It’s a question I get asked a lot. It’s a question I think all of us spend a surprising amount of time considering. What exactly is the future of magic? Is there a future of magic? I think we think about it because magic changes a lot. It wasn’t long ago when magic was defined by sparkly dancers and big fancy stage illusions being wheeled onto TV studio floors. What causes the world of magic to change? How will it keep adapting?
You can learn a lot about the future by looking at the past. Magic is often called the second oldest profession. We have this way of surviving everything, even pandemics. The truth is that external factors have always defined magic. Were sparkly dresses and big stage illusions popular long ago because people loved them, or was it because TV cameras were too big and heavy to wheel onto the streets for close up magic specials?
Then there’s the sudden rise of street magic, which feels catalysed by the sudden availability of cheaper, more mobile, HD cameras. Yes, suddenly, TV producers could shoot magic outside the studio in a logistical sense. But, when I talk to executive producers about their switch from studio productions to street magic shows, they’ll tell me the main driving factor was the smaller production budgets. With more channels and each dishing out less money, sending out one magician to the streets with a camera was far cheaper than building a giant studio set filled with cameras and a studio audience.
That sudden availability of affordable HD cameras has also rocked the magic retail industry. When I started in magic, the thought of filming and uploading a magic trick tutorial to the internet was a fantasy. Magic production companies existed to carry the expensive recording and editing equipment burden. To keep costs low, they’d need to press those tutorials onto DVDs in large batches.
Then came The Wire, which later became The Marketplace from theory11. If you want to know about the future of magic, JB from theory11 likely already knows it. The Wire was so incredibly ahead of its time. It allowed anyone to record and upload a magic trick and sell it online. In many ways, JB invented Uber, Airbnb and Fiverr long before these gig economy businesses existed. It’s insane how ahead of its time The Wire was.
The need for magic production companies came to a close due to the availability of camera equipment — most notably, the HD cameras we carry on our phones and the ease of uploading and streaming digital content online. When I first bought ten-minute tutorials from Penguin Magic, I would select the flat-pack option. Someone at the Penguin warehouse would physically remove the cover and disc from the ten-minute tutorial DVD box and ship it inside a flat envelope with free shipping to me in the UK.
Now I can buy a ten-minute tutorial-like it’s nothing, stream it instantly and forget about it forever. I’m talking about ten years ago, btw. Ten fucking years and it’s all changed this much. Luke Oseland was ten-years-old ten years ago.
Right, let’s get on with this before I ramble on.