A couple of mini-rants about magic on the Internet….

Cowboy hatLike so many other magicians I spend rather a lot of time on the Internet checking out what is going on in the magic world. In fact I think it is probably fair to say that I spend a little too much time trolling those digital dens of magic. I thought I would dedicate this blog entry to a couple of fairly non-vitriolic rants on the topic. I could have got a lot more heated if I said everything I really feel!

In years gone by if you wanted to mix with other magicians your three major choices were; your local magic store on a Saturday morning, the local meeting of a magic club or a full-scale magic convention. The brick and mortar magic shop is fast becoming a feature on the endangered species list. Happily the local magic club is still on the scene and magic conventions seem to be multiplying and increasing in quantity and quality every year.

With the decline of actual magic shops most magicians now keep up with the latest releases in the magic world by viewing videos on the new effects on the various online magic stores websites. It is interesting and somewhat amusing to see how these online commercials have taken over from the old printed catalogues that we all used to spend hours pouring over. They can be just as deceptive in the way they present their products but in all honesty a certain amount of guile in sometimes needed in promoting these items.

As an owner of an online magic store I can see the problems involved in these video demonstrations. Everyone would love to just photohave a straightforward performance of your latest effect, however, if you are retailing an expensive item, this isn’t always something that appeals to the digital dealer for very good reasons. Some viewers seeing a funny/clever routine are then apt to “cherry pick” moves, ideas and jokes without purchasing the routine and this really isn’t fair to the retailer, creator or legitimate purchaser of the routine.

If you want to get a little more information about the effect you are interested in you can always visit a magical forum such as (but certainly not limited to) The Magic Café. While this should prove ideal in theory, in practice it is often a fruitless effort and sometimes downright maddening. The ability for anyone to comment on this kind of forum gives a democratic element to the proceedings that is sometimes unfortunate and frequently unhelpful.

When you visited a magic shop and the owner gave you input on a routine, he was usually pretty accurate in his assessment of the value of the trick to you. He usually also knew a lot more about the effect than is usually the case in forums or Facebook pages. The disassociated and anonymous nature of the Internet can allow totally false premises be presented to the reader. People who know nothing, or very little, can often make bold and sweeping statements.

778928 Let me give an example, I made a trip to the Magic Café and followed a thread about one of my releases “Nick Lewin’s Ultimate Linking Finger Routine” and was amazed to see the manor in which someone who had absolutely no idea about the routine presented a series of statements that were actually laughably incorrect. He did so with an air of authority that totally belayed his pitiable lack of information on the topic. Did I correct it? No, I decided not to bother or to comment on the issue, life is too short.

In a similar instance I read a very earnestly written question on SME by a young performer about what he needed to do to become a professional magician. As a performer with over 45 year professional experience, I was astounded by nearly every response he received. It was amateur advice that was being rendered to boost the egos of the people responding. Almost none of the advice was of any possible practical use to the person posting the question. I took the time to contact the young man involved and actually spend some time on the phone with him trying to be of some practical assistance. I felt that it was the right thing to do, but no I don’t do this all the time.

The Internet is fun but it isn’t always as accurate as it could be and I believe we need to all be aware of the limitations inherent inPhoto on 9-10-12 at 7.02 PM it. However, the scariest part of the Internet to me is what is being presented to non-magicians on sights like YouTube. The amount of magical secrets available to the public is downright alarming. A whole new breed of folk are arriving whose interest in viewing magic doesn’t stretch to becoming a magician, or even finding a book, they just Google a description of the effect.

The amount of (usually) badly presented “How To” videos on YouTube is both alarming and sickening. I really do not think lay audiences should be casually allowed to watch the inner secrets of a stunning magical effect such as Penn & Teller’s Bullet Catching Routine. Call me old fashioned, but seeing some gawky kid explain someone else’s routine to the general public in order to create an “Internet identity,” flies in the face of everything I feel sacred about our art.

Well, I don’t have any real answers to my rants in this piece. Internet has changed everything and there is no going back, however I do feel more than a few misgivings about the new directions it is heading in. Needless to say there is also much that I love and approve that has appeared alongside the negative aspects of the technological twists that the Web was introduced to the magic world, but that’s another blog post!

~ by Nick Lewin on February 13, 2015.

3 Responses to “A couple of mini-rants about magic on the Internet….”

  1. The internet — where everyone’s an expert, regardless of how little they actually know! I think: “amateur advice that was being rendered to boost the egos of the people responding” is one of the best assessments of that kind of shallow, peacocking internet behavior that I’ve ever heard!

  2. The internet — where everyone’s an expert, regardless of how little they know! I think that: “amateur advice that was being rendered to boost the egos of the people responding” is one of the best assessments of that type of shallow, preening internet behavior that I’ve ever heard!

  3. Thank you Kat!

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