Magical Communications

Dear Friends:

June is upon us, and I thought you might enjoy this segment from my new book on building your business as an independent performer. As many of you know, I’ve been working with Jeff McBride for the past 30 years, and Marco Tempest for almost as long. Before that, I got to work on Broadway, as a part of the management teams for several Broadway shows, including the original production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It was during that time that I learned of the extreme importance of communication, not only in art, but in conducting a business in the arts.

Tobias Books

What follows is a section of the new book on that very subject.


I got my first job on Broadway as a production assistant in the offices of Richard Barr and Charles Woodward when they were producing Sweeney Todd, and I remember being surprised that their work seemed to consist almost entirely of making and receiving phone calls. Charles and Richard sat at opposite ends of one long table, each with a phone in front of them. All day long, they placed and received phone calls, one after another. There were calls with the creative staff—director, designers, composer and author, and others. There were calls with investors, calls with the management company for the show, with lawyers and with accountants, with the theater owners, and later with the office booking our tour of the production. There were calls with all our vendors, the people who made costumes and sets, who placed our advertising, plotted our public relations strategies, etc. Calls, calls, and more calls.

When Charles and Richard went to lunch, they had a phone on their table at the restaurant, and continued to communicate throughout those lunches! This was before the age of personal computers, cell phones or the internet, so virtually all communications started with a phone call. Important calls resulted in letters that summarized the call. But virtually everything that happened on that production was initiated with a phone call—a communication.

It’s essentially the same with any business. If you are the CEO, the one in charge, your job is to make the right decisions, then make sure those decisions are carried out in the best way possible. Your ability to communicate is the most important tool you have to accomplish that.

Here are some examples:

  • If you want to hire someone to design your marketing materials, those materials will be successful only if you can communicate your ideas and desires to the designer.
  • If you want to create a new piece of magic, you will be successful only to the degree you are able to communicate with dealers or builders to get your props, costumes, etc.
  • You need to communicate your ideas to your script writers (if you use script writers).
  • You need to engage and communicate clearly with a director, designer, etc.
  • Performance itself is a form of communication, so your ability to communicate with your audiences will be the ultimate driver of success.

Communication drives success in business! Study all the different possible ways in which communication is possible.

I’m fond of the phrase, “You can’t NOT communicate.” Everything we do—the way we dress, our body language, the tone of our voice, the way we set our stages, the way we answer phones…everything communicates. It communicates something whether you have thought about it or not. So it can really pay to stand back and look at yourself. Watch videos of yourself, not just performing, but interacting with others. Do you handle yourself in a professional, friendly manner when dealing with others? Do you remember to treat everyone you come in contact with as though they are a potential “big client?” Do you dress in a way that sends those who see you the message you want to send as a professional entertainer? Do you always answer the phone in a way that will both impress and help you achieve the mission you’ve defined for your business?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “no,” or even “not always,” and you do want to build a career as a professional performer—you have some work to do! Don’t be discouraged… we all do, and that work can not only make us more successful performers, but will also improve every other aspect of our lives as well.

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