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How To Market an Illusion

Latest illusion builder of rip-off items exposed and contacted

An illusion inventor, Jim Hathy, recently wrote and asked how he should go about marketing he new invention. Here's the answer from illusion designer and magician superstar, Walter Zaney Blaney.

To Jim Hathy
Dear Jim:

You wrote in a recent SAM Talk that you have an idea for a new stage
illusion. Congratulations. I know the exhilarating feeling you have when you
invent something new.

You asked the best way one could go about marketing your illusion. You
suggested maybe featuring your new illusion in a magic magazine, possibly in a
one man parade. Chances are the pirates out there will quickly consider it to be
public domain, and take your idea before you can blink twice.

Going back to when Jim Steinmeyer invented Origami, I rememeber he made a
deal with Johnny Gaughan to make the first model. Jim is not a performer or a
magic builder, but instead is one of the all time great magic illusion inventors. The actual builder, Johnny Gaughan in this case, and the inventor must spend a great deal of time, money and effort to build and oversee the first working model. It is then usually rebuilt and improved, maybe over several models, until finally it is perfected. Then it must be advertised in the magic magazines, and this establishes the date of its invention and introduction.

I rememeber Steinmeyer and Gaughan including in their ads the caveat that this is still Steinmeyer's trade secret, and that Gaughan has the exclusive rights to build it. It was something like $8500 total, $7000 to build it, and a $1500 royalty fee collected for Steinmeyer. This was made 100% clear to everyone.

I rememeber when I first saw this wonderful illusion I was fooled by it, and I loved to be fooled. Origami immediately became a best seller. Steinmeyer gets his deserved royalty for each prop sold, just the one time per each prop produced. The magician-performer who purchased Origami then goes on to use the illusion over and over for many, many years to come, making profit from it each night.

But shortly after Origami became popular the pirates began building cheaper
models, poorly made, and sold them without permission all over the world with
absolutely no thought of compensation for Jim Steinmeyer's and Johnny Gaughan's
long work and effort in its creation. The rip-off guys needed no inspiration,
had no research or development or promotion costs. They just "stole" (yes, this is the correct term to use) someone else's work out from under them, and to
hell with the poor inventors.

The rip-off builders then get dealers to sell the rip-offs all over the world. They are usually smart enough to not advertsie the rip-offs in themagazine ads, but rather tout customers to see their catalog on their websites. And there you see color photos of the illusions that appear to be almost exactly like the original legitimate illusions. Magicians see this and figure they are getting a bargain, at often less than half the price. Often the illusion does not even work, half the secret is not even built into the prop, and the customers want their money back. Ah, but no one gets their money back on a rip-off prop. So the buyer ends up getting ripped-off himself. The inventor and the magic bullder who has the permission to build the illusion both lose. The buyers of the rip-offs lose. And only the rip-off builder and dealer make the undeserved profit.

The World Alliance of Magicians (WAM) has spent a lot of work the past few
years on trying to thwart the flagrant selling of rip-offs. The best method seems to be in refusing magazine ads from those dealers who handle these rip-offs.

WAM has just spent a good bit of money to get a legal opinion from a top
"intellectual property" law firm in the USA. The opinion simply says a magazine
or magic society can individually make a decision on its own (not in concert, or
banding together with others) to refuse ads from those who break our code of
ethics. If such a dealer complains, he can agree to drop his handling of rip-off
props, as per our stated Code of Ethics. He then would have the privilege of advertising again in that magazine.

One other point... WAM and other magic societies are at work on a "Magic
Inventors Database". This will be available for posting on the websites of WAM,IBM, SAM, Magic Castle, Magic Circle, IMF, or anyone who wishes to do so. It will list the name of a new illusion, its inventor, a photo, a brief description, its history and dates of the invention, the first advertisement, the first public showing. This database will be like a recorded history of illusions (and later the smaller magic tricks as well). It will make it easier for magazine editors to determine who has the rights to an illusion or trick. Magicians contemplating where they wish to buy a new illusion...from the inventor, or from a rip-off builder, can be more fully informed in their decision.

It's really a pretty simple plan. It has taken, and will continue to take, a great deal of work to get the plan into action. Stay tuned. There are many wonderful and honest magicians out there who want to do the right thing. They have seen a need for this for a long, long time. Of course there will always be a handfull who will work against honest magic. If the plan succeeds, there will be increased incentive for those who are capable of inventing the next great illusion. Maybe it will be you, Jim. I wish you the best of success.

Walter Zaney Blaney
President Emeritus, WAM
back to WAM main page

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