MagicFlix. A great new magic streaming platform.

On July 8th things in the magic world changed rather dramatically. That date was when MagicFlix premiered its 24/7 magic video streaming service. MagicFlix is a platform specifically designed for the magic community. It features no ads or commercials—just the best magic content available curated by experts. It is an exciting new resource, and I suspect it will significantly change the way magicians study magic.

When I was a young magician, there were only two ways to learn magic, reading books, and learning first hand from other magicians. If you worked hard and got lucky then perhaps you managed to find a mentor. This premise was my ground zero in studying magic. I remember the excitement when eventually a VHS tape allowed a magician to see how a move/routine should look in real-time. As technology progressed, the VHS tape was superseded by the DVD, but this did not significantly change how magicians progressed in their learning curve. For me, the best part of learning from a video, instead of a book, was that when perfecting a new card move, and while holding three finger breaks, you didn’t need to try and turn the page of the book with your nose!

Recently the DVD was primarily replaced by video downloads, which often featured more focus on individual tricks. Their mass appeal was fueled by the almost instant delivery of the desired product. Not coincidentally the arrival of the download coinciding with the introduction of the stylish, and sometimes misleading trailers that served to “hook” the viewer on the latest trick to hit the market. The instant delivery and often lower price of a download purchase resulted in something of an “it fooled me, and now I want the secret,” mentality. In my case, and I know I am not alone in this, downloads are often watched just once and then quickly lost in a computer folder. We may live in an era of instant gratification when it comes to buying magic, but it doesn’t offer instantaneous learning skills. 

 It would be foolish not to point out that the gradual, though not total, vanish of brick and mortar magic stores has increasingly played into the learning mix in the last decade. The friendly, knowledgeable owner of the magic shop, with the ability to advise and shape the progress of a young magician also vanished. On the other hand, the fact that individual magicians were able to market their choice routines on the Internet dramatically increased the variety of options to a savvy magical consumer. Another wild card that affected the magic world was the explosion of YouTube, and the positive and negative manner in which it presents magic to both dedicated magicians, and the merely curious.

I firmly believe that the learning progress of a magician is dramatically affected by the method he studies his craft. Does a video teach something more thoroughly than a book? The answer is by no means clear cut. I believe there is still an essential role for high-quality books such as Jamy Ian Swiss’ recent volumes dedicated to sharing the wisdom of Johnny Thompson. David Regal’s latest book “Interpreting Magic” is another excellent example of a book that would be almost impossible to duplicate in video form. The sheer bulk and quality of the material involved is a huge incentive not to jettison the written word for the video camera. In case you didn’t guess it, I still love good magic books. 

Technical progress is hard to deny, and I am the wrong demographic to wholeheartedly enthuse over some of the recent developments in learning magic. However, I believe that different aspects of magic are best understood using different methods. MagicFlix is something wholly new in the magic world, and it moves magic beyond the “download era” into a whole new learning zone. The concept of having a streaming service based on the Netflix model is a very logical and enticing notion. Having thousands of hours of learning material available for a monthly fee, that is equivalent to a single download, is a desirable prospect. As McBride says, “Never before has so much magic content been available in one place for people to learn and enjoy magic for such a low price.”

During a brief visit to Magic Live 2019, I attended the Las Vegas launch party for MagicFlix. It was instantly apparent that this new product was creating a great deal of excitement with the attendees. I have always admired and respected the serious, and studious manner that McBride has revolutionized the business of learning magic with his Magic and Mystery School. It was fairly apparent to me for a while that the next significant development in magic was going to be in the form of a streaming platform. I am convinced that McBride is a perfect steward for this new paradigm. After the excitement of Magic Live abated, I had a chance to discuss MagicFlix with Jeff, and I am delighted to share some of his insights here with Vanish readers.

MagicFlix came into being as the brainchild of Stephane Vanel, who is now the president of MagicFlix Inc. Stephane is an excellent magician, born and raised in Paris, France. I remember catching his show at the Paris Casino and Resort in Las Vegas and thoroughly enjoying his performance. Vanel intuited that the Netflix model would be an excellent pattern for a streaming platform for magic. He reasoned that we needed a Netflix for magic because of the vast amount of magical video available and that it was not being correctly controlled. Vanel realized that with so many DVDs, downloads, and streaming information that there is a need for curated, high-quality content to be available to the magic community. It has taken over two years of careful preparation and hard work to turn Vanel’s enterprising idea into a fully functional reality.

Another key player in the formation of MagicFlix is Warren Irwin, an entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in global finance. Irwin is Founder, President and Chief Investment Officer of Rosseau Asset Management, a top-performing Toronto-based hedge fund.  Jeff McBride rounds out the triad of players who have made MagicFlix a reality. Jeff’s function is as chief consultant and curator to all things magical on the service. “I can tell good magic from bad magic.” Says Jeff, “I know who is producing original content, and who is ripping people off without credit, most YouTube stuff is just ripping off people with no credit; it’s a zoo!” 

I asked McBride why he considered MagicFlix to be such a timely idea. “We don’t see this as the solution, but the turning point in magic.” Jeff replied, “I have thousands of DVDs, but I don’t have the time of day to open one and to put it into my computer. Modern computers don’t even come with a DVD function anymore. In the future, the magic database of all the finest curated magic content will be at MagicFlix. Magicians can now source it anywhere in the world, and it will stream efficiently and easily. It will become the backroom where people meet and share magic.” When pressed on the timing and reception of the new service, Jeff responded with a quote from the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. “Great ideas go through three stages. First, they are laughed at for being ridiculous. Secondly, they are violently opposed. Then they are embraced as self-evident truths.” I suspect MagicFlix skipped the second stage and is quickly becoming comfortably ensconced in that third stage.

