223: Dan Chan Presents: Online Magic For Sophisticated Audiences
Who thought online magic can be such a damn good business? Well, Mitch Russo didn’t think he’d have a magician guest a business podcast, yet here we are. But there is a very good reason why Daniel Chan is on the podcast today. An internationally renowned, award-winning magician, Dan worked mostly for corporate audiences and has traveled all over the world doing what he loves. He has been variously dubbed as the “Magic Man,” “Master Magician,” “Silicon Valley’s Favorite Magician” and “The Billionaires’ Magician.” In this episode, you will learn how he took his wand online and what he is doing to turn it into a highly-profitable business model. For magicians out there whose careers are badly-hit by COVID, this episode will inspire you to use a different kind of magic to turn things around for your career.
Dan Chan Presents: Online Magic For Sophisticated Audiences
Welcome to this moment in time when you get to chill out and extract wisdom that you can use to grow your business with your first thousand clients. We are here to support you by making sure you know what is working in business and in life. If you have a business that’s in need of a little love, revenue and profits, I want you to grab my latest freebie. It’s called Profit Stacking Secrets. It started many years ago as a new client assessment but it became more detailed as years rolled forward. After hundreds of clients, I’ve refined it to what you need to grow quickly with little investment instead of using cash, we use strategy. Strategy and tactics will get you to the finish line every time. Go to ProfitStackingSecrets.com and get your free copy. Onto my guest and his incredible story.
He grew up in San Francisco after his parents immigrated from Hong Kong and life was tough. He was bullied and ignored in school. He felt isolated and searched for a way to stand out. For him, it became athletics from swimming, pole vaulting, and running. He established himself as a competitor, but the grades were not there. He applied to Berkeley but got rejected. He found a home at a second-tier school, which is where he developed his interest in performance magic. Afterschool working at PayPal in the early days, he was bored and even unproductive.
Everything changed one evening when he started juggling fire and finally started to get some recognition. He didn’t stop there and decided to dedicate his life to performing magic and he is known all over the world. He’s featured in The Hustle, BuzzFeed Magazine, CNBC, and Longwood Performing for billionaires at their private estates. This led him to work closely with large corporations and to incorporate his special brand of skills all throughout the tech industry. He’s here to talk about his journey to the top. Welcome, Dan Chan, to the show
Thank you, Mitch. Thank you for that wonderful intro.
It’s my pleasure, Dan. I was certainly reluctant at first to bring a magician onto a business show, but after I got to see who you are and some of the amazing things you’ve accomplished, I’m thrilled to have you. I know we’re going to learn a lot from you. Let’s get started. Take me back to the beginning and give me an idea of how this all started.
The turning point was I’m a business person. I started at UC Riverside graduating with a Business Administration degree. I worked at PayPal pre-IPO. I had stock options. I vested for thirteen months. I worked alongside Peter Thiel and Elon Musk. Working alongside was a little bit of a stretch, but it’s understanding the media angle. I worked in that same office and I would see them pass through. I worked in finance and at that time I was doing the bank deposits for Silicon Valley Bank. People would put in these incremental deposits and people didn’t know that they were supposed to keep them because we wanted to verify your bank account. It was $0.14 and a penny or something like that. They would mail in a penny and a dime. It was ridiculous in the early days. By law, we couldn’t take the money. We had a deposit in their PayPal account. I credited them and then I brought everything to the bank and deposited it daily.
Is that still the same way? Does PayPal still do that?
I left there many years ago. I do not know. They moved offices. They got acquired by eBay then they split from eBay as well. They’ve come full circle.
If you’re reading this, Dan does not look like he worked at PayPal many years ago. It’s hard to believe his age. Should I ask your age, Dan?We are in the infant stages of a new emerging industry of online magic. Click To Tweet
I am in my 40s. It was more about how can I turn what I love into a business. I twisted balloons for $10 at a party. I wasn’t even given $10, it was a tip. At that same event was a magician by the name of Gerard Joseph. He said he was making $250 a show for one hour. I said, “I can do this.” I calculated. I said, “If I could do four shows in a week, two on Saturday and maybe two on Sunday, I can make $52,000 a year. If I worked my weekdays, I can make $100,000 if I could squeeze in four more shows on the weekdays. That would be libraries and schools.” That was easy because during certain months, I was doing up to 45 plus shows in a month at those rates. Those were the summer months. Those were the times I was cranking out. I was young and ambitious. I cranked it out and it was full throttle.
