Brian Brushwood joins Jonah this week to talk creating content, finding a niche, and failing until you succeed. If you’ve searched for magic on YouTube, there’s a good chance you’ve come across Brian’s channel Scam Nation. Alongside being a Youtuber, Brian is a magician, a podcaster, a comedian, and an author – really, he just loves to share stories.
Brian’s journey into magic began later in life. He was 18, attending university, and realized he had a ton of free time on his hands. His initial intention of taking up magic was not to pursue it professionally, but to just have a few cool tricks he could show around. After searching through the Yellow Pages, Brian discovered the Great Scott Magic Store where, after a three hour life changing conversation, he left with Royal Road and a bridge sized deck of Aviators.
Throughout college, Brian was constantly performing. Between the restaurants he worked with his friend Gordon, kid’s birthday parties, and whatever other gig came his way, Brian put in his flight time.
After graduating university, with what Brian akins to a degree in magic, he didn’t go straight into performing professionally, he went into the tech field while performing on the side. When he began to bring in more money from his performances, the company he worked under offered him a raise, placing him in a difficult situation.
Not wanting to regret not pursuing a career in magic, Brian consulted his wife, quit his job and began down the path of becoming a professional magician.
As a kid, Brian’s family moved around. A lot. Every time Brian would introduce himself and establish who he was, his family would pick up and move to the next place. Eventually, introducing himself and establishing his brand became second nature. Brian attributes his ability to try experimental ways to market himself to the fact he doesn’t fear the rejection.
When he was initially starting out, he knew that he needed to get some social proof for his sizzle reel – at the time this meant television appearances. Once more, Brian turned to yellow pages, sending out messages to the stations. When he heard nothing back, Brian went to Costco and purchased boxes of Fireballs, alongside a message saying that if they think those are hot, they should see Brian eat fire. This landed his first TV appearance that he would leverage on his reel.
If you’re looking to catch people’s attention, you need to understand the audience you’re playing to and what their needs are; while your goal may be to entertain, the people booking you are looking for you to bring a certain value to the table. For Brian, when he was touring the college circuit, this involved writing a book called Pack the House! which gave Event Planners tips on getting butts in seats; he demonstrated what he knew, gave them value, and saw a lot more offers from Event Planners.
Eleven years ago, Brian started Scam School on YouTube, becoming one of the pioneers for teaching magic online. Through his platform online, Brian shares magic with newcomers and veterans, and invites them to collaborate with him. His goal is not to expose magic, but to teach it and help the art form reach a wider audience. That’s why he tries to take an approach the honours magic while still making it available to those who may not have access to traditional resources.
People like the Masked Magician or those who simply tell you how a trick is done are not teaching. They’re exposing the secrets for the sake of exposing the secrets. Teaching magic online to Brian means that by the end of the video, the viewer should be able to do the trick. This is why he focuses on putting out complete tutorial videos of tricks. He also heavily focuses on crediting sources and selecting material that isn’t infringing on anything recently created.
If you’re interested in putting out your own content, Brian insists that you release your good material first. Show them what you’re capable of doing and let them see the value you bring to the table. Then you can focus on monetizing and scaling up. People can’t fully judge who you are with just a teaser of what you might offer them.
What do you like about magic in 2019? What do you dislike?
Brian likes that magic is seeing so many talented women performers.. He also enjoys that Penn and Teller leave bread crumbs for budding magicians through their coded replies on Fool Us.
Take Home Point
Fail fast and reiterate. Let’s get to future you as fast as possible.