The YouTube generation is here

As most of you all know I visit a magic shop in Sheffield every few weeks and over the past year or so I’ve noticed that although the shop is getting busier and busier (which is great and shows that the current magic trend is helping magic dealers) there are more and more young magicians attending who literally get all their knowledge from YouTube. This is something that many magicians have discussed in the past and I imagine there’s tons out there on this subject but although I’d read a few peoples thoughts on it, I’d never had any real first hand experience. Until now.

Last weekend there was a young lad who I’d not seen there before and who I think has been coming for a few weeks – he was a beginner but not afraid to perform and had a few tricks which he’d been working on (a collectors routine and one or two others). Anyway, after a while two other young lads arrived and within minutes one of them was trying to teach the first youngster six or seven different passes! He couldn’t do any of them himself but had watched YouTube videos and learnt them from there. No appreciation of the move, it’s history or anything – just very poor execution of the sleights – they almost seemed like throwaway things for him – “Oh yeah there’s this Spread pass, Herman pass, etc.” The first lad was overwhelmed as this other guy was explaining each and every pass in detail – the poor guy couldn’t even do a Charlier cut! Is this the next generation of magic? Don’t get me wrong there are many talented young magicians who appreciate magical history and learn and study their art but the growing number of online magicians does worry me.

I asked the first lad what books he had – his answer – none. I think this is a real shame and I hate to see people learn magic in the wrong way. The latest craze of one trick magic downloads doesn’t help as it gives the idea that things can be learned quickly in an “instant” download. Places like Ellusionist and Theory 11 make it even worse – encouraging a culture of online “creators” and fooding the market with custom playing cards – it’t not the tool you should be focusing on but how to use it. The internet’s a great tool but public magic forums are mostly flooded with nonsense and all the other sites are about making money. Magic should be learned slowly and in steps – the old adage that you have to walk before you can run is cliche but fits here. That’s the real problem – the internet gives you vast knowledge instantly and people new to magic won’t know where to start – they just jump  in and learn all they can. The problem is there’s no context in which to put the thing they’re learning, they don’t appreciate it’s true value because it’s easy to find and readily available.

I do think that older magicians are slightly to blame also – we should be mentoring the beginners and pointing them in the right direction – giving them advice, tips, books to read etc. This is something the guys in Sheffield to really well and explains why there’s so many great magicians there and a great magic scene. Those guys I mentioned above, if they continue to visit the shop and hang out with other magicians, will eventually get the right idea.

Most magicians tend to look down on the younger guys who are struggling to find the right path in magic- it’s not 100% all their fault that all they can find online are YouTube explanations and bad one trick downloads. It is if they’re uploading the explanations themselves which is another topic altogether. Where possible, magicians should teach other magicians one on one in my opinion. Magic clubs should also play an essential role in teaching the next generation. This is something I admire about the Spanish School – there’s a sense of passing on the knowledge, of teacher and student. The british magic clubs I’ve been to don’t even come close to this.

Luckily one of the guys I’d seen before had bought Royal Road on my recommendation and was really enjoying it. There may be hope…

Anyway, rant over – I hope some of this made sense and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter – lets discuss…

 

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10 Responses to The YouTube generation is here

  1. Adam says:

    Good points,and also there is a trend to super visual angly stuff as well…not sure if this is good or bad but im a bit old school and prefer the “old” sleights,for want of a better term,false dealing,shuffles,passes etc.
    But yes among the new generation you definatly hear “download” and “youtube” a lot,in fact,sometimes I casually ask the younger crowd if they have heard of Marlo,Jennings,Dingle et al,and blank looks abound!!
    Hmmmm!

  2. William says:

    Every generation has its dilletantes. Those who take their work seriously will seek out the true sources of knowledge and wisdom. When the student is ready the master will appear. The sheep can follow the shepherd but those who stop and think a little might want to reconsider following him off a cliff.

  3. Gerry says:

    Regarding a novice showing the various passes. There is a particular “type”, and I think youtube and current culture nurtures it, that is about the technique about the “hidden secrets” and this takes precedence over its actual utility. They learn all these hip moves, but can’t do a simple card trick with no moves at all! They are not about the trick, they are about the mechanics.

