Your naughty parts are showing! Does exposure hurt magic?

October 4th, 2010 | Sean Fields | Filed Under Uncategorized

Last week, I spoke about piracy in the magic industry. Today I want to talk about something else; something that affects us all, if it has any effect at all…


The idea of some D-bag showing the world how the effects we practice and perform work — the effects we make our livings with — makes magicians sick. The exposer is ruining the magic for us, and our audiences. He is robbing them of the opportunity to experience that increasingly rare feeling of wonder. Or is he?

If you want to look at the issue of exposure logically, and without bias, you must first look at WHERE and HOW magic is being exposed.

When one thinks of magic exposure, the first images that pop into mind are of The Masked Magician and his numerous television shows, and random kids exposing magic on YouTube.

Lets first look at The Masked Magician. He has exposed a lot of magic over the years. A LOT. And it hasn’t seemed to negatively affect the tricks which he has exposed. In fact, he had exposed Cigarette Through Quarter, yet it didn’t stop David Blaine, Criss Angel, and Cyril Takayama from using, and KILLING with that very effect on their respective television shows. Why not? His shows are seen by millions of people right? Sure, but there are BILLIONS of people on the planet. Really, who cares if 2 million Americans see how a trick is done; there are 300 million Americans out there! The numbers are still on your side.

Next up is YouTube exposure. All over YouTube (and the internet in general), there are kids learning, sharing, posting and exposing some of the most popular effects in magic today. Any effect you can think of has been exposed on YouTube, where anyone can watch it, anytime. It is there, and it is there FOREVER. That will make some of you furious, no doubt. But let’s look at this from a different angle: Most of these exposure vids have only a few hundred views at most. Sure, there are a few that have millions of views, but those are the minority. Ultimately, although MORE secrets are being exposed, FEWER people are seeing them. The big issue that most have is that the exposure is so public (anyone can watch the tutorials), and so permanent (online is forever).

The fact of the matter is that only those who are interested in the secret will go looking for it. And whether they find it on YouTube, download a torrent or buy a copy, they will learn the secret if they really want to. Just like you did. Just like we ALL do. Really, the people that are exposing magic are magicians, and the people paying attention to exposure, are, you guessed it, also magicians. Let that one sink in for a while.

Yes, there are lay audiences that watch exposure videos too, but the same statement holds true; they are interested in the secrets of magic. They are magicians in the making. I personally know MANY magicians that got their start by seeing a magician, and then seeking out the secret. In fact, I think more magicians are made that way than any other way. Exposure is actually HELPING magic by getting more people interested! Crazy, I know, but legitimate nonetheless.

So we have now established that the two most prevalent forms of exposure have limited audiences, that are primarily made up of magicians, and those who are curious about the art, oftentimes future magicians themselves. The question now is does exposure ruin magic for lay audiences?


You see, we magicians are fascinated with magic. We are constantly learning, creating, and performing. We know magic inside and out. We can recognize by simple mannerisms when someone is using a thumb tip, regardless of whether they are vanishing a cigarette, switching bills or making a silk vanish. Laypeople simply don’t think like that. If a laymen sees the silk vanish exposed, and now knows it just goes into the “fake thumb,” they still don’t know how a bill switch is done. The effect may be ruined for that particular spectator, but the method is not. That same spectator can still (easily) be fooled with a thumb tip, just used in a different manner. Also, because laymen are not magicians, they really don’t care; they will forget the exposure at some point simply because it isn’t relevant to them.

Penn & Teller have made their careers on exposing the secrets of magic, in both their live show, and their television show. They have exposed everything from the cups and balls, to psychic investigators, yet it doesn’t stop thousands of magicians from doing the cups and balls, nor does it stop people from enlisting the services of such charlatans.

The only type of exposure that matters; the only kind of exposure that actually hurts the art of magic, is — fortunately enough — the only type of exposure you can control. That is exposure through poor performance.

