Since I was a kid I’ve always thought ‘the dream’ would be to do busking. Specifically, doing magic on the streets of London!
You see, I’d grown up watching legendary magicians, Steven Bridges and David Blaine performing amazing street magic on Youtube and yet I was from a sleepy village called shifnal that no one knows about!
Here’s what I’d do:
I’d wake up, and I’d wait outside the co-op and with a bit of luck, there would be a steady trickle of old grannies walking home with their newspapers. And I’d be like, “oh, can I show you a magic trick”, after jumping out from behind the wall, and almost giving them a heart attack!
Seriously, some of the stuff I would do is embarrassing to speak about, especially when my friends were recording it on my little camcorder! Like every young kid, ‘the tricks’ usually ended up derailing into pranks which as I soon found out, OLD GRANNIES HATE!
But the point remains, Street Magic is awesome (as long as it’s not at someone else’s expense)!
Many years later, I like to think I’ve learned from my mistakes, and so today we’ll be exploring how to do street magic like a pro!
7 Things You Need To Know Performing Street Magic by Steven Bridges
Steven is one of our heroes when it comes to magic, (a long time ago in one of our emails we made our avengers assemble of magicians and Mr Bridges was one of them)!
3 years ago, we had him spill the secrets of his success doing street magic in London on our podcast ‘Of Sleights and Men’ and here are some of the biggest lessons we took from it:
1: Dealing with rejection – You’ll likely go through a lot of rejection from people not wanting to engage or watch your magic before finding some who are receptive. It’s nothing personal so don’t let it discourage you. Expect it and keep spirits up.
2: Good spots – Parks, beaches, town squares work better than busy streets. People are more relaxed, hanging out rather than rushing somewhere. They’ll be more inclined to stop and enjoy some magic. Site scout spots with seating and flow of people congregating.
3: Range of magic – Have different card tricks, coin tricks, prop tricks ready to go. Grab their attention fast, then maintain it by fluidly moving between effects. End strong on a great finale piece. Adapt what you perform to the audience.
4: Legal restrictions – Many public places now require busker licenses, put limits on times/locations you can work, or outright ban street performing (Steven was not happy about this, but what can you do)! Research the area first to avoid fines. Permits take investment but provide protections.
5: Entertain vs impress – Focus tricks on maximum entertainment value for laypeople rather than impressing other magicians with advanced skills or techniques. Play up drama and mystery rather than technical perfection.
6: Avoid tense sleight of hand moves – Don’t use tense sleight of hand moves like bottom deals. They put people on guard feeling manipulated. Flowing, casual handling makes magic more astonishing and lowers their defenses (no fancy seven-packet-dragon-rotation-reversal-flip-cuts)!
7: Have fun! – Street performing should be enjoyable. When you find a good crowd, play off their reactions and lean into it. Banter with your spectators. Stay positive through challenges with difficult spectators to keep things light.
I think it’s very important to work on the skill of putting people at ease, and often you need pretty good social awareness to read the situation (which I did not have, back in the day)!
If you’d like to hear the full podcast, that we hope feels like you’re hanging out in a pub with three British lads who love chatting about magic, rather than sitting, or working out, or even sleeping while listening to this podcast.
In the podcast we discussed:
- The secret to a good street performance (and the secret to a bad one)
- Why Steven is haunted by ‘lemon failures’ (and how they actually helped him become the person he is today)
- The reason why Steven does magic in the first place (and why maybe it doesn’t even matter at all)
- ‘The Montage Effect’ (and why it’s stopping you from progressing not just in magic, but in life in general)
Take a listen…
P.S. Nearly every time we’ve interviewed magicians like Steven on our podcast, we’ve recorded a ‘bonus’ session that goes deep into concepts and secrets that we didn’t share on the main podcast (there’s some stuff we simply can’t make public knowledge…) We collected those trainings and put together…
Alright, so now that you’re armed with those tips I feel impressed to talk about THE TRICKS!
The best magic tricks to take to the streets…
My personal recommendation…
EVERYONE is going to have a phone handy when walking around the street and it’s a very natural type of magic for the street (it’s not like your whipping out a custom built Harry Potter Elderwand)!
So it’s normal, you’re not going to make anyone feel embarrassed and it’s handy, you’re going to be able to perform for 99.9% of people!
Alright, I can’t hold it in any longer. Yesterday when I was writing a post about bar magic tricks I encountered one of the coolest tricks I have ever seen, and it happens to use, you guessed it – A PHONE!
The trick is called…
You ask the spectator to think of someone from their contacts.
You hold your hand over their phone, and five seconds later that person calls them!
This is truly insane! I think this is one of, if not THE BEST magic trick to perform on the street I have ever heard about (if you have anything you think could rival this let me know in the comment section below)!
Click HERE to view The Call on Ellusionist.
So, then we’ve talked about the tips and the tricks (or in this case THE TRICK), all that is left now is for you to get out there and perform!
But I get that it’s going to be hard, (I personally find phone magic would sit a little better with me) to go out on the street with a deck of cards and ask a random person if they want to see a magic trick. It takes courage and you are probably going to get rejected.
Not taking things personally is the thing all street magicians begin to understand. If you’d like to join the tribe than I could only recommend ONE Deck, as a tribute.
Street Magic Deck: Private Reserve.
The Street Magic Deck from Ellusionist’s Private Reserve is a special release, created as a 20-year anniversary gift for street magician Brad Christian, to symbolise a milestone in the world of street magic! However they had to print 2,500 to meet order minimums. That’s more decks than Brad could personally use in a lifetime so if you want one of these, don’t wait!
Click HERE to view on Ellusionist!
Thanks for reading How To Do Street Magic Like A Pro! I hope you found this helpful.
I really believe the biggest barrier you need to overcome in street magic is rejection (but you can reduce that with the tips I’ve suggested, not interrupting people is a good start) but I’d say the second barrier is the FEAR of a magic trick going wrong!
(Steven has a catalogue of failures, and I’d really recommend you take a listen to the podcast to see how he deals with them)!
Personally I have quite a unique strategy that you may find really helpful. If you’d like to learn how to not just survive (with your dignity barely intact) but thrive after failing a magic trick then I believe I’ve found the secret ingredient!
If you want to learn the secret, enter your email in the box below, and I will show you…