    Similarly there are guitarists–“musicians” as they think of themselves–who can’t play a song to save their lives though they can play rapid fire flourishes, arpeggios and parts of flash demonstrations. But they can’t actually sit down and lay a three minute song with a beginning middle and an end. That, they call “boring”.

    What both need are *teachers*. Not just people that can show them sleights or chords or the bits and pieces, but can show them what it’s supposed too look like from the audience–what it is that is supposed to be the focus and intent of the whole deal: entertainment. How to read your audience, how to keep them occupied, variations in routines to lock people in if they are straying, catching hold and directing attention. All that stuff–most of it RARELY addressed in books–that you only learn through experience or through AND good teacher.

    Not to say that books aren’t critical for assembling the bits that become your style/identity once you make them apart of yourself. As someone once said, if you get one decent sleight from a book that you can make use of on your own it was a damned good book! The same is true for musicians, except that, unfortunately, most of them can’t read music any more.

    In that respect magicians still have a slight edge…

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Gerry – thanks for the great comment. You’re spot on with the comparison to musicians – hadn’t thought of it that way before. I know what you mean about the YouTubers – they do just do the moves for the sake of knowing the secret. Ive been reading the Ascanio theory book recently and it’s completely changed the way I think about magic – there’s so much more to it than the moves or the secret – magic after all is about the effect on the spectator.

      • Gerry says:

        Still thinking about this even after a number of days, and I think I’ve reached a minor satori with these ideas. These kids who don’t “get it”; I think I know what their problem is.

        They are still thinking about magic/tricks as if they were *an audience member*. What is important to an audience member? The mystery, the incomprehensibility, the break in logic and physics that has seemingly occurred. And so, as an audience member, they want to satisfy THAT, and so they pursue the “how did you do that” line of thinking and when they find out the how, the STILL continue to pursue these ideas.

        It’s only when your artistic/logistic intent *stops* being as audience member and starts becoming a traffic cop for perception–that’s when you get your mind right. I guess–whether as a musician or a magician–I should pursue this Ascanio book…

        Just another view.

  4. An excellent rant, with which I concur wholeheartedly. YouTube is great. I use it all the time. But sadly the dross does threaten to overwhelm the gems.

    There always have been magicians who think that magic is all about the secrets. Perhaps it is, in a way, but the real secrets aren’t about moves, but about timing, presentation… all those things which turn the demonstration of a trick into what it should be: a piece of theatre.

    Learn the sleights and moves by all means; they’re part of the magician’s armoury. But learn them properly… ideally, in my opinion, from a well-illustrated book which will encourage you to work and adapt to make the move yours rather than a copy of someone who thinks ‘doing tricks’ is the same as performing magic.

    Unfortunately YouTube seems to tend to encourage the latter attitude. And as for those who think that buying a trick gives them the right to expose it, deliberately or by poor performance (or usually a combination of the two)… well, my generally peaceable laid-back attitude tends to desert me and I feel an overwhelming urge to recommend a form of card handling that Marlo, Jennings, or even Al, would probably not recognise.

    Preferably with jumbo cards.

    • Kevin says:

      Ha! Thanks Russell – I’ve been thinking a lot about these sorts of things recently (ever since reading the Ascanio book on theory) and I’m really starting to be aware of just how much more there is to creating magic-magic (as Ascanio puts it- a real sense of witnessing something impossible which defies explanation), as opposed to pseudo-magic (“interesting things”, tricks, skillfull displays etc). Moves, although essential are only a small part of what you need to create magic-magic- like you say theres, timing, misdirection, cover, presentation, attitude – they all blend together.

  5. Gerry says:

    Kevin, is the book you’re referring to called “Magic of Ascanio – The Structural Conception of Magic”?

  6. Vinh Giang says:

    Hi Kevin,

    This was a great post indeed mate! Oddly enough I actually teach a few tricks here and there on youtube. One of the main reasons why I started my business was to really start to help these kids learn the right way, I know there are great books out there for the kids to learn from but the things is most of them would not even touch a book. Technology is moving forward fast and I think with the fast movement kids/young adults prefer to learn from a video format. We now have a few thousand users on our website and we can honestly say we are starting to see these kids have more appreciation for the Art. It’s uplifting to see kids now performing “Magic” and not just “Tricks”. Love the blog mate keep it up!

    Vinh

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