I have seen so much magic exposed simply by poor performances that I think that is where the real harm comes from. Magicians who think they can “buy” a show. Magicians who think, “I don’t have to be good, I’m funny.” Magicians who don’t care about magic, but rather entertainment, but that is a whole other subject for another day…

The only thing bad for magic is bad magicians. Exposure sucks, but at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. Just do what you do, and do it to the best of your ability.

What do you think? Does exposure actually matter? Discuss in the comments, but keep it civil, guys.


  1. I agree that exposure isn’t as bad for magic as most people make it out to be.

    In my opinion, the only thing that’s really bad for magic as a whole is the general image of magicians that seems to be prevalent currently. That is the campy, kids-party magician that most people associate us with. (Arrested development, no matter how much i love that show, hasn’t helped us in the slightest)

  2. MagicPassion on:

    Your Naughty Parts Are Showing! Does Exposure Hurt Magic?: Last week, I spoke about piracy in the magic industry. …

  3. Mystical SeVryn on:

    RT @ellusionist: Your Naughty Parts Are Showing! Does Exposure Hurt Magic?

  4. Agreed. Even if laymen know how an effect works, when magicians perform an effect extremely smoothly, often times they can’t even keep up with the moves and passes, and the end effect is that the performance is still magical, despite your audience knowing how an effect works.

  5. I agree…I can’t imagine the average person saying, “I don’t like magic and I never think about it…maybe I should spend some time online looking for exposure of tricks I’ve never heard of in the first place.”

    Magicians doing a bad job in front of people who came to watch magic probably do a lot more damage than magic put online to be viewed by people interested in magic. If you see what I mean.

    And as far as Penn & Teller are concerned, remember what one “civilian” reviewer said: he couldn’t follow the cups and balls, even with transparent cups. Neither could most viewers.

    I wonder how many magicians could learn the cups and balls, watching a performance with transparent cups, one time through.

    I recall seeing David Neighbors at Abbott’s, years ago. He vanished three coins, with his hand above the table and away from the edge. It was so good, my nose got cold (the sure sign of a knockout effect). Several hours later, on my way home, I thought–Wait a minute! I do that same trick with the Eugene Burger gimmick!

    His skill whupped my knowledge. But good.

    Blah blah blah thumbtip, too.

  6. I agree with this all as well. The YouTube scene annoys me, but it’s not really doing any damage. It annoys me more as a matter of principle…you just shouldn’t be exposing to show off. It’s against the code. But harm? No.

    Bad magicians are worse, that’s for sure. What gets me even more is the one guy that knows your trick and exposes you *during a performance*. They’re worse than any heckler or smart ass. *That* is true exposure in my opinion, and worthy of a slap.

  7. This is exactly what I was thinking. Personally I LIKE exposure. Why? It keeps us on our toes. If you can’t keep making magic then why making it for a limited time. If I invented a trick that was amazing and some 12 year old kid exposed it on YouTube I would be pissed. But I would think to myself, “Now I have to take and recreate the effect but twice as visual and even better! yes the work will be hard, but as an inventor I can always make another effect twice as good as that.” I personally create gimmicks that go with my magic so you won’t be able to just torrent. I feel that a good gimmick with great practice along with great patter make the effect. non-gimmicked effects are always good and even suspend reality a bit more. The masked magician is helping us be the magicians we should be. the ones that think of new and better effects every time something is made open on the internet. Remember, once your video goes torrent that means everyone wants it and will have to type in your name to get it and then have to buy it because you can’t torrent props and gimmicks. I feel everything is as it should. I don’t think we should pay to learn basic sleights but for real effects and theories we will use. I have bought DVDs that were a waste and I have never used. If my products were out in the open then I would promote looking over them before buying and seeing if this is right for you.

    Also we tend to sell magic way too high. I think the industry does this because they don’t have as many effects as they appear to have. Gimmicks should cost more and should be well thought out. Most are and I appreciate the work put into them.

    I think effects advertised to do something without a gimmick should never really be torrented. Even if you have to make the gimmick yourself. But sleights should never be sold. I think sleights, since they are not effects, should be open to the market. This would breed well trained magicians who are ready to perform magic and are more willing to buy it since they feel like they can do it.