When I asked Jeff about the material currently streaming on MagicFlix, he replied, “It’s a combination of top quality training videos, combined with history, performances, documentary, and biographies. It encourages magicians to go to live time events, see live shows, meet the masters, and support local magic communities.” The list of contributors streaming on the service adds some real weight to this statement. Content providers already include Eugene Berger, John Carney, Rich Ferguson, Franz Harary, Kenton Knepper, Amazing Johnathan, Justin Miller, Jeff McBride, Rocco, Dan Sperry, Michael Trixx, Stephane Vanel, Jason Ladanye, Fielding West, Larry Becker, and Paul Gordon. We also feature the entire Greater Magic Library featuring such masters as Karrell Fox, Shimada, Michael Ammar, John Carney, Sylvan, Johnny Paul, Larry Becker, Charlie Miller, Tom Mullica, Johnny Thompson, J.B. Bobo, Billy McComb, Mr. Electric and Daryl. This list is an impressive one, and it is getting bigger and better. 

The magical content on MagicFlix is presented in carefully structured levels, including Beginner’s Magic, Favorites, Most Popular, New Releases, Coin Magic, Grand Illusion, Impromptu Magic, History, Gambling Magic, Ice Breakers, Performance, Philosophy, Interviews With The Stars, Street Magic, Manipulation, Lectures Etc. In other words, if you browse the Card Magic category, you can learn everything from how to do a pinkie count to how to back palm cards. Says McBride, “We have thousands of hours of content already in the pipeline. You sign in now, and 500 videos greet you. There is a great deal of magic on the Internet, but this is a place to learn magic. We also have plans to make a forum and develop the community aspect of MagicFlix.” 

The commercial evolution of Netflix has resulted in the successful creation of some of the most impressive original material on television, so I asked McBride if MagicFlix had similar goals. “We will be shooting new content and have already been doing so.” Said Jeff, “Yes, indeed, we recently shot a video of Gazzo. We are trying to collect the proven masters, and at the same time, we are trying to cultivate the up and coming young magicians that are innovators and are creating new magic for new generations. MagicFlix is trying to embrace the entire magical spectrum but also really place a sense of history and value on the creators. We are also dedicated to proper crediting. Our curators are spending a lot of time on Dennis Behr’s site ( https://www.conjuringarchive.com ) trying to get the correct credits on some of this material. Early in their careers, many magicians shot videos as buyouts for other companies, and what they are doing now is putting their original materials back in the hands of performers by reshooting it and updating it with modifications. It is like writing an original song and selling it to a publisher, and then realizing that there are variations of the song and new songs to being sung. You can write an entirely new album.”

I raised the subject of YouTube to McBride, and as I suspected got a very passionate response. I recently spent quite a lot of time exploring magic on YouTube for a possible article and was somewhat appalled by much of what I found. Here is Jeff’s take on the differences between what a magic student will find in the wild and woolly YouTube universe, and MagicFlix.  Says Jeff, “I don’t believe there are any ballet dancers or opera singers who have learned their craft from YouTube. The great masters of magic are certainly not teaching there. MagicFlix is trying to collect material from people who have been in the business for years and are not just those seeking hits and clicks on their YouTube sites. MagicFlix is not going to be the indiscriminate hatcheting of people’s material that is thrown up on YouTube. I think that is over. We are the antidote to YouTube.

You go to YouTube to watch a great artist like Fred Kaps perform his act and then there is some screaming 12–year old going, ‘Fake, fake, fake. Look at 16 minutes and 22 seconds; he’s got something in his hands!’ There has to be a retreat to a true study hall for magic, a real place where people can study magic, undisturbed by the circus of hellish YouTube hateful comments. We go to magic as our refuge and our healing, and when that is a hostile environment, whether it is a forum, comments, or Facebook, we have to consider delivering better sanctuaries.” Jeff reminded me of one of a Eugene Burger proclamation that is especially appropriate in this context. Burger used to say, “It is not fair in a forum when Max Maven’s font is the same as Spellbinder102 who has been in magic for three years. They should not have the same font size!” Hallelujah to that, as he so often did Eugene hit the nail squarely on the head.

Jeff also gave me a rundown on the way that contributors will receive payment for their product when aired on MagicFlix. “Warren Irwin is a very successful businessman,” says McBride, “He has developed a way to treat magicians very fairly. He realizes how the big producers of magic used to negotiate buyouts, pay the creator 2,000 dollars, and then they go on to make a quarter of million dollars in profits. MagicFlix has a neat solution to the ‘material solution.’ If the people who upload content can prove, they have either correctly credited or have a direct lineage to the material they get to share in 50 percent of the subscription fees. The division of the payment is based on the exact length of time that the viewers/subscribers spend watching their specific video. In other words, everything is based on meritocracy.” In case you are as unsure of that word as I was when Jeff used it, then let me give you a definition.“ Meritocracy: an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth, a system in which such persons are rewarded and advanced.” I think that is an elegant word for an even better idea.

As we spoke, McBride painted an appealing picture of the way that this kind of structure will benefit the participants. “As an artist, marketing is important, but I want to spend time on my art and my craft, and leave the marketing to people like MagicFlix. The service is streaming 24/7 for the content providers and making money when they are dreaming. Isn’t that one of the keys in life to create a product that sells itself so the artist can go back to creating, and dreaming about creating more.” It certainly sounds good to me. By the time I had finished our interview, I had decided to take part in this exciting new venture.

I am looking forward to contributing some original video tutorials to MagicFlix and become part of this visionary project. My favorite philosopher Timothy Leary, who is not quite as universally revered as Schopenhauer, used to say; “One of the chief goals of life is to know what is coming next and to be on the spot to recommend it.” I believe that I will be doing just that in this instance.

 

~ by Nick Lewin on September 12, 2019.

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