How Much Does
A Magician Cost?
You can't put a price on magic, but you can put a price on a magician.
Here's what you can expect in terms of price when you hire a magician. You'll see real rates charged by real magicians as you read on.
TL; DR Version
If you want to skip all the pretty pie charts and graphs, here's the "too long, didn't read" version...
If you're happy with a half-baked, hiccuping, hot-dog struttin', perfectly mediocre sewage magician who smells like cigarettes for your 6-year-old's birthday party, then $140 to $300 can get you just that.
However, if you need a seasoned, high-caliber close-up magician for an open-house, wedding reception, awards ceremony, or corporate event entertainment, then you can find one for anywhere between $500 and $2,500.
Outliers such as restaurant or hospitality suite magicians (residency) can be had for as low as $100 an hour, and outliers such as trade show magicians will be at the very least $2,500 and up to around $8,000 per weekend.
The Not-So Nitty Gritty
Of course, magicians--like singers, speakers, and comedians--charge all different rates. Because of the variety of event needs, the rates you'll see below are all over the map.
And the same magician will likely have several different rates depending on the demands of the request.
A Specific Answer
for A Specific Question
The question, "How much does a magician cost?" is like,
"How much does a doctor cost?" or "How much does an actor cost?"
Is the doctor an orthopedist or a pediatrician?
Is the actor doing a feature film or a 30-second voice-over commercial?
In the real world, a professional magician may receive half a dozen requests a week and not one of them will be the same.
Not all magicians handle all types of work, and if you see one advertised as "perfect for all occasions" you should be wary.
The first request is a close-up magic, walk-around one-hour long performance for a family reunion in a private dining room in an upscale restaurant. There won't be more than 25 attendees. It is 4 hours away from the magician. The fee may be between $400 and $750.
Another request is for a "kids magician" for a six-year-old birthday party lasting 45 minutes. The fee may be between $140 and $275.
Personally, I'm as good at kids magic as Dr. Dre is at open heart surgery.
So I avoid it.
The next request is for a weekend-long trade show. The fee for a trade show close up magician is typically around $5,000, but it can be as low as $2,500.
Above, we've barely scratched the surface of the types of shows a "magician" might be requested for. An illusionist or a mentalist will almost certainly charge more than the numbers above.
The cruise market allows the magician to entertain in more traditional performing venues like theaters with outstanding technical support, but the magician needs at least an hour straight of various material. The magician may also need to be away from home for long periods of time.
As mentioned above, kid shows are generally regarded as a lower-value market with less than ideal performing conditions. However, it's possible to make up for the lower value with a high volume of shows. The magician also has the benefit of having a new crop of audiences every year.
From one event to the next, both the costs to the magician and the needs of the client change.
Bottom line? Factors such as the distance between the magician and venue, duration of performance, and factors such as the needs of the client, all affect your investment.
From both the supply and the demand perspective, the price of a magician could be as dynamic as his act.
“You get what you pay for,”
is no less true for magicians
than for any other professional.
Your Best Bet
A word of caution:
As a rule, you'll get what you pay for; but there are exceptions to that rule.
There are a few hobbyist magicians who never perform professionally (for money) who are, by far, more skillful and entertaining than some working magicians.
That said, the entertainment can make or break an event. Guests remember the entertainment long after they've forgotten the food, the flowers, the favors, the centerpiece, the decor, or the ceremony.
Of course, for your event, you want everything to be perfect. But it's wise to remember what your guests will most remember.
If you're operating on a shoestring budget, when it's an important corporate function or private event, you'll be safer to skimp on the decorations rather than the entertainment.
There are three popular event booking services--websites that have magicians' profiles.
Two of the best ones are Thumbtack (which doesn't specialize in magicians, or even entertainers) and Gigmasters (which also does not specialize in magicians, but does even specialize in entertainers).
Walmart is to widgets as Gigmasters is to magicians. These sites offer a lot of convenience. But there's a catch...
The main problem is that the person needing a magician selects some items from a restrictive drop-down menu, then the person may or may not write a sentence or two describing their need, and then wait for ten blind magicians to send them quotes.
I don't mean the magicians are blind in general. They are often blind to the specifics of the event. You'll get the best deal and the best experience if you give the professional what he needs (details of your event) to work out the best quote for you.
When you book the magician through Gigmasters, Gigmasters takes 5% of the fee. In addition to that, magicians pay just to be on the site.
Of course, you will get the best deal by contacting the magician directly instead of going through a booking service.
If you Google "hire a magician" or "magician for hire" or words to the effect, you will see these sites (as well as Gigsalad, but something about the name of that website leaves a bad taste in my mouth).
They advertise on Google with headlines like "The 10 Best Magicians in Indianapolis" or "The Top Ten Magicians in Chicago."
Those sites have no way of ranking "best magicians" aside from how many times the magician was hired through that particular website.
