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PhotobucketSome time ago, regular reader Zephyr asked the question, “What is the right talent fee for a new and upcoming magician?”

The question has no correct answer, whether one tries to decide the talent fee of an upcoming or a seasoned magician.

A magician’s talent fee depends on many variables and intangibles well beyond the ambit of Cost Accounting.

For that reason, apart from the numbers, one must also consider such abstract distinctions as the performer’s stature, reputation and dependability to give the booker the kind of entertainment that will make his event a smash hit.

PhotobucketIn college, I took a few units of Cost Accounting, a subject I hated to the core of my bone marrow. Comprising mainly of numbers, the subject ran counter to the stuff I was partial of, which was mostly on the creative side of thinking. Cost Accounting is as close to exact science as any subject involving maths and numbers and does not allow much leeway for creativity. To put it bluntly, the subject was not my cup of tea—not even my caldero of tea.

Still, had I studied the subject seriously, I would now probably be an expert in answering the question, “How much to charge for a magic show?”

Well, if you go by the Cost Accounting route, the amount to charge for your show may be expressed in this formula:

Talent Fee=Cost of Show + Profit 

Here’s how to use the formula: first, add up all the costs you incur in putting up a show.

Cost of  Investment: This may include the cost of your steel Appearing Cane, Change Bag, Illusion, etc.

This process can be complicated, because you don’t charge the client for the full amount of your investment in one instant. If, for example, you have plunked down your money on a P35,000 illusion, you can’t suddenly charge your customer at least P35,000 to cover the full cost of your illusion. You need to spread that amount over a period, and be contented to get it back in, say, three or six months.


Production Costs: These include all expenses incurred in building a show, such as rehearsal expenses, costumes, snacks, etc.

Marketing Expenses. You printed those business cards, didn’t you? And you maintained a website, took online and offline advertisements. They all cost you money. Tuck them in your talent fee.

Overhead Costs: Passing off all expenses to the client is a good idea. It will also prevent you from becoming a pauper. So if the event will take you to the provinces, you will need to quote a rate different from and higher than the rate you ask if the show is held in nearby places. Out-of-town gig expenses may include transportation (plane tickets), food, and accommodation expenses. Normal gigs’ Overhead Expenses include gasoline cost and assistants’ salaries. Calculate all your Overhead Expenses and add them to the costs of putting up the show.

Second, figure out then add the amount you want to pay yourself for doing the show.

Profit. This is not a cost. This is the amount you should clean up after you cover all the costs. You can look at it as your salary.

So if you want to earn a million pesos from your birthday party show, which cost you P10,000 to put up, then, after the formula above, your Talent Fee is P1,010,000.

Of course, if you do that, you will price yourself out of the market. Nobody will hire you no matter how good you are. No parent will spend over a million bucks for his/her child’s 7th birthday.

And that is the tricky part of determining how much to charge for your show.  You see, if one’s talent fee is all about costs and profit, arriving at the figure to charge clients would be a pretty straightforward affair.

But it’s not. There are intangibles involved in selling your show. How good is your show? How funny and entertaining is it? All this can be factored in to arrive at an amount that makes sense and money for you, because the quality of the show has value that can be translated into a price.

Another non-concrete factors to consider are your name, reputation and stature. The more you are recognized, the more your name rings a bell, the more you are known for quality magic, then the higher the amount you can charge, regardless of the cost of your show,

For example, if David Copperfield chooses to perform a thumb tip magic at somebody’s 7th birthday, I’m sure the birthday dad will pay him an obscene amount of money while not considering to give you a cent even if you perform a P50,000 illusison. David’s thumb tip trick will command an astronomical amount of talent fee, while your P50,000 illusion will earn a pittance, because of the dynamics of your respective names.

On the other end of the accounting sheet, here’s another imponderable to consider. If you still don’t have the name and the stature, you may quote a bargain amount, but it should not be so low that it scrapes the basement. Some clients are leery of cheap entertainment. They believe in the conventional wisdom, “You get what you pay for.” The cheaper your talent fee, the more they will not trust you to have the ability to entertain their guests.

Last but actually the foremost, make my advice a bit more rounded. Restate the formula above, like this:

Talent Fee=Cost of Show + Intangibles + Profit

PhotobucketIn simple terms, you compute your talent fee yourself. Much as I wallow in self-delusion that I know everything, I can’t do it for you.

Stay magical,