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Insights for Stage Hypnotists Into the College Market

The International Stage Hypnotist Association (ISHA) has embarked on an ambitious project to deepen our understanding of market segments within the hypnotism community and collect comprehensive data about our profession. This initiative signifies a pivotal step towards addressing the lack of consolidated data in our field.

Embracing Data Collection to Navigate Market Dynamics

For too long, we have relied on anecdotal information in this profession. If we are to grow and improve as a professional community, we must recognize the importance of empirical data. In support of this, ISHA will be conducting a series of short surveys throughout 2024 to gather insights directly from practitioners. This ongoing effort aims to identify market trends, performance rates, and challenges faced by stage hypnotists. We are treating this first round of surveys as phase one of a long-term effort to gather information about our professionals and the markets they work in so that we may all better understand how we might better adjust to the changing nature of those markets. The association views these efforts as foundational stones for constructive dialogue and improvement within the profession.

Survey of College Hypnotists

Our first survey was recently conducted, and it sought to begin gathering basic information from hypnotists who work in the college market. Unfortunately, our response rate was low, with only thirteen surveys completed. While this would not be considered a reliable data set, it does give us some level of reporting that we can use to start having conversations about the college market.

The preliminary data sheds light on several critical aspects:

Performance Frequency

The median number of shows performed by respondents in the past twelve months stood at five, with a range spanning from zero to thirty. This shows where the low response rate hurt us. We know through our collegial connections that there are multiple hypnotists in the market doing over fifty shows per year and some doing around a hundred shows per year. It would have been helpful to get survey responses from some of them. We will make attempts to do so in the future.

There are approximately 4,000 colleges in the United States alone. Providing healthy social activities in the form of entertainment events has been a longstanding tradition on college campuses. The schools use a fee assessed to students (often called the Student Activity Fee) to provide a budget for events throughout the year. Our survey numbers do not accurately reflect the richness of this market.

Pandemic’s Impact

54% of respondents reported a decrease in bookings compared to pre-pandemic levels, suggesting lingering challenges in market recovery. 46% of respondents reported the same level of bookings. No respondents reported increased booking numbers compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The slow recovery may not be due to the pandemic, however. The budgets of campus programming boards and student activities councils have been getting reduced for years, well before the pandemic. This would account for some decrease of bookings. Also, students aren’t attending live events on campus the way they used to. This is probably also having an effect on how many events get booked. We’ll discuss this further in the section about attendance.

Financial Aspects

The survey also delved into the financial dimensions of our practice, revealing a wide range in the pricing of shows. The highest price reported was $3,500 per show. The lowest price reported was $1,100 per show. The median point in price responses was $2,175. This variety not only highlights the economic disparities within our field but also prompts a reevaluation of pricing strategies to ensure fair compensation and sustainability.

Pricing will be subject to market forces and the perception of each artist about how to be competitive in the marketplace, as well as how to assign value to their own service and charge accordingly. That being said, there is a concern, here, about the wide range of pricing that was reported by respondents. With half of the respondents reporting average prices below the median point of $2,175, this would suggest that a significant number of entertainment hypnotists are hurting themselves with their pricing in the college market.

We know from speaking with agents that work the college market that there are many, many acts in the college market routinely being booked for higher than that median figure. It’s important for entertainment hypnotists to stay on top of market pricing and adjust their prices accordingly. For example, the lowest price reported in the survey was $1,100. The average of all the prices in the survey was $1,852. The hypnotist charging $1,100 is $752 below average. That’s not competitive pricing; it’s leaving money on the table unnecessarily.

As we collect more information about the markets and practices of our contemporaries, we hope that we can assist our colleagues in making adjustments to pricing and booking strategies that help everyone be more prosperous.

Attendance Levels

The average attendance reported by respondents was 135 people. 62% of respondents reported this as a decrease from pre-pandemic levels. Of all the questions in the survey, the responses to this question most represent what we would consider to be “the canary in the coal mine,” and there is cause for alarm, when we see this number.

An average attendance of 135 is a distinct decrease from the attendance levels experienced in this market before the pandemic. At this level of attendance, there is a real possibility that campus programming boards may arrive at a point where they believe the value of hiring entertainment hypnotists is no longer positive. Let’s use the median price reported earlier to illustrate.

When attendance was more consistently at 250 people per show, the per person cost of hiring that median act ($2,175) would have been $8.70 per person. Quite reasonable. Now, at an average attendance of 135, the cost is $16 per person, nearly twice as much.

There’s an even more troubling aspect that is being reported in the profession. More than ever, hypnotists are showing up at colleges and seeing attendance on some nights of only 20-40 people. On these nights, that cost per person would jump to about $72 per person.

Keep in mind that this challenge is not limited to hypnotists. It is an issue happening across all forms of entertainment at colleges in the United States. It’s not that they don’t want to come to hypnosis shows; they care less about all forms of live entertainment. It is critical that we keep a watchful eye on the college market and continue to discuss this development. The repercussions for entertainment hypnotists could be serious.

Conclusion

It is clear that the college market is changing. At this time, we simply don’t have enough data to make clear assertions about those changes. For now, we hope that there is recognition at the broader level of the professional community in asking thoughtful questions and continuing to develop data collection resources that will help us make informed decisions that help the profession as a whole and the individuals within it.

The ISHA’s initiative represents a critical step towards understanding and addressing the nuanced needs of the stage hypnotist community. As we continue to gather information and refine our approaches, the collective wisdom and efforts of our community will undoubtedly pave the way for sustained growth and success in the art and science of stage hypnotism.

We hope you will support us in our efforts to collect information about our profession, and that you will join us for an ongoing conversation about what the information we collect means for our profession.

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