I am pleased to see that Tony Hassini has responded to the many questions asked about the Merlin Awards with the creation of a new Merlin Awards FAQ page.
The questions he addresses are listed below. For some, his answers are comprehensive. For me, they raise a few more questions:
Q: Why the Merlin Award?
A: "The Merlin Award was designed to promote the magic and the magician to the general public. A good example of this is Siegfried & Roy using their Merlin Award win on their billboards all over Las Vegas, as well as the marquee billboard on The Mirage Hotel & Casino. David Copperfield uses his Merlin Award in his live shows; before his shows begin, a large projection shows his awards and in large letters, “Magician of The Century, by the International Magicians Society“ is shown over and over again. And Criss Angel uses it quite often in his TV shows, his live show at The Luxor, and his magic set."
To me it seems the opposite. It looks like the magicians you mention here are promoting the Merlin Award to the general public.
New question: Also, how can all three (S&R, Angel, and Copperfield) all be 'Magician of the Century'? Wouldn't that look odd to the public?
"Also, the Merlin Award is designed to help magicians to negotiate for their next contract, which quite often becomes a good negotiation tool."
Possibly... it does sound like you've designed it as more of a promotional tool than, as Jim Callahan puts it, "a tribute of excellence to those in the industry"
"Recently, we presented the Merlin Award to Tse Tow Joon Yeen for Best Close-Up Magician In Brunei. The event was covered by radio, television, and all of the newspapers in Brunei. In fact, the Merlin Award made the front page of Brunei’s leading newspaper with the Sultan of Brunei.
When the Chairman/CEO of IMS travels the distance to go to a country to present the Merlin Award to a magician of that country, their media takes interest. This creates good PR for the recipient magician, as well as magicians in general."
Well, not for the other magicians who didn't win the Merlin Award. No doubt anyone looking for a Close Up magician in Brunei will want "the best". It does create great publicity for the Merlin Award too.
And when your selection process is like this, it does take some of the prestige off the actual win.
Q: Why is there no list of Merlin Award winners by date or title, like The Oscars do with their winners?
A: "Sometimes, I am asked why don’t we publish the year and category for each magician’s Merlin Award on our website. The fact is that when the magician receives his award, during the press conference, we announce the category. Thereafter, it serves no purpose to publish the category or the year on our website. Because some categories might sound more glorious than others, there’s no point of hyping or diminishing anyone’s award or the year they received it. And there’s no point in dating their awards either. The bottom line is everyone who received the Merlin Award is a Merlin Award Recipient and is entitled to enjoy the glory for the rest of their life without dating or categorizing it."
New question: Then why do some people receive Merlin Awards several years in a row? By this logic, that would be unnecessary.
Q: How many Merlin Awards are presented each year?
A: "I’m also asked how many Merlin Awards do we present per year. Since we are an international organization and have IMS Presidents in different countries, we try to consider as many countries and their magicians.
There are over 200 countries in the world. It will be humanly impossible to present 200 awards a year. Therefore, we try to narrow it down to approximately 30 countries and their magicians per year. Sometimes, there might be two or three magicians from each country."
Yet in 2005, for example, the only awards presented went to the cast of one Vegas show.
Q: Why are there multiple winners in some categories each year?
A: "We also presented duplicate categories in different countries. For example, there might be a Best Close-Up Magician In India, Best Close-Up Magician In China, and Best Close-Up Magician In Thailand. However, there is only one Magician of The Year, Illusionist of The Year, Mentalist of The Year, and Most Original Magician of The Year within any given year throughout the world."
New question: But how does that explain two 'Magician of the Year' awards in 1999 (both in the USA), two 'Most Original Magician of the Year' awards in 1999 (USA and Italy), two ;Magician of the Year' awards in 2004 (USA and Germany), three 'Female Magician of the Year' awards in 2008 (two in Vegas, one in Branson), two 'Magician of the Year' awards in 2009 (USA and Italy), three 'Magician of the Century' awards, two 'Mentalist of the Decade' awards (2008 and 2010), and three 'Illusionist of the Decade' awards (2004, 2009, 2010).
Q: How do you get chosen to receive a Merlin Award?
A: "I’m also asked how do we consider a nominee for the Merlin Award? A magician must send to the IMS World Headquarters a videotape or DVD of his complete act for our Board of Directors to consider. (No promo DVD’s or online videos are accepted.)"
Q: Are there any costs to receive the Merlin Award?
A: "The other question I am asked is “Are there any costs to receive the Merlin Award?” First, I must say that the Merlin Award is not for sale at any cost.
Regarding the actual out-of-pocket cost, this varies from situation to situation.
There are three ways a magician can receive the Merlin Award. One is to attend our Merlin Award banquet dinner; this is by invitation only, after the recipient was voted to receive the Merlin Award.
Two is to participate and win a Merlin Award competition in different countries, which is organized by IMS with the event and convention organizers.
And three is for us to travel to the magician’s country and present the Merlin Award to them in their own country.
So let’s look at the cost of the first scenario, which is where the magician must obtain a visa from the American embassy to travel to the USA. He must purchase airline tickets, other travel related costs and fees, hotels, meals, and $500 US dollars per plate at the Merlin Award banquet dinner.
In the second scenario, again the magician must travel to the event where the Merlin Award competition is taking place. He pays all of the same travel expenses as mentioned in the first scenario and pays for the entrance fee to the convention or to the competition, whichever applies.
In the third scenario, where we have to travel from the USA to the magician’s country, either the magician or the magician’s producer pays for all of the travel expenses, hotels, meals, airlines, and other related expenses.
Within any of these three scenarios, it’s always a trade when it comes to the cost."
But, as one magician I know found out, if you qualify to receive a Merlin Award but can't afford the "costs" of any one of these three scenarios, you won't win the award.
Q: Why do non-performers when when the IMS criteria states “The criteria that the voting members consider are talent, showmanship, originality, skills, and above all the rare ability to entertain under any conditions.”
A: "The Merlin Award is not only presented to the magicians, we presented the award to other individuals who helped create and shape magic and magicians. This includes illusion designers and builders, magic producers/directors, and performers who create a magical experience for their audience."