    Bad magicians are the real threat. But we should be trying to stop that with videos made to prevent this from happening. The art or performing the art needs to be taken into consideration. That will help solve this problem.

  8. @Scott Free

    I agree completely, but if you are doing your job well. Then all you need to do is say something along the lines of:

    “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time but I am obviously not welcome here. Have a good day.”

    They usually end up being pissed at the rat.

  9. I 100% agree that no matter what exposure is out there, that a QUALITY magician or entertainer will manage just fine… and that mostly magician types are searching…

    However, that does not make it RIGHT or good.. just because the “numbers” of those who still have NOT seen the exposure are less than those who have.

    This continued attitude of society to not give a crap about cause and effect is interesting.

    Exposing a new effect or illusion when it just comes to market (and it happens like wildfire!) is no different than those lame ass kids that sneak in a camcorder into a theater and share a movie… You all know damn well its wrong… but technology, ease and selfishness makes it all okay.

    I agree with a lot that is being sad, but lets not use one thing as a crutch or excuse for another. That’s ridiculous.

  10. i agree. but the one thing that annoys me is that magicians might of been working on a trick for about 2 years and it’s finally been sold and a few weeks later, a person reveals it. i’d be annoyed. after doing the trick and working on it for a very long time and someone posts a tutorial for it. it’s like you just wasted your time.

    but i do agree with the majority, i got into magic from a reveal on youtube. i don’t mind reveal really simple tricks, but tricks such as “frozen” by adam grace or “tarantula” by Yigal is wrong in my opinion.

  11. izzydashizzy on:

    just from a teens point of view, most kids are to busy watching southpark or csi to care about magic being revealed. so rest easy, even people who get the basic idea of some tricks still think they look being pulled off. and who doesnt go to a magic show and think a magician really has powers. revealed magic is mostly a way to help aspiring magicians

  12. izzydashizzy on:

    still think they look being pulled off
    there was supposed to be a good in there in there, my bad

  13. Aaron Cochran on:

    so u r saying that u wouldnt care if every trick on this site is exposed on youtube and everyone can watch them…thats dumb wheres the “magic” in that, it may help magic but it makes me furious if i buy a trick from here and then it gets exposed, thats unfair to the buyers!

  14. I wish I had someone who could take the time and actually teach me. Buying dvd\’s and youtube is my only instructor. So yes, I seek the answer in hopes of performing a great illusion for a rush of suspense and thrill in the spectators eyes. It does something for people in many ways. Also the really gifted magicians who\’s slight of hands is amazing, exposure can\’t affect them because that\’s real talent and your average “Joe blow” isn’t going to pull it off.

  15. agree, I started magic by watching tuorials on youtube.
    but if your not interested you”ll never searcg for ascanio spread or double lift, you’ll search for singing baby or some shit.
    bad magicians like the rednecks on americans got talent are the problem not exposure

  16. Exposure stinks, to be sure. From a principle standpoint, it’s annoying. After reading this post though, I’ve changed my opinion a little. I’m not really as bothered by it. So thanks. @C – it’s an interesting concept to have the fundamentals of magic open for anyone to see and practice. Although it would never happen in a capitalistic society, I believe that it would really elevate the level of the craft. You have my vote.

    And that’s because….
    One thing that nobody can expose your patter, your personal style and wit. To be clear, what makes your magic sing is you – not the effect. I have the great fortune to live near the Magic Castle in Hollywood and the best magicians there are the ones that engage the audience, lead you down the garden path, and knock you out just when you’ve gotten comfortable. I’m continually blown away by how clean the magic is, how many times I’ve seen the same trick, and how I’ve never seen the same performance.

    Personally, I have three shows that I do – one for corporate America where I work, one for parties, and one for kids where my friends teach. Not that I’m the Amazing Jonathan, but nodody does what I do and I’m evolving in my presentation skill each day. No 12 year old could ever capture that on YouTube.

