The Dirty Secret of the Live Demo

I'm going to tell you a secret about advertising a magic trick. If your trick is really terrible, you absolutely want to go out and shoot a demo of live performances.

This may seem counterintuitive. You may think you'd want to have a demo shot in studio directly to the camera. Or maybe no demo at all. But in reality you want to put it out in front of real people. 

Yeah, but what if they don't like the trick?

That's the beauty... it doesn't matter! First, the spectators in demos are coached up a little bit to give bigger reactions. But that's barely even necessary. Here is something you need to keep in mind when watching online demos: With a camera pointed at you, it's much easier to give a fake positive reaction than a genuine negative or neutral one. 

This isn't just true for magic demos. Go buy yourself the cheapest frozen lasagna you can find. Heat it up. Dish it up on little plates. Then set up a display somewhere with a sign that says "Mamita Brooks' Old Country Lasagna." Tell everyone it's made from your grandma's original recipe. Then shoot video of them tasting it for the first time. They will be mmm'ing and oh'ing and oh-my-god'ing like they're swallowing angel ejaculate. 

This is exactly what is going on in magic demos. The magic companies want you to think they're being helpful. "Here's how it plays for real people." No. That's how it plays for people who won't question anything you do, will overlook any flaw because it would be awkward to mention it,  and will automatically give you a positive response because they're on the spot in front of a camera.

Thats why, in a sense, live demos are completely useless. They're shot from different cameras in a way that always hides the week angle. And the reactions are always going to be somewhat artificial (unless you're using a hidden camera or something like that).

In fact, if you're super thin-skinned and always need positive feedback, a presentational style you could adopt is that you have a freelance gig recording magic demos for a Ukranian magic site. Then, whenever you want to perform, you set up your tripod and pull up a black backdrop and show people tricks. They will automatically smile and laugh and you'll barely have to do anything at all. 

I do have a tip for you to help you get slightly better insight into how an effect will actually play. Instead of watching the people who are directly interacting with the magician, watch the people around those people. 

First, I'll show you a good example. Here's Jon Dorenbos performing Torn and Restored Transpo.

You see everyone is on board, not just the one guy being performed for. The whole room is at least somewhat engaged and smiling and reacting. His performance isn't particularly original, or even that interesting to someone who is familiar with the trick, but the trick is strong enough to keep everyone's attention.

Now look at something like this new release ID7. I review it in full in the next issue of the JAMM. I don't want to give too much away, but it ain't good. It's a complete trifle of an effect, and even Rick himself doesn't try that hard to make it very interesting. 

But it gets good reactions! Look at the demo.

Yeah, that's the point I'm trying to make. Those reactions are essentially trick independent. Show someone anything with a camera in their face and you'll get something similar. But we can get a sense for how the trick really plays by observing the people just one step beyond the main spectators. These people don't feel that social pressure to act amazed. And there you see the real level of interest the effect engenders.

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