Magi-Fest 2018: Magic retailers chat about bad magic, the internet, and more

January 26, 2018

At Magi-Fest 2018, Eli Bosnick hosted a discussion called Magic & the Marketplace, which offered an opportunity to listen to five of some of the biggest names in the magic retail biz to talk shop.

The gathered panelists included Vanishing Inc. founders Andi Gladwin and Joshua Jay; Paul Richards, the founder of Elmwood Magic who is currently embarking on a new venture selling tricks that are only available at conventions; Acar Altinsel, co-founder of Penguin Magic; and Christian Schenk, creator of the Phoenix Deck.

First, they talked about “bad magic”. With the proliferation of the internet and online magic shops, how do you filter out the good magic from the bad? For Christian, it’s about giving advice to new performers, recommending specific books or decks to start with. Acar believes that there’s never been a better time to find great tricks, there’s just a lot more out there now, which can mean more crap as well. To him, the trouble is when you’re trying to stay on the cutting edge. Paul agreed with Acar, but also mentioned that because the barrier to entry is lower, anyone can make tricks now, which can be both good and bad. What’s new to him is seeing so many young people just starting out saying they want to make and release a new trick—that never happened ten or 20 years ago. Joshua believes in Sturgeon’s Law: that 90% of everything, including magic tricks, are crap. Really good magic is like finding a gem, and you have to learn how to curate what you find. Andi says that the difficulty of the magic market specifically is that so much of it is tied to its secretive nature. As one of the heads of Vanishing Inc., he sees ten-15 trick submissions a day, and rejects most of them.

Next, Eli asked if the internet was good or bad for magic. Paul sees the internet as neutral, like a tool. It’s an ocean, but magic certainly isn’t. He gave an example: the upcoming Blackpool Magic Convention is the largest gathering of magicians in the world, and attendance caps at around 4,000 people. Meanwhile, San Diego Comic-Con regularly sees over 100,000. It’s important to keep that perspective.

YouTube is also a hot-button issue in the community these days, especially since so many kids use it to learn magic. Josh says it’s just a part of the ecosystem now, which is something magicians will have to live with whether they like it or not. The important thing is that, while kids aren’t getting direct access with magic over the internet, there are live lectures and Skype sessions available that can offer similar hands-on experiences. Kids are also learning about all of the convention opportunities available thanks to the internet, and those who go get a level of access they’d never get on the internet—but without the internet, they would never have known the convention even existed.

Last, Eli asked the panel about what magicians, and retailers and trick creators specifically, can do to make magic more welcoming to women. Paul noted that a lot of tricks assume  the performer has a back pocket, or wallet, or some other piece of clothing that a man would typically wear—it’s important to tailor tricks so anyone can perform them. Andi believes that we should be encouraging and promoting the women who already do magic, making them more invisible to inspire other women to begin practicing. Lastly, Acar believes that male-centric presentation and marketing is taking a back seat—these days retailers are focusing less on using tricks to “get dates” or impress women than about simple surprise or wonder.

Stay tuned to GeniiOnline for more reports from the heart of Magi-Fest 2018.