YouTube Exposure In Magic

Approx. 15 min. Read | Written by Lee Asher
Image of YouTube Logo

Ever heard a magician say...?

"YouTube exposure is killing magic!" - Anon.

Is this true?

Do you feel strongly about and agree with the above statement? If so, you're entitled to that view. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of staunch advocates who think YouTube and the Internet jeopardize the art of magic as we know it.

It's hard not to be bothered when you see people sharing the secrets of a piece of magic they just purchased. They don't ask permission or further the conversation. They merely expose the secret, seemingly on a whim.

This has been done so many times with so much magic from so many artists, I've been forced to think about it intensely. At first, it upset me. But surprisingly, with time, my feelings about this issue have begun to change, and I want to share that evolution with you.

THE Key Mantra

Magic equals information. Information is either inclusive or exclusive. Only those who care participate. Let's examine a real secret - not a card trick, not a sleight of hand technique, but an actual trade secret worth millions.

Colonel Sanders' "Original Recipe" of eleven herbs and spices, sold across the world at KFC restaurants, is a highly classified piece of information. According to the company's website, the only list for the exact mix of ingredients is stored in safe in Louisville, Kentucky, and the handful of people who know it are contractually obligated to keep quiet. The company also hires two separate firms to assemble only part of the recipe. A computer processing system monitors how those two batches are mixed, so neither of those firms has access to the precise details.

Despite those safeguards, the famous recipe can be found just as easily on the Internet as any of our magic methods.

Have you ever taken the time to Google the KFC recipe? I'm willing to bet the answer is no. Not many people have, because most people just don't care enough to spend time looking for it. Most of us have naturally excluded ourselves from that information by not caring enough.

Conversely, there are some people reading this article who probably took the time to seek out that recipe. Common sense suggests that those people aren't likely to be in competition with KFC. Instead, they wanted to recreate the recipe for their own personal use. They naturally included themselves, because they cared enough to want to make their favorite chicken.

The secrets of magic, revealed so casually on the Internet, are the equivalent of the KCF recipe. Most laypeople naturally exclude themselves from exposure videos because they simply don't care enough to watch.

And that raises another question … If laypeople aren't spending time looking at these YouTube exposure videos, then who's watching?

A closer examination affirms that the only people making, searching for, and watching are magicians and magic enthusiasts - the people who care.

'Exposers' Want To Participate

Despite popular beliefs, people reveal magic on YouTube and other video sharing sites, because they want to participate. Feeling like a part of a community and sharing what you have to offer is a basic human need.

On the other hand, it's easy to see why artists, creators and producers get angry. YouTube exposers are sharing information that is not their property to share! That's unfair. Where's the respect? Temperatures rise and blood boils! Screaming matches, letter writing campaigns, and unabashed propaganda wars spill on to the magic forums and into magic literature.

After calming down and letting the dust settle, the results are obvious. In the short term, it might make us feel better to vent, but shouting and complaining have never proven effective. Let's approach this from another angle. Instead of getting angry and yelling at the offenders and demanding that they stop exposing, let’s try addressing the bigger issue.

Where are these new magicians suppose to learn right from wrong?

It's unlikely their parents are conjurers, so it's not their fault they grow up without a magician's sense of ethics. These people probably don't live near a magic shop or club, to learn the rules and etiquette of magic. The new generations of online magicians need to be socialized and taught the same fundamental rules that the rest of us abide by. We have an opportunity now to educate and encourage them to care about what we care about. To expect that beginners will automatically understand how our community and comprehend our unwritten rules, without any help, is downright ludicrous!

As Simple as Talking & Teaching

How do we end exposure? We don't. There's nothing we can do to stop it. However, we can mitigate it, grow the community and ease the negative effects - all at the same time. We can turn what seems to be an infinite problem into an opportunity for positive change.

Our goal should be to educate computer users who have interest in magic, by creating a bridge between the online and offline magic worlds. By sharing the do's and don’ts with others and by practicing what we preach, we lead by example. We offer hope, longevity and unity to what we're all passionate about.