In 2018, I had a conversation with someone at Gigmasters (one of the popular event booking services).
According to this conversation , within a 100-mile radius of Indianapolis, that particular event booking platform receives 250 requests per year for a magician. The average duration of a magic show is 1.5 hours. The average magician quote is $350 per hour, and the minimum quote was $140 (the “lowest quote ever”).
If you're reading the above, then you're smart enough to understand that this does not mean most magicians charge $350 per hour. It's just the average, which may not be that informative.
The "magician" title is a broad one, and comprises trade show magicians who are working with budgets of $10,000 per weekend (at the national level), to kids birthday party magicians who are working with $200 budgets.
On Gigmasters, there are 5% more magicians in Chicago than in Indianapolis; yet 300% more requests for a magician in Chicago than in Indianapolis. This is just one website, but going by the numbers on this website, it seems an Indianapolis magician would do well to move to Chicago.
In terms of requests for a magician, Chicago blows out of the water every other city within 300 miles. It's triple the number of requests no matter which city you look at.
Order of the number of magician requests by Midwest cities:
2. St Louis
3. Naperville (basically Chicago)
Gigmasters has a reputation for presenting many "discount magicians" (quality of service varies). Keep that in mind when looking at the following figures.
According to Gigmasters, the average fee for a magician in all the Midwest is close to $350 for 2 hours performance.
In Monon, Indiana, the lowest booked fee in 2017 was $100, and the highest in Monon was $800.
In Cincinnati, the average was $200 for 1.5 hours.
In St Louis, the average booking was $350 for 1.5 hours. The max was $800 and the minimum was $150 through Gigmasters.
In Louisville, the average for 1 hour was $415, the max booking was $1,000, and the minimum booking was $125.
In Chicago, the highest fee was $1,000.
In Indianapolis, through Gigmasters, the lowest fee for a magician was $140. The highest fee in Indianapolis, in 2017, was $400. More than ten shows were booked at that fee ($400) through Gigmasters.
I was puzzled when I learned that the highest rate booking in Chicago was $1,000 and in Indianapolis it was $400. I personally booked multiple shows, each for $1,000+, in 2017. But most of those were through Thumbtack, one or two were from direct contact, and none were from Gigmasters. Most of them were in Indianapolis.
Thumbtack is a similar website. From the Thumbtack website, after Googling "cost of a magician," we can see this infographic (a visual thingy):
That's for Indianapolis, but surprisingly the average numbers don't vary much regardless of the location you put in.
The "sample projects" on the bottom there are only three (obviously). On the website, you can click the < and > arrows and see more sample projects.
The point of all this is that the "average" cost of a magician is almost meaningless. This is partly due to the ambiguous term "magician."
That average figure is taken from mostly kids magicians.
If you weren't aware, a kids magicians performing a six-year-old's birthday party has a fee that is five to ten times lower than a professional magician.
Yet, more than double the data points (all the shows Thumbtack has access to) are for kids' birthday parties.
How does this affect the average? If you're looking for a professional magician, that fact skews the average "cost of a magician" down to a level that is misleading.
Strictly speaking, a "professional" magician is one who earns most of his living from performing magic; but we'll use the "professional" term here to differentiate between a magician and a kids magician. Just sounds more...professional...than "adult entertainer," I'm sure you'll agree.
It can be confusing trying to get an average number, since the blanket title “magician” covers the close-up magicians (not even remotely famous) who charge $5,000 or more for a strolling walk-around performance, and the same title includes the kid's birthday party magician performing a $200 half-hour show for a 5-year-old.
When you’re looking for a magician to entertain a sophisticated, discerning adult audience (or just an ordinary adult audience), looking up an “average” cost of hiring a magician on lead generation websites like Thumbtack or Gigmasters may lead you astray.
A magician performing high-end close-up magic or walk-around mentalism for a corporate banquet, a wedding reception, or a private party typically charges a fee 4 to 10 times higher than the rate for a kids' magician for a birthday party.
Now consider that there are 2.5 times as many magician requests
for kids birthday parties as there are for the following non-exhaustive list of general markets that magicians can serve...
- Corporate Banquets
- After Dinner Entertainment
- Wedding Receptions
- Adult Private Parties
- Company Picnics
- Trade shows
- Product Launches
- Sales Meetings
- Graduation parties
- After Prom Entertainment
- Holiday Parties
- Association Events
- Country Clubs
- Open Houses
Each market has different potentials for scalability and each must be approached differently. The needs of each market are different and expectations are different. The challenges and rewards are varied for each market.
The 2.5* increases even more
when you include requests
for elementary school assemblies.
The above pie chart shows you the number of requests that come in to those sites. You can see how the "average" will be deflated with such a surplus of cheap, babysitter magicians.
You're looking for the dark blue.
