There is a great deal of public misunderstanding on the different types of magic. This explanation is intended to improve understanding so new magic enthusiasts can better select their magic for the venues in which they intend to perform. When selecting new magic it is important to consider the intended audience. Some magic is appropriate in more than one category while other magic is only appropriate for a single category. For example, making an elephant disappear is not necessarily the best choice to perform in one's living room for two friends. Likewise, making a coin disappear and producing it from behind someone's ear is not appropriate for a stage show with an audience of four hundred people. It is our hope that through better education of the types of magic, magic enthusiasts will improve their art and entertainment value to their audiences.
Close Up Magic - This term applies to magic that can be seen by a few people at a time, two or three up to perhaps ten or twelve. If you have a specific venue designed for close up magic (such as the "Close Up Gallery" in The Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA) where there is elevated seating and everyone gets a good view of the performance table then an audience of about twenty to twenty-five is appropriate.
Parlor Magic - In days gone by (long, long ago) when people had a room in their home called the "parlor" or "parlour" in England, larger parties were common, and it wasn't unusual to have forty to seventy-five people in attendance. These rooms were specifically designed for large parties and they were often used for musical events such as piano recitals or string quartets, etc. In this environment guests would not be able to see close up coins, cards, etc., so entertainers needed larger props (but not too large) and effects that could easily be seen by everyone. Anything that will play to an audience of this size is appropriate. An audience of this size cannot see a coin but a powerful mental routine with a deck of cards can be used if presented well. A good example of this is the "Parlour of Prestidigitation" in The Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA. It seats seventy-five guests in tiered seating.
Stage Magic - Anytime a larger audience is expected (say a hundred or more) then the need for larger props becomes paramount. This is where large "boxy" illusions come into play and/or audience participation effects using smaller things such as egg bags, large linking rings, etc., where the stories and audience interaction can be enjoyed by everyone. If someone in the back of the room would say something like, "I can't see what he's holding," or "what is that," then that effect is definitely too small. Try to imagine someone in the back row of a five hundred seat theatre trying to see quarters on a table while a magician performs his "perfect" matrix routine. That's not an entertaining show.
Street Magic - This is probably the most misunderstood and misused term in all of magic. Various famous magicians have appeared on television (or in theaters with giant video screens) performing close up coin or card effects to people on the street. All of a sudden new magic enthusiasts wants to do "street magic" without understanding that the entertainers they have seen were playing to a television audience, not a true street crowd. Just about anything can be performed on the street to unsuspecting people but that doesn't change the fact that the effects are still close up magic. A "true" street performer will gather a crowd and entertain them with the ultimate hope that the people will throw a tip into the proverbial hat at the conclusion of the performance. These entertainers are called Buskers and their art is called Busking. They tend to use things that will attract and entertain a crowd such as juggling, fire, cups and balls on a table, comedy, jokes, etc., etc. Simply performing close up magic to people on the street does not make one a "street magician." It's no different from performing magic for a few friends in their home, at school or at work. A true street magician knows how to gather, hold and entertain a crowd.
Conclusion - A professional entertainer will always choose their magic carefully so it will play appropriately to their anticipated audience.