You were ambitious and entrepreneurial, but you also must have honed your craft. I know that because I read somewhere about something that you did with an iPhone in some high-end executives. You want to tell us the story of how you unlocked somebody’s phone and all that?
I have quite a few stories of hacking into people’s phones, but you can see one of the best ones on BuzzFeed. If you go to BuzzFeed, search Silicon Valley’s favorite magician. BuzzFeed did a profile article on me in 2016. The reporter Will Alden featured me. That was one of my bigger features before CNBC picked it up and then Business Insider twice plus The Hustle. That was the turning point or inflection point in my business where I started becoming The Billionaire’s Magician and The Master Magician before I was a family entertainer doing kids’ birthday parties, things like that. I’ve broken the rules. I’ve taken a couple of kids’ events since, but those were for guys like Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter. I’ve performed for a lot of other family events, but you have to name-drop or be willing to throw out $1,000 or more for me to do a kid’s party.
It was a career progression. It was starting at birthday parties, in libraries and differentiating. I did balloons, juggling, magic, fire juggling, and pick-pocketing. As I got better, I got rid of the balloons, juggling, and most part, the pick-pocketing. I started specializing in tech magic. I’m one of the premier magicians on Zoom. If you’d like to see what a Zoom show is like, it’s fascinating and intriguing. Most Zoom shows suck. I’ve seen many of them. Hopefully, that industry trend will change and more of them will get better. We are in the infant stages of a new emerging industry because I don’t have to drive an hour to an event or more show up an hour early and set up. Right after my show, I reset and I could do back to back shows.
I did a show for a group with people in Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and the US. It was one party with participants from that many different places. Another party I did was for West and East Coast teams that started at 5:30 AM Pacific. It was 8:30 their time and they had both teams get together. Another event was the US and India. There are many more opportunities with Zoom magic shows, but most people don’t see that and they see the crisis. I saw a great opportunity. When this is over, I plan on continuing to go full speed ahead. Right behind me is a studio that I set up in my kitchen and it is a professional backdrop. Who wouldn’t want to work like this? That has changed our industry.
Let’s get into a different angle than what you’re describing here. You’ve pioneered this idea of doing live online video-based magic shows and that’s amazing by itself. What is the sales process now? What are you selling? Are you selling entertainment, motivation, and team building? What is it when you pitch a large corporation on a performance? What are they looking for? What are they getting?
They are getting high impact, fast-paced magic. It’s not your traditional linking rings or cups and balls. It’s mind-reading and mentalism, which is the more sophisticated thing. It’s not a cheesy comedy magic show, which is what is the cliché commodity out there and what I’m trying to differentiate. It is an experience in the fact that most people are zoomed out. I am giving them a moment of entertainment law everyone can laugh together. Instead of that company holiday party, I’m helping people interact and engage. One of the things that I do is get you to know everyone else. For example, I’m going to ask you a question that will help you get to know all your team members. If I were to give you $1 million, would you eat a rattlesnake? If I were to cook the rattlesnake, would you eat it? I have these yes or no cards and I’m going to commit to one of these. For $1 million, would you eat a rattlesnake?
I had their yes. Let me do this one more time. If I were to give you $1, would you eat a rattlesnake cooked?Anyone who calls themselves a magician or mentalist should know the giants whose shoulders they are standing on. Click To Tweet
If it was cooked properly, absolutely.
You would eat it as well. Most people say no. However, I knew you’d say yes as well. That is a warm-up because you get to know your other team members. It’s a fun question because most people can’t say that question. As an entertainer, I can ask you these questions. It’s a little bit controversial, but it’s not something that wouldn’t work in a corporate environment. It gets somewhere along the line.
I see what you mean and you’re right. It is a team-building exercise and I could see how it would make everybody laugh. Let’s get into the business side of this. You’re not the only mentalist I’ve had on this show. You may know someone I had as a guest not too long ago. His name is The Amazing Kreskin. Do you know him?
That is great. Anyone who calls themselves a magician or mentalist should know him. We should study the great set that came before us and he’s one of the shoulders of the giants that we stand on.
Readers, if you would love to read an incredible interview where I share a story about how I met Kreskin many years ago at a summer camp when he was driving through the Catskills, looking for work, doing performances one-off at summer camps, hotels and bars, then go dig up that episode on The Amazing Kreskin. The name of the episode is something to do about how he entertained a billion people. That’s how he’s reached over a billion people with his performances. He was also the most featured magician ever on the Johnny Carson Show with over 100 performances for Johnny Carson.