This pie chart is even simpler. When a site like Gigmasters, Gigsalad, or Thumbtack spit out an "average price of a magician," remember that fully 3/4ths of the requests they receive are for all those kids birthday parties.
Sites like the above will show you a distorted figure like $250 to $350. The distortion arises because the number of requests for kids magicians performing a 30-minute show for children—more than double the number of requests for adult magicians—pulls down the average.
On the other side of the coin, there are economy magicians who charge $200 per hour for practicing their tricks on your audience. If you’re on a tight budget, you may be tempted to hire a gutter magician or a magician who performs kids tricks and hands out balloon animals (that tend to pop on the drive home).
You may not want a crackpot magician performing for your important guests. No one except your guests will hold that against you.
When you pay bargain-basement prices, you risk getting bargain-basement entertainment. Or worse, you invite someone to entertain your important guests and receive complaints about “that weirdo magician in every wedding party photo.”
When I was a DJ in St Louis, there was a cautionary tale of just such an uncouth wedding DJ--he photo bombed as many photos as he could.
Your event is not centered around the entertainment--the entertainment is about your event.
Remember, the success of your event depends on budgeting the necessary funds to hire top-shelf entertainment.
Things to Keep in Mind
- As a general rule, you can expect between $10 to $30 per guest in attendance.
- Some magicians require the balance paid in full 30 days prior to the event to secure the date.
- It is sometimes possible to get a discounted rate if you book well-enough in advance.
- If your event is on a non-peak day (Monday through Thursday). If either of these apply to your situation, you can use them as a negotiation chip if your budget can’t cover the performer’s quoted rate. Odds are the magician won't have a booking on a weekday.
- Many magicians offer a discount up to 50% for each additional hour after the first hour.
This is a win/win since you get more amazing magic at a lower price, and from the magician’s perspective, most of the cost to him is upfront.
Holding the show date, preparing his props and getting ready for the show, travelling to the venue, not to mention the decade or more of honing his craft—the magician has already invested, so the wise magician should be happy to stay and perform another hour for a discounted price.
If you do intend to negotiate, remember that it is courteous (though apparently not customary) to issue a counter offer rather than simply asking the performer to give you second offer.
Once you have a magician in mind, the rate can vary according to various show factors:
- Size of the audience: Just as singing a lullaby to one person is different from singing on stage in front of hundreds, entertaining 5 people versus 500 takes a different skill set.
Some magicians are outstanding on stage but are reduced to tinkertoys for 3 people, and vice versa.
Other magicians are stellar close-up magicians but they fall apart on stage.
If your party is very small such as 10 to 20 people, and if you’re fortunate enough to live near one, you might get the chance to snatch a seasoned, professional magician for $500 to $800.
- Type of show: Expect a greater investment for a stage show than a walk-around show. Additionally, all other things equal, a professional mentalist typically commands a higher price than a professional magician.
- Location of the venue: A local magician near you may charge a lower rate than a magician of the same caliber who is two states away.
- Duration of performance: Some magicians charge by the hour, other magicians charge a set fee by appearance, and still others have an hourly rate with a base minimum fee such as $750.
- The day of the week and the time of the year: The busiest days of the week for magicians are unsurprisingly Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
The busiest months of the year are March and September.
- Miscellaneous factors: Games included, give-aways included, sound system provided, mentalism included, stage show or close-up, age of guests, generic show or customized act, live animals included, etc.
Better Safe than Sorry
One last cost that is often overlooked is the very small but very real risk of property damage or injury during any performance of entertainment.
Just like anything in life, magic can be tragic.
Some magicians use fire in their effects. Some mentalists, blindfolded, slam their hand down on five inverted lunch bags, leaving the one alone concealed under which is a spike. Other mentalists--including me a LONG time ago--drive a car blindfolded.
Gusts of Gravity
Several years ago, I often had a card selected, signed, returned and shuffled into the deck, then I precariously secured the deck (lost card and all) in a rubber band and threw the deck up at the ceiling.
A gust of gravity would grab the deck and pull it back down (always), and I'd catch it (almost always).
There, nailed into the ceiling, was the signed playing card staring down at everyone.
I had performed this trick hundreds of times.
One time, there was a 30-degree slant to the ceiling.
The card stuck, but the angular impact dislodged all the playing cards from their rubber band wrap, and they showered down over many spectators. Fortunately, no one was injured by a falling playing card.
In life, accidents indeed happen. Fortunately, in my 17 years of performing professionally, no one has ever been hurt.
Notwithstanding, whatever magician you hire, you want to be sure that the magician has performer's liability insurance. This is a specialty insurance that any professional magician who cares about his audience ought to have.
Jon Finch is a professional magician who performs at social and corporate events. One of the most popular magicians in Indianapolis, he travels the country sharing his special brand of magic, mentalism, and comedy with important people like you.