Building Your Balloon Show

Feb 17, 2023

Building Your Balloon Show

The Power of Effective Pricing

by Smarty Pants

Yesterday I had lunch with King Marvin. There are more magicians per capita in Chicago than anywhere else on the planet, but no one else is quite like King Marvin. He dresses in a magnificently regal costume, presents himself as the “King of Magic” and of course, royally screws up every trick – to the delight and hilarity of his kid audiences. It’s a great hook, and he stays very busy performing all over Chicago.

Spotting him through the restaurant window, I barely recognized Marvin. His skin was pale and pasty. He gained at least thirty pounds. He needed a haircut – three months ago. He resembled the final week of Supersize Me.

As we talked, Marvin revealed his summer was busy – very busy – to the tune of 204 gigs. From June to August, he did at least one gig a day, sometimes two – and had exactly one day off the entire summer.

Now it would be one thing if he truly enjoyed working this much, but Marvin was miserable. He complained that it was already getting cold in Chicago, and he’d let his entire summer slip away. He moved in with his girlfriend back in May, and hadn’t even unpacked his boxes yet. By July, he was already going through the motions of his show – and his enthusiasm and energy level was definitely suffering. I can only imagine what kind of half-hearted shows he was doing by the end of August.

Buster Balloon (then Don Caldwell) once shared with me a valuable insight into pricing your show. If you are booking every call you get, you’re charging too little. If you aren’t booking any, you’re charging too much.

At 204 gigs and one day off, Marvin’s rates were obviously far too little for his services. I asked him straight out how much he was charging for a gig. His reply?

“Whatever the client has to pay. If they have $400 for a show, I charge $400. If they have $200, I charge $200.”

Marvin’s pricing does not match his performance level. He’s charging the same rate as much less skilled performers. His summer versatility is only compounding the issue – he can do a full magic show outside in the blazing heat, walk-around magic for up to three hours at a time, magic workshops, library shows, and even the occasional balloon line-twisting gig. Simply put if Marvin gets a call, he books it, no matter what.

By increasing his rate – and sticking to it – Marvin could have done less gigs, and still made the same money. He could have enjoyed his summer more than the one lone day. He could have taken his girlfriend on vacation. He could have unpacked his socks and underpants instead of washing the same three pairs over and over.

As you develop your skills and your entertainment offerings, remember to keep your pricing in line with what you do. If you find yourself running from gig to gig, struggling to keep up with your schedule – you may want to re-evaluate what you’re charging. Yes, raising your prices and having set rates may lose you a gig or two, but in the long run, it is an effective strategy towards maintaining a profitable, yet manageable schedule. Ask yourself – wouldn’t you rather spend your Saturday afternoon doing one $300 birthday party than three $100 events?

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