Magicians and variety entertainers have many venues (places to do shows) that pay anything from extra income to a handsome living.
At the top of the heap is television in the form of the occasional special and Las Vegas/Branson floor shows. Most magicians have a long way to go before they get the kind of resources they need for these venues. It takes a ton of money to mount a show like that. It takes money to make money.
The next rung down is performing at resorts and theme parks from Disney World to the large regional theme parks. You can actually get one of these gigs with a small show.
Below that is specialty venues like The Magic Castle, Magicopolis in Santa Monica, Monday Night Magic in New York, The Magic Island in Houston and the California Magic Dinner Theater.
The happy news is there are places that are almost as high-paying that only require yourself and a few small props. Think corporate.
The best money for the walk-around entertainer or magician with a small stand-up act is in the corporate world. Companies have ample budgets for promotion, marketing and entertainment that all could use your services.
Banquets, Farewell and Holiday parties, sales meetings (of the rah-rah type), promotional shows at dealers and retail outlets, and trade shows all need your services. You will often find magicians at most of these events working the crowd.
You must be professional and not mind doing the same act many times over each day. You must be on your feet a lot. but the money can be outstanding…$1,000 to $3,000 per performing day depending on your clients, act and reputation.
Of course, there is a lot of time spent marketing your services, preparing and traveling to throw into the calculation as well.
Let’s continue down the ladder of success, shall we?
Below corporate entertainers are what I would term the local entertainers.
This is not to put them down, just to point out that the pay goes down for the same (or more) effort.
The pay scale for local entertainers ranges for $75 to $300 per show.
Highest on the local scale is doing weddings, bar mitzvahs, and special events for local businesses. These tend to be clean, safe, professional gigs where the audience is up for a good time.
The most regular paychecks come from working restaurants.
Table-side entertainers have been known to work for meals and tips, but this arrangement usually comes to a quick halt when the wait staff figures out that some of THEIR tip money is going to the magician. Hostility ensues.
Still, you can usually get around $100 for a few hours work once you have established your value as a draw and a friendly face to the patrons of a busy restaurant. I say this is the best for a regular paycheck because there are SO MANY restaurants that you can keep as busy working as many nights as you want.
Most magicians use restaurant work as a means to market their other shows for children, weddings, etc.
About the same on the pay scale as restaurants but lower on the prestige scale is doing children’s birthday parties (magicians call them kid shows). Not only are you competing with clowns and balloon twisters, but there is a ton of travel and setup for these shows and you MUST work weekends! otherwise, you don’t work!
The less said about the working conditions for kid shows you run across the better.
Finally, there seems to be a growing number of magicians who claim to do quite well at Funerals. Believe it or not, they have a whole modus operandi for getting these “shows” and some claim to even use the deceased as part of the act!
I guess that’s about as low on the ladder as we can get.