  17. i dont think exposure is good but without it. half of us wouldnt have good tricks. like mismag822 on youtube, he shows us alot of tricks but never without permission. he asks the owner before showing it. there should be more like him. so exposure isnt all that bad.

  18. casey jones the 12 year old magician on:

    so actually guys hes right i learned most of my stuff of of exposure and people say im better then criss angel

  19. I was introduced to Card magic last year when a friend performed some tricks for me.. It got me really interested and after buying my deck of cards I began searching for tutorials, videos and books on the subject. I have been practicing almost daily since then and been performing more and more each time.

    Some of the first exposure vids I watched were about how to do a double lift and an Elmsley Count…

    My thoughts on the subject of exposure are that laymen watch the masked magician’s show for a while or even search YouTube for 1-2 videos on card tricks, but they don’t take the time to learn and practice the sleights, tricks or routines being exposed, which they later forget and (most important) are not able to execute. That’s what makes us different from laymen, the effort and time put in each bit of magic.

    Finally, I think that no magician should try to perform an effect he hasn’t mastered yet, because it kills the magic and gives you a bad reputation in front of the people you were performing to. We all agree that’s the bad kind of exposure.

    Is it better to expose a sleight or skill rather than a trick? i.e the “Magic Card Trick – Amazing!” (Jumping Gemini Card trick), is it better to expose the whole routine or the tutorials for dl, false counts etc? or neither? ( I figured it out by learning the sleights and reconstructing the routine on my own then, and it gets sick reactions )

  20. actually, utube exposure isn’t all htat bad, i mean, i learnt most of my magic from utube. I tink it’s only bad if they reveal for the sake of revealing. Otherwise, if it’s for tutorial purpose i tink it ok.

  21. Interesting topic and I surely agree.
    Really annoying seeing some kid (usually a small teen or even younger) that shows the secret to get subscribers. I remember one very well that I saw a little while back. He first tried to perform it on his webcam recording (youtube) and flashed a lot. Then tried to teach it with tips and so on.
    At the end he said something like “I know I’m not really good at it but I just learned it 30minutes ago so I just need to practice some more”.
    A person that goes out performing when he knows that he flashes a lot must be quite stupid if he actually wants to become a good magician.
    Anyway.. There will always be idiots in this world and we just have to live with it.


  22. Youtube has been hell for me. Most of the time people can just type in what happened during the effect and find it. Honestly I doubt some people realize how much impact one spectator has on an audience because the one person could say as soon as everyone is asking “HOW THE F*CK DID YOU DO THAT” and then soon the whole audience knows how the trick is done. With that said it is very similar to not doing the effect well. Actually I have done effects that I know my slights weren’t perfect with just to see how things pan out but I still did them with confidence and it showed that if you believe that you can do it (and with some skill) The audience wont notice. I also find if you do a strong effect right before a week one your golden because they are still baffled by the first trick it is like a boxer getting two hits in. And now I come back to youtube I hate it I actually can’t stand it. I have seen so many crappy performances on youtube that are worse than the revealed videos. I know that you have to drop some coin to do magic and thats bad but think of the amount of work that goes into each effect and then imagine how well you would actually work on an effect witch you did not pay for. I think cost to the secret is almost a most but just because it keeps people who will not stick with it away. I have had people say how thread was done and still create an impossibility with the effect I was able to get everything they said fully examined and still preform it. I think the biggest issue with me and revelling is that so many people have FREE access to it. It really kills a trick fast when people figure out everything and some d-bag goes around yelling what happened. I am just going to add a random line in here for those who are still reading. Anyways bad performers and also youtube has a big impact on how we have to preform is it for the better? no. because the level of audience will increase over the years and great classic effects will not be possible anymore. Sleights are the best last resort as they are never taught on youtube because the people on youtube will not stay with the art long enough to master them so one of two things happen the person on youtube makes such a crappy video that no one believes. Or they never make a video because they couldn’t learn it . Now to the masked magician. He actually has people guessing because not everyone can believe such answers for such amazing effects. He is almost like pen and teller although pen and teller have such an odd performance that i do not even feel like going into. I know the numbers seam small on youtube but they can triple via word of mouth just like a good effect.