He was a fairly interesting guy. What he was doing, which was incredible is he was being paid for his bookings, but what he was doing is he was building a brand all along. I know that you’re in the process of doing the same thing. You have a trademarked brand name of your own, which is awesome. Why don’t we talk a little bit about how you are using this to elevate your status and what the process of elevating status is when it comes to what you do?
I started off as Dan Chan the Magic Man to Dan Chan Master Magician to Silicon Valley’s Favorite Magician, which was a title given in BuzzFeed to me in that article. They wrote that and then Business Insider called me The Billionaires’ Magician because I showed behind the scenes of what it was performing for billionaires. It was $250,000 kids’ parties, where they would have 400-pound Bengal tigers in the backyard. They would give away ten iPhones to their guests as door prizes. Parties where they would give away 1-ounce gold coins as the door price.
How do you market to billionaires? It helps if you can get 1 or 2 performances, get your foot in the door, and then let word of mouth take it from there, but you can’t depend on that for building a business. How do you market to the affluent particularly in your niche?
In the beginning, it was more like doing their family shows and getting your foot in the door. Early in my career, I was already performing for George Lucas and John Madden. I didn’t have much of an act there, but I did five minutes as a part of a larger variety show or something. I think there was something at ILM, which is Industrial Light & Magic at George Lucas’ compound. They hired me for a five-minute stage act. I did some juggling and probably mediocre magic. This was many years ago. The first big gig I can remember was an event in Sun Valley, Idaho where Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates were at but I didn’t perform for them. I performed for the kids. The agent who booked me told me that Bill Gates’ kids were in the audience. They wouldn’t even tell me who it is for security or whatever. When we flew into that airport, that whole resort was closed down that week.
We would see security everywhere. We would be told where we could go and where we couldn’t. What was cool about that was they had their own Monopoly board. They gave it out to every single kid. I think it’s an Allen company Monopoly board or they had their own custom one. When I pass by, I was like, “What?” At that event, they had the CEO of Nike there. We walked by this place and they were making custom Nike shoes that you could order. Fit to size and fit to design. You could design your own Nike and they would mail it to you or something after the conference. I think it was a computer-aided design or something back then and this was a long time ago. I proposed to my wife at that event on a little Island at Sun Valley, Idaho. That night I proposed, they had a firework show and an ice show. I told the agent I’m going to propose to my wife and he got me tickets to this fabulous ice skating show.
It was a good thing she said yes or else you wouldn’t be telling this story. How do you market? I know that you use, built this up over many years. If you and your wife are sitting alone talking, you say to her, “I need to take this to the next level.” I’m going to share one of your secrets with me that you’re vying for a Netflix special. I hope you get that because when you do, I’m going to promote this episode even harder, which would be great. More importantly, how does someone who is a performance-based artist become wealthy? How do you grow your company?
I am by no means wealthy, but I do have a great lifestyle. CNBC reported my losses in COVID were about $1,000 in one week, but I pivoted. You have to have a vision for where you want to go. What I brand myself as is sophisticated magic for intelligent audiences. If you’re going to be wealthy or if you are wealthy, you tend to categorize yourself as sophisticated. You’re going to have to use those languages. You have to be careful about the words you use and that’s all reflected in both the images and the words I use on my website.
You’re careful about your language. You are positioning yourself in an elite way on your website and in your materials. How then do you go and find those people to show your website? Are you marketing actively? Are you renting lists? Are you promoting on LinkedIn? What is it that you do other than word of mouth to build your business?
In the past, it was SEO. I understood title tags, Meta descriptions, and H1 tags. I became the top guy in my area because I showed up on Google search. As things pivoted, I started relying more on Yelp to build a base then on big referrals. I started having relationships with top agents because often people don’t want to hire you. They want to have a pre-packaged turnkey solution. Those event planners were keen on developing a relationship with because they would always use those same 5 or 6 event planners. Once you got in the door with them, they would hire the ice sculptures. They would have all the connections to piece together a comprehensive event. When you develop that relationship, everything opens. It’s through those same 5 or 6 event planners and agencies that handle the wealthy.
What do you do to evolve into a program, for example, to teach others how to do some of the things you do? To go beyond you selling your time and the pinnacle is you sell it for $100,000 an hour in a major motion picture or whatever that may be. Whatever that pinnacle is, it’s still you selling your time. The question is how do you get beyond as a performance magician? How do you get beyond selling your time?
