As an entertainer, I receive dozens of phone calls every day from Valley residents who are in search of a magician for their occasion. After 30+ years in the business, I have heard far too many horror stories about local children's party performers who have ruined someone's party and my heart sinks every time I hear another one of these stories which embarrass the true professionals like me. The experience of performing thousands of shows has brought to light some areas that I strongly recommend you consider when making your entertainment decision. I want your party to be a success, and would like to share a few thoughts with you on successfully differentiating the true professionals from those who are not.
Here are a few factors to consider when shopping around:
- Don't believe everything you see on the internet! The internet has been a great innovation because it allows local consumers to easily peruse entertainment from the comfort of their homes, day and night. But, it also allows a large number of people who should not be advertising as performers to promote themselves. For example, one agency that heavily advertises on internet search engines for Phoenix magicians is in fact located in Toronto, Canada and has never met any of the magicians they book, let alone seen their show in person. They do a very smooth and aggressive pitch on the telephone, and even have what appears to be a local phone number. This agency frantically calls every local magician once they get a booking to find the cheapest available magician to cover the event, and send out anybody they can find who is able to do a couple magic tricks. Trust me, you will be overcharged and underwhelmed! Another example: A Phoenix-area magician who also heavily uses paid internet search listings, and who has a slick website that reads a little too much like an informercial, has the same identical word-for-word website as over 60 other magicians around the world. (Curious? Copy a distinct phrase from a few local magicians' websites, and paste it into a Google search. You'll quickly determine who it is). If a performer is not even creative enough to write a website that describes the vocation they pursue every single day, can you imagine the low level of creativity in their show?
- Don't shop on the basis of price alone. Prices of birthday entertainers in the Valley vary widely and there is typically a direct relationship between the quality of the show and the price paid. Full-time professionals offer a performance that reflects years of experience and a large investment in props and training. You'll find that the handful of performers in the Valley who can truly be considered pros all charge about the same fee. A professional's livelihood is based on their reputation for delivering a quality show each and every time, so you can be guaranteed that every customer will receive the very best possible show. Don't just take the performer's word for it--any amateur hobbyist can label themselves a professional. Be a smart consumer and spend a few minutes asking questions to learn more about the performer's experience, reputation, and training. Surprisingly, you'll find that the small extra investment of just $25-$50 to hire a professional is the best money you can spend to ensure that your child's big day is a big success.
- Deal directly with the performer, not an agency. Many entertainment agencies in the metro Phoenix area offer everything from magicians to moon bounces to costumed characters. This is NOT the place to hire a magician! In most cases, the employees they provide to parties are paid minimum wage in response to Craigslist ads, have little or no training in dealing with children or entertainment, and have little motivation to provide a professional level of service. Make sure you speak directly to the individual who will be coming to your party. Any performer who is skilled enough to perform a quality show will definitely not be employed by an agency. I take great pride in providing one service and only one service--professional magic for children. This specialization allows me to offer a consistently better performance.
- Make sure the show is age-appropriate. The majority of entertainers use the "one size fits all" approach to performing. If their website advertises "magic for all occasions" or they boast that they do corporate shows, retirement homes, etc. they are not a children's entertainer. Often they do the same exact show for a group of three year olds as they would for a group of twelve year olds (or even an adult audience--boring card tricks and all!). This is NOT what you want! Even if they offer a special children's show, would you go to a doctor that "occasionally" did heart surgery along with four other specialties? There are subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between age groups, the performing environment, and the individuals in the audience that an experienced professional will take into account, and adjust their show accordingly to build rapport with the crowd. This is crucial to maintaining the audience's interest. Factors such as the length of the show, the types of props used, and the overall pacing of the presentation are important. As you shop around, ask the entertainers how they tailor their performance to fit the age group. If the performer uses fire or any inappropriate material in the show, they are not an appropriate choice for entertaining at a children's party. For health, safety, and insurance reasons, I also would recommend against anyone who distributes food or candy during the show.
- The performer should anticipate your needs. An experienced performer should be a resource to help you maximize the success of your child's special day. How skilled was the entertainer's description of their performance on their website or telephone? The performer's ability to anticipate your questions and deliver a complete, well-thought-out description of their background and performance is a sign of how professional you can expect their show to be. Does their website reflect the same professionalism as the show, or is it amateurish? The performer's skill in creating a visual image in advance is certainly a big reflection on the overall quality of what you will receive on the day of your party.
- The bottom line is value. Your child has only a handful of those precious, picture-perfect years for the birthday party a loving parent has always envisioned. The savings from hiring an amateur rapidly disappears if that amateur arrives late, has shabby props and costuming, or embarrasses you with an underwhelming show. A professional entertainer is your assurance of a fun and memorable experience that you'll remember with pride for years to come. Fond memories are priceless!