MagiQual: Towards Measuring the Quality of Magic Performances

Marketing and magic are often intertwined. In most cases, magic is seen as a shortcut to commercial success. There is a consultancy called Marketing Magic and a search on Google will reveal many publications with the words magic and marketing in their title, promising effortless commercial success. Marketing magic is portrayed as a means to improve sales by using gimmicks.

My personal interest in marketing and magic is, however, far removed from these playful associations. As a business scholar, I am interested in how customers perceive the quality of services. As I also dabble in performing magic, I would like to combine this with my academic interests and investigate how professional magicians influence the perceptions of their customers. Not the psychology to create deception, but how spectators perceive the quality of a magic performance.

Although a sleuth of books has been written on how to market magic shows, most are dedicated to practical advice and contain little in the form of a theoretical model that magicians can use to market their services. In the practitioners literature, the word marketing is mostly used synonymously with advertising and publicity. Marketing is, however, more and can loosely be defined as the set of activities aimed at creating value for customers. Within the context of magic shows, marketing includes everything from the development and production of performances to their promotion and sales. The academic literature on entertainment marketing is entirely silent about magic shows, creating an opportunity to undertake research in this niche industry.

The concept of quality is an inherently subjective proposition and is impossible to observe directly as the quality of an experience is ephemeral. One indirect method of measuring the quality of services is the concept of service quality. A plethora of research has been undertaken into this area, including the service quality of entertainment services in general. There is, however, no particular scale to account for the specific dimensions of magic as a form of entertainment. Magic is different to other forms of theatre in that it is more interactive, breaking the so-called fourth wall, and it is reliance on secrecy. These two aspects will undoubtedly influence how spectators view the quality of magic shows.

This article improves our understanding of the marketing of magic performances by proposing to develop a customised scale to measure the quality of services provided by magicians as perceived by spectators. This scale, tentatively named MagiQual, can be used to improve our understanding of the perceptions held by spectators. The result of this project will be a standardised survey tool that can be freely used by magicians to help them improve their performances. Developing a scale to measure customer perceptions will be undertaken in several phases.

The first phase encompasses a review of the available literature. A systematic review of what magicians have written about providing value to their spectators and academic models of entertainment marketing needs to be undertaken to develop a theoretical model to describe service quality in magic shows.

The second phase is conducted to enhance the theoretical model by interviewing magicians and lay spectators of magic shows. The questions will be based on the review of the literature of the first phase. The interviews will be recorded, transcribed and analysed using techniques for qualitative data analysis.

In the third phase of this project, a first draft of the service quality model is proposed, based on the theoretical model developed in the first two phases. The scale will consist of an on-line survey tool with approximately thirty questions regarding several aspects of the level of quality experienced by customers. Questions will be answered through the Likert model (strongly disagree–strongly agree) and could contain items such as:

Example of magic service quality survey

Example survey extract. Click on the image to undertake the survey.

Other questions will relate to the characteristics of the spectator (gender, age, level of knowledge of magic) and there will be the ability to add comments.

The questions will be reviewed by an expert panel of marketing scholars and magicians to ensure internal consistency and that they do not contain any potentially objectionable or personally identifying questions.

The fourth phase of this project encompasses the collection of data from at least 200 spectators of magic shows. This data will be analysed using psychometric techniques to test the theoretical assumptions made in the first two phases. Based on this scientific assessment, the scale will be fine-tuned and administered to another 200 spectators. After analysing all data, the survey is finalised and data collection and analysis of magic shows can begin.

For this project to succeed, I will need magicians willing to participate and invite their spectators to undertake an on-line survey. Each participating magician will receive a detailed report of the collected data gathered from their spectators. To motivate spectators to take part it is proposed to give $1 to a social cause related to magic for each completed survey. Participation by magicians and their audiences will be totally anonymous.

The last phase of the project will be to finalise and publish the survey. The tool will be distributed under a Creative Commons licence so that it can be freely used, modified and shared by magicians and other scholars. The final phase will also include the preparation of an academic paper for submission to a marketing related journal.

If you think this project is worth undertaking and would like to participate, then leave a comment below.

Some question I have for magicians that regularly perform for paying audiences:

  • Which book on the marketing of magic shows can you recommend?
  • What do you believe are the most critical dimensions of the quality of a magic show?
  • Are you willing to be anonymously interviewed and participate in data collection?

One thought on “MagiQual: Towards Measuring the Quality of Magic Performances

  1. I applaud your project initiative. The topic has been a longstanding interest of mine as well; see my article, Analyzing Audience Reactions, in JMR, Issue # 2. There are many principles in the field of psychometric methodology that are applicable to what propose to do. I’d be happy to collaborate or serve as a sounding board, if that would be of value to you.

    Lynn Miner, PhD

    (Retired Graduate Dean, Marquette University)

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