A new AGT performance by Shin Lim appeared on my YouTube this week. The video title immediately caught my attention: “Shin Lim wows with a performance inspired by Canadian magician Shawn Farquhar”.
I've worked on enough big TV shows to know the hoops one must jump through to get the person who uploads the YouTube video (usually someone from a different company to the production) to title the video exactly how you want it. And there’s no way a good social media manager would want to title a video this way. The wording of the title will have seriously impacted its virality.
Some previous titles for AGT videos featuring Shin Lim are "DON’T BLINK! Shin Lim Performs Epic Magic with Melissa Fumero”, "WOW! Magic That Will SHOCK and AMAZE You!" and "Shin Lim: Magician Baffles Judges With Incredible Card Magic". Those are well-crafted titles with keywords and incentives to click. It’s probably why the videos have 14, 8, and 9 million views.
This recent new video only has half a million views. It's Shin's lowest-performing AGT video, though there may be factors beyond its title. Most prominent YouTubers stress the importance of thumbnails and titles because if people don’t instantly want to click on your video, YouTube won’t push it out to people, regardless of how good the actual video is.
Anyway! The title is objectively bad and reads very much like a settlement to a legal dispute. I read it and assumed that Shawn had kicked off at Shin for stealing a trick of his and had somehow forced Shin to add the credit to the title as a way to settle an argument of some kind.
So, I looked at Shawn's public Facebook page to see if he'd posted any clues about what had happened. If the trick were his, then maybe he’d likely have been sent lots of messages about it, and maybe he’d managed to force Shin to convince AGT to update the title in amongst some drama.
What I found on his page was the complete opposite.
And I think it's worth saying, at this point, that I don't see this opinion piece as a drama story or news coverage. This isn’t about who was right and wrong in this scenario (though, the story does kick up a notch when we later find out about a third magician who did the idea before Shin and Shawn. Shin had to add a second credit, which Shin later demoted to the video description, and this third magician had much to say about it publicly).
This article serves as a conversation starter for public and in-industry crediting and why magicians somehow confuse being "first" with being "original." While we're used to seeing debates about in-industry crediting in magic tutorials and magic books, we rarely see such a public-facing crediting debate like this one.
Shawn shared Shin's performance on Facebook and said:
Congratulations to Shin Lim for his amazing and original presentation of Shape of my Heart. It's wonderful to see magicians being creative and putting their own voice to an effect. He's a class act and I'm proud to call him friend...
Look – for all we know, Shawn pleaded with Shin not to credit him in the YouTube video title, fully understanding the impact it would have on its reach, but Shin insisted. We just don't know what happened.