and so on.
If this is the case, we suggest to the organizers that they find a sponsor who will pay for the magical entertainment.
3) The organizers usually promise their important event will bring good publicity. While the prospect of raising name awareness through a charity show may be true, publicity doesn’t come automatically just because the event draws a large crowd. We realize that to get a healthy publicity return from our free shows we have to work on getting it in a large dose.
Toward this end, we tell the organizers that in exchange for a free magic entertainment, Inner Magic Club’s name (or the name of our performers) must be mentioned in all publicity materials—souvenir programs, streamers, press releases, TV/radio plugging, advertising collaterals (flyers, brochures), website, stage decorations, and acknowledgments over the PA system during the program.
4) It’s sad but true that magicians who work for free don’t usually command respect. Organizers are not naturally ill-mannered. It’s just that they have to attend to hundreds of details during the event. The magician who works for free, in the normal scheme of things, naturally gets the least of their of attention. That’s just human nature.
For this reason, should you accept free shows, tell the organizers to issue a check to cover the full payment of your performance. Then issue a check to donate the same amount to the beneficiary of that charity event. Although the show is technically free, this way of exchange deal doesn’t seem like gratis, because checks change hands.