At its core, the sharing of information is the same way we've been passing magic along for generations. But this time, it's digital. The most significant benefit the Internet provides us with is the ability to get back to the mentor / student relationships necessary for passing on the finely nuanced skills needed to be a magician.

After spending much time thinking about and dealing with YouTube exposure, I believe these videos are cries for help. They're a result of a lack of training. The students have appeared, so now it's time for the teachers to teach. And that doesn't always mean only explaining magic techniques.

Let me share a personal experience with you in which someone exposed a piece of my magic on his YouTube channel. If you ever find yourself in this situation or see something that bothers you, please try what I did. I contacted the guy via YouTube's private message system. I began my message by introducing myself in a friendly way. Then, making every effort to put aside any bruised ego or anger, I explained how there's a right and a wrong way to operate within our magic community. I suggested that there are ways of participating on YouTube without hurting anyone, especially me. Instead of leaving him empty handed, I offered several real world examples that he could begin implementing right away. I encouraged him to make performance clips or video reviews of his favorite magic, and I emphasized that magic has many points of interest to talk about other than methods. I urged him to be a performer, a creator, and a good audience member, and I articulated how he should play more important and positive role in our community by not being the random guy who exposes someone else's magic on YouTube.

In other words, I took the time to impart the difference between right and wrong, as it was done for me, many years ago.

With it all clearly explained to him, he had a choice to make: take down the videos in question and resolve to legitimately participate in our community, or keep the clips up and eventually realize that he’s only hurting himself by pushing away the performers and creators he truly admires.

As it turned out, he not only removed the exposure video of my routine, but he also deleted all of the other exposure videos in his YouTube account. It's fair to say this young man is no longer a foe of magic. We aren’t having a shouting match on the Internet. By taking a responsible approach, I made a friend for life and created a new defender of our art.

This is just one of the numerous examples of success I've experienced when using this kind of approach. Try it, take your time, choose your words carefully, and be gentle. The majority of these YouTube offenders aren't obnoxious troublemakers looking for a fight. They are magic fans who have no guidance and don't know how to behave in a productive way. You'll probably find that most of them are honored that you would take the time to reach out to them. And you might be surprised when you find out how much they love magic and that they are willing to do anything to help.

Keep in mind, there will always be some people who refuse to take down questionable videos, who deliberately act in an inconsiderate manner, and who get enjoyment from being jerks. Sadly, there's nothing you can do to help those people. But in my opinion, the rest are certainly worth guiding.

The Power of Love

As trite as it seems, I recommend approaching people with love. Offer understanding and compassion to the beginners. Educate them, enlighten them.

The people who reveal magic effects on YouTube need us. It's obvious. We can ignore them and let the problem fester and grow; we can waste our time being angry and complaining; or we can be smart and encourage magic fans to change for the better. Whether we want to believe it or not, the responsibility of teaching good behaviour is ours.

How much time have we spent complaining about exposure? And how much have those complaints stopped the problem? Not one bit. By understanding who these people are, we realize that it's less of an exposure problem, and more of an opportunity to pass our history and lineage to the next generation. The time we spend reaching out to beginners is a worthwhile investment.

My Hero: Steve Fearson

I wanted to make it crystal clear that my friend Steve Fearson was the one who first helped me to understand the YouTube situation. Without him, I'd still be sending disgruntled private messages to user accounts teaching my stuff. Steve, single handedly, changed my perspective and gave me the clarity on the subject I have today. He taught me to approach with love, and he should get every single bit of the credit!

Even more so, Steve has always helped me to understand the internet as it relates to magic. When he speaks about the world wide web with me, everything makes sense. He's been pioneering thoughts and theories for years, and I'm deeply privileged to learn from him. He is a genuine genius when it comes to the online world.

Since I was 15 years old, I've looked up to Steve and cared for him like the older brother I never had. It's his patience, guidance, and love that have helped shape me into the man I am.

I owe him a lot.

In my opinion, Steve is one of the unsung heroes of magic and he deserves a lot more credit than he's given. If you help turn someone who exposes magic into a productive member of magic society as a direct result of reading the article, please know that my friend Steve Fearson was behind all of that. Thank you!

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This piece was first published in MAGIC Magazine (March 2013 Vol.22 No. 7).