The pandemic drove some stage hypnotists out of the industry. After two years of disruption to the live entertainment industry, experts are beginning to discuss the possible end of the pandemic, but that won't necessarily mean a return to normal for entertainers. Instead, it may signal an evolutionary leaping point in how entertainment is distributed, consumed, and experienced. Are stage hypnotists ready?
When the pandemic began, live entertainment was one of the first things to affected. The fear of audiences spreading the virus to each other led to sporting events being cancelled, the closing of Broadway, and the full stop of live entertainment for much of 2020. Schools started holding classes remotely, corporations sent their workers home, and the world got very, very strange.
I had stage shows in January and February of 2020, but by March shows started getting cancelled. By May, it was clear to me that this was not a temporary situation. We were in serious trouble. The work was simply gone, and it looked like it was going to stay that way for the rest of 2020.
I shared this viewpoint in two different Zoom sessions with stage hypnotists, and in both meetings I was met with skepticism. In one of the meetings, a well-known American stage hypnotist rolled his eyes at me and said, "No way. We'll be back to work in three months."
Most stage hypnotists did not return to work for twelve months, and when they did, they had to make significant modifications to their shows. Volunteers had to wear masks and/or be spaced out on stage so that they were not too close to each other. The masking had a dampening effect on shows, as the audience couldn't see the facial reactions of hypnotized subjects. The shows simply weren't as fun, but we were all so eager to get back to work, or to get some entertainment, that we put up with it and moved forward.
By June of 2021, eighteen months after the start of the pandemic, some high schools were holding grad night events again. Some were doing them outside so that masks didn't have to be worn, while others were doing them indoors with masking and spacing protocols. Some schools just gave up and let everyone be "normal" for the night. It felt like we were heading back to normal, though, and that was pretty nice.
Then came August of 2021, and the Delta variant. Bookings were almost returning to pre-pandemic levels in the college market, and there was a real excitement for stage hypnotists and audiences. We could have shows again! But the Delta variant arrived just as schools were opening for the new school year, and the triumphant return of entertainment was not so triumphant. Colleges and universities did continue to book shows, but with less frequency than normal, and many kept the masking and spacing protocols that made the shows less effective. Everyone was doing their best, but we still weren't in that old sweet spot.
And then came Omicron. The most contagious variant of COVID yet. Broadway closed again. Professional sports leagues started postponing games. Cruise ships were being quarantined and shut down. It was almost like we were back at the beginning of the pandemic. Live entertainment didn't completely shut down, but it was throttled and disrupted again.
After two years of pandemic, most stage hypnotists have not worked anything close to normal levels. Surely, some have been patiently waiting in the wings for things to "return to normal," hoping that they can come back to the industry. The gap has been long enough that many have been forced to leave the industry and take other jobs. Either way, the industry itself is different now than it was before the pandemic, and expecting a full return to that state is not reasonable. There will be opportunities that come from this period of disruption. The question is whether stage hypnotists will see those opportunities or not.
Opportunity #1: Increase Your Market Share
With so many stage hypnotists being out of work for the better part of the last two years, there will be many who aren't properly prepared to re-enter the market place. This means that if you are the one who has your marketing ready in advance, and you deploy it properly, you should be able to scoop up new clients and increase your market share.
It's been pretty evident since the fall of 2021 that people are just absolutely spent when it comes to the pandemic. It's really taken a toll on everyone. People are craving the experiences that they've been denied, and live entertainment is one of them. The catch is that there aren't an abundance of places to perform live, so it's not like there's a million gigs out there waiting to be filled. But there are venues looking for entertainers, and with a proper marketing and outreach plan, you could be the one to lock in a bunch of new venues that you never had before.
In order to do this, you need to start planning NOW.
You can't come to market with everybody else who's being reactive two or three months from now. You have to get your ducks in a row right now.
- Figure out what audiences or venues you're really going after.
- Determine what the venue or buyer's biggest challenge is.
- Communicate how you are uniquely positioned to help them get their needs met and solve that challenge.
Now is the time to do everything you kept putting off while you were busy doing shows. Overhaul your website. Write new copy. Get better photos. Edit a new demo video. Be the stage hypnotist who stands out from all other stage hypnotists by having your shit together.
Opportunity #2: Deliver a Fundamentally Different Experience
When the work comes back, most stage hypnotists are going to go back to doing the same old show they did before the pandemic, and for some, that will work fine. For some, that will mean going right back to the same second-rate status they had before the pandemic. But what if the pandemic has changed the very nature of how entertainment is produced and consumed?
Look at this virtual concert experience from blues legend Joe Bonamassa. Is it a direct translation to what we do as stage hypnotists? No, of course not, but it gives you some things to think about. There are multiple service levels being offered to the consumer, and a wise re-purposing of previous content to keep driving revenue.
When it comes to big ticket live events, Tony Robbins is one of the world leaders. Before the pandemic, he was filling arenas for his personal development seminars, putting thousands of people in the seats with some tickets costing $1,500. When the pandemic arrived, Tony shifted to virtual events, something he had previously said he wouldn't do. They have gone so well that now Tony says he won't return to live events with the same frequency he was doing them before, but will instead focus more on virtual delivery.
If your first response to this is, "But that can't be done with stage hypnotism" then you don't really understand hypnotism. Hypnosis doesn't require a theater. It doesn't even require being physically present with the subject, though that is preferable for many hypnotists.
It's time for us to re-think what stage hypnotists do and how they do it. We can avoid it if we'd like, but the world is going to keep on evolving culturally and technologically whether we like it or not. We cannot afford to ignore the ways that consumers make decisions around their consumption of entertainment if we wish to stay relevant.
It's not strictly an either/or choice. The market place shows that. People still go to live music events; but way more people stream their music. People still go to movie theaters; but way more people watch movies online. And now with the emergence of the metaverse, people are going to do even more things online that they used to do in "the real world." Why shouldn't stage hypnotists be part of that?
What We're Really Selling
Stage hypnotists are providing an experience to their audience. It's up to each of us to be purposeful about what exactly that experience is. Is it a theater experience? A hypnosis experience? Whatever the stage hypnotist frames it as should inform the development and planning of that experience. It can also allow for the delivery of the experience to change, and all signs in our broader culture point to this being a pivotal point, in that regard.
The pandemic hasn't so much created new challenges for our culture as it has amplified already existing challenges. Granted, it has amplified them like Spinal Tap--to eleven--but these challenges were already happening before COVID. Live audience attendance was shrinking. Venues were closing. All the while, more hypnotists were getting into the market, and competition for work was getting more fierce.
Now, as we move toward the possibility of a post-pandemic entertainment landscape, challenges will continue. Whether we approach them thoughtfully, or stick our heads in the sand will determine the viability of our industry in the years to come.