Leveraging other people’s talents and having what we call a standby rate. If for example they can’t hit my minimum fee, I will take a small deposit and then often I’ll book other people or if nothing comes up, I’ll do the event myself. I don’t become a starving artist. I have that option and leverage. In business, it’s all about leverage.
What you’re effectively doing is building an agency. As an agency owner, you are the prime property. If people need something that you don’t provide, you have a sphere of influence where you can pick and choose people to step in and you make a commission in effect on that as well. Is that right?
That is correct. It’s more a thing on stealth because I don’t want people to know what I’m doing, but I do have an agency where I book out entertainment when necessary.Dan Chan Presents delivers nothing but sophisticated magic for intelligent audiences, both onstage and online. Click To Tweet
What about what I had suggested about building training programs and courses? Have you ever thought of that? Is that something that you would ever want to do?
I’m starting to put together the pieces of that puzzle. I never wanted in the past because I didn’t want to sell anything short or not give away the best material. I’m retiring a lot of material. I believe that the quality is going to stay high and I’ll have that time because, in order to leave a legacy, you must pass on something. I’m trying to pass the torch on. At that time when you’re young, no one’s going to want to learn from you. I’ve hit the marks that everyone else wants to hit. I’ve got a lot of potential clients for coaching. That’s something that I’m working on but not rushing to do it because as my brand goes higher, my coaching will go higher.
Let’s imagine if we’re reverse engineering success. If I have a nationwide poll of potential coaching clients, it’s effectively allowed me a lot more walkaway power and I’ve got 10X. This is what Tim Ferris says is sometimes you hit a goal that will knock everything else in place. If I get television, I’ll probably sell out tickets. I did this with careful analysis because I saw a guy in Magic for Humans, the gentleman, Justin Willman. He sold 500 tickets in his last show. That was online on Zoom with everyone coming from all over the world. If I get Netflix, it’s a similar chance that I will sell out all my online shows, which will allow me to reinvest in my business.
There’s another model I wanted to ask you about. There’s a gentleman, his name is Matt Kazam. He’s a performance comedian. What Matt does is he brings people into a program and mentors them for a period of time. He has an arrangement with the New York City club where he will bring them into the club and have them perform their five minutes skit on stage. He is attracting senior executives from all over the country to come in and to train with him virtually and then everybody collects on a particular night and goes out to perform on stage. He’s charging what I would consider a handsome sum, but people are signing up for two reasons.
One is because of the comedy element that brings a level of interest in their conversations that they wouldn’t have before. I think magic would do the same thing. That little thing you did with me, which was awesome. If you could teach executives how to do simple tricks that would allow them to elevate their position within their circle of friends and associates and as a bonus, when COVID clears, people can collect one day and perform on stage. That’s another great business model. I thought I’ll share that with you as well.
I would love to see that. There are some things that I’m intentionally holding back on because of the domino effect. If I hit search and other things, it’s going to automatically fall in line when I want to hit that. I’m trying to push and use a force multiplier. I’ve seen a lot of people do this. I’ve seen my friends do coaching. I wanted to respect certain people who are doing certain things before I did it. I wanted them to get out of the market because I don’t want to step on their toes. When you do it later, you get better ideas. To me, I’m strategically waiting. For example, with a lot of magic, there’s a lot of IP involved, but quite often nothing’s copywriting. There’s more like a gentleman’s agreement.
Certain things are in the public domain, but people are teaching it because there are no laws against it. I’d rather wait for the performer to pass on and then perform that and have that respect of my peers. There’s IP that people get worked up about saying, “Did you have this guy’s permission?” I will take classes with people. I’ll take pictures with these high-end magicians and then wait it out. That’s my generation strategy for my son. He’s James Chan. At age four, started practicing. At age five, juggle three balls. At age eight, juggle five balls. At age ten, he juggled fire and picking pockets. Reverse engineering success requires you to think about what happens prior. I plan this out and I was like, “James, the juggler would be catchy.”
I knew that if I were to teach him how to do magic on the streets, people wouldn’t stop. A kid says, “Would you like to see a magic trick?” They just walk by. If you were seeing him juggle five balls, you could not ignore him. If you saw him juggling three flaming torches, you would not ignore him. When I pitch to reporters, that’s the first thing I do is let them know the timeline, we are not to be ignored. Even then I’m being ignored by certain things like Netflix because you have to get enough credits or credentials. Maybe someone will listen to it, but if you know what you’re going, you can course-correct to get there. That is what we’re talking about. Reverse engineering success is what steps do you need to take in order to get where you want to go. I have a lot of big plans.