  23. I agree with a majority of comments on here, the real exposure is by bad magicians, not by youtube or ‘masked magicians’. Heck, I look on youtube for new ideas around deck tricks and new additions to my patters. I work hard on presenting my show to the layman, and yes, I have had the heckler that youtubed an effect, and yelled out ” thumbtip…or etc”. I usually laugh it off, and challenge the heckler, if they could do the same thing with my props, to please step forth, and proceed with the show, as I am obviously not needed here. I am yet to have someone take me up on the offer. It’s a little crass, however that is why I get paid the big bucks, the hours of practice, the blood, sweat, tears I put into a preformance. I also explain to the audience that the magic does not happen in my hands, but rather in their minds. I am a vehicle to the unknown, sometimes explainable, but never boring and dull world of magic. I call my self an entertainer for a reason…I entertain. And if push comes to shove, I have a shovel and a big back yard….Peace to one and all!!

  24. FyeKingTheViking on:

    People dont worry,their is probably only a few 1000 people in the States that practice Magic.Im 33 & have lived n Kokomo,IN. all of my life & i’ve only known 2 other Magicians that grew up n Kokomo.1 is a preacher now & the other 1 was A Black Magician I grew up with who also became a Christian,which is good.The guy that was a Black Magician when I was younger could really do some wild stuff & really Spiritual,it might not of been good but he knew the other side.I watched the guy move a lighter w/ his mind across the table when I was using a smoking device @ the time.No magnet under the table,both of his hands were on the table with a short sleeve & wen that thing moved across the table I literally flew out of my chair freking out.Iwas only 15 & thougt that was the stuff u would only see in Poltergiest,Exorcist, & movies.He really knew telepathy,real telekinesis or psychokinesis,hypnosis,Astral projection,selling your soul to demons to aquire Real MAGICK,he used tarot cards read the Necronomicon & Black Magic books.Folks just be glad their isn’t teachers like that around anymore exposing their Magic,it would be either the end of the world or hell on earth.Any 1 who really appreciates Magic & practices knows its just an illusion except for the fans they believe its real(Unless they’re skeptic) The only man that was really a true Magician or Miracle worker that didnt use strings,props,gimmicks or psychology or whatever was Jesus Christ.If any Magician that practises the art can raise a man back from the dead,i’ll say ur the man or can walk on water BAREFOOTED or with sandles & not customized shoes(Criss Angel) I know what Criss is doing to do that & its not plexi glass or camera tricks,its something that I used when I was a kid in my own swimming pool.Im not going to expose the answer because I dont ruin Magicians names,but if I told Criss how he was doing it,he’d think I am in his mind.

  25. I personally love that masked magician guy on tv, but hate Criss Angel because his tricks are so simple, but he still thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread!

  26. I agree that it doesn’t exactly hurt the art but i’m still very much against it. true, i use the youtube crowd to make sure before i buy something its something that its for me and that i am comfortable preforming with. but still the youtube crowd are lame loser wannabe’s and what they do is wrong. I’m an amatuer and i’m learning but that doesn’t mean i’m ok with people under appreceating the art, its a beautiful thing to see a trick done GOOD. That’s why there are some tricks that i will never buy, and that i will refuse to learn, because its amazing. and to see something that amazing slandered by being revealed by anyone but the maker/ site with rights to sell i,t is just plain wrong. Only exception is if someone shows true adament devotion to LEARNING it than i can see a magician mentoring the newbe in order to teach them and bring them closer to being worthy of being called a magician. THIS IS THE ONE AND ONLY EXCEPTION.
    True it doesn’t exactly hurt the art but bottom line i think its wrong and shouldn’t be done.

  27. jordan mestrovich on:

    i reckon if it werent for people who reveal magic even for free there would be no magicians see everyone has to learn it from somewhere like david copperfield ive actually met the person who taught him as he was growing up i mean not many ppl get that experience
    but bak to the point if it werent for ppl who reveal magic there would be no magicians :)

  28. The way I see it, magic is a work of art. If everyone knew how to draw really well, then we wouldn’t appreciate the talent (though non-existent in this scenario) involved in “good” artwork as much.

    When it comes to magic, I’d say it’s fine to save a dime or two via youtube, or through a teacher who’s willing to teach you, or whatever. However, I would promote the fact that people should learn it to perform it, and not learn it just to know how it works. Music would be nothing if everyone just “knew how it worked”. Music is similar to the art of magic in that it is learned to be performed for the enjoyment of an audience; the art behind magic is the secrecy of how things work, and the embogglement (I’ll use this post to invent a word) of the mind because the audience and their minds are seeing what shouldn’t be happening.

  29. this is so true….
    exposure isnt bad coz most ppl get interested when they first learn a trick..
    then they want to see more and try to figure out how that is done..
    and this process leads to creation of more magicians…..
    well exposure through youtube and television is different from a bad performance..
    the reason is that exposure on youtube encourages one to see more tricks and gets him more involved in magic..
    but a bad performance makes the other person feel ” oh! so thats how he did it..that was so lame…anyone can do i” then he goes around telling ppl..
    that person maybe least interested in duin the trick but then he looses his interest coz he feels ya this is some thing like the one i saw earlier..
    thats why we must request ppl and magicians to practice and reach a level of confidence where they can win the audiences heart even by the most simple trick in the world which could be just palming a card or thumb palm moves etc..
    coz somethings so simple can be very versatile…

  30. You make an excellent point. Great Article!!

    Life is about evolution…always changing. The same goes for magic. Nothing will ever stay the same. The acts going on today have evolved from past methods and techniques that have been exposed or shared from their creators… and from that, new methods and techniques have been born from students alike.

    Imagination is limitless, the human mind is limitless…As long as performers remain curious and keep an open mind. There will always be “the next level”. And exposure is just a stepping stool to reach it.

  31. i agree with this. for my personal experience, i got interested in learning magic by seeking how the trick works. yeah you’re right. everything in this article is absolutely right. people who seek the revelation of the trick are magicians in the making. exposure matters most during poor performance than exposing how it works online (though it is forever posted there). it is better to show a single perfect trick than a dozen of sloppy tricks.

  32. exposure isn’t good. but it isn’t bad either. hell, even Brad exposed the pass to the spectators but for a cause right?

    magic is indeed an art. so i think of it as a backstage pass during a concert. so, while i watch the MaskedMagician, just like (maybe all) laymen, i’m so eager to know what’s behind everything – trapdoors, hidden wires, smoke & mirrors – that i forget to watch the PERFORMANCE part.
    just like being backstage. you’d see guitars, drum sets, gadgets for distorting sound; you’d see these boxes and fake thumbs and cards on a string. but if you can’t see the whole picture, then you lose – either as an audience member or as an artist yourself.

    as for ‘tube, this is where i think i could practice my temper :)
    think of it this way: when asked what makes him improve his game, billiard icon and hall of famer efren reyes says that he watches newbies in the hopes of maybe he’ll learn something from them.
    i have. and i did. it is a small ratio though, but it kept my feet on the ground. and i’m betting that most of the people who complained about tricks on utube being exposed didn’t do something about it, but just complain. when i see a really bad reveal, i PM the dude. nasty comments’ll just make the snowball bigger, don’t you think?

    usually when i do stand-up card magic, i can’t help but expose a copped card to a guy on my left. but before i do an effect with copping a card, i make sure he’s all into this little gig. and by almost intentionally flashing the copped card at him as the effect draws to a finish, i can see thought balloons in his eyes like “how can they not see the card? it was right there! aaawe he’s good!” (thank you kostya).

    our effects are just the tip of the iceberg. and if showing a li’l something underneath it means it’ll make more of us appreciate what’s on top, then go for it.

  33. Add new comment (WTF?) on:

    Its not the trick itself that builds magic…
    Its the skill and love of the art…
    Different magicians use different kinds of execution…
    Thats how the magic society lives…

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