Dan, from what you said, this is a universal lesson. Every entrepreneur reading would be able to benefit from those words. Readers, we are talking to the amazing Dan Chan. He is The Billionaires’ Magician and he is with us. Dan, we’re going to transition here to something that I like to do with all my guests. It’s probably the one thing that has stayed the same throughout 250 interviews and it’s these two questions. I’m going to ask you the first question and I’m excited to hear your answer. Here it is. Who in all of space and time would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch, or an intense conversation with?
I would love to talk to my wife even more. With all the work that I’m having, I feel like I’m neglecting her. I’m going to keep everything close at home and realistic because I would rather spend more time with my wife and family.
I certainly encourage that. Your wife is your primary relationship. Your kids even will grow up and move out, but it is your wife with who you have that lifetime relationship. I honor what you said and I truly agree with you. I believe what you said. I’m going to give you another chance because I want to know from your imagination. Would you like to spend an hour with Houdini? If I could set that up for you, would you be willing to do that?
I have no interest in Houdini. I’ve met my heroes, David Blaine and David Copperfield. I would love to see Copperfield’s museum up close in person, but it’s not a big thing. Copperfield on his Island, that’s something that I would like to see. Maybe talking to Jeff Bezos of Amazon business would be something interesting, but it’s not pressing because I’ve read all their bios. I’ve read and watched a lot of YouTube videos of them starting off. I can understand or piece together how their mind thinks. There is maybe 1 or 2. Maybe some guys at Netflix opening up that door for Quibi, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video. Those are some people I’d love to sit down with not to pick their brain, but to pitch them and to tell them what I’ve already told you.
If I can arrange that for you, I promise I will. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to come along and be a fly on the wall. Is that all right?
That is great. I’ll sneak you into some virtual parties one day.
That’d be great. Dan, I’m going to ask you what I call the grand finale, the change the world question. Are you ready?
I don’t know if I’m ready, but let’s go for it.In order to leave a legacy, you must be prepared to pass the torch to others. Click To Tweet
Let’s give it a shot. If you’re not ready, you can punt. Here it is. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to change the world?
There are quite a few things. Working for people virtually that are at risk youth because there’s a lot of cycle of poverty or people who don’t see that they can do anything impactful. To speak those words of life and power into someone where they have someone who believes in them and in their corner. I was a little bit at risk I’m. There were gangs in San Francisco and I would see some of them in Chinatown, but I wasn’t at risk because I didn’t live in Chinatown. I saw that. I would love to give back to places where you don’t see role models. Virtually that’s possible. I can donate my time and inspired kids again.
That’s a beautiful position to be in. I think you probably more than many of my guests are in a position to do that because of the separation of Zoom to the rest of the world and the vehicle itself means you could be anywhere with anyone. I love your mission. It’s incredible. Before I let you go, Dan, you promised something special to my readers. I’m excited to have you tell us all about what you are offering. Could you please elaborate?
I am inviting you to a free virtual show or demo. I quite often do demos for high profile clients who want to hire me. Contact me through my Instagram @DanChanMagic or my Facebook page at Dan Chan The Billionaires’ Magician. Send me a private message and say you are friends with Mitch Russo and I will sneak you into a show. I am doing a weekly show where we can sneak you in for demos and you will see the next wave of magic.
Dan, I’m going to take advantage of one of your free passes. I’d love to learn more about what you do and I’d like to see you perform. I’m excited about taking advantage of your free gift if that’s okay.
I love doing that for a friend that I consider friends. Do try to get before the end of 2021. I don’t know how often I’m going to be doing this and once your show continues to explode, I might have thousands, if not hundreds of thousand crashing in bundle offers. I’m going to leave it expiration date for 2021, the last date of that day. If you’re reading this beyond that you can still see if I can sneak you in, but no promises there.
Dan, thank you. It was a pleasure chatting with you. I’m excited about your future. I can’t wait to see you on Netflix. I can’t wait until we get a chance to talk again soon.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Dan Chan
- The Amazing Kreskin – Previous episode
- @DanChanMagic – Instagram
- Dan Chan The Billionaires’ Magician – Facebook
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