- When Julius Dein started making videos for the internet, he was performing street magic.
- He pivoted to prank videos when the pandemic hit and grew to have more views than any other creator.
- This is his story, as told to writer Ash Jurberg.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Julius Dein. It has been edited for length and clarity.
In 2004, when I was 10 years old, my grandmother took me to the Magic’s Circle in London, where I lived, to see a magic show.
Seeing children perform magic inspired me, and when I went home, I begged my mother to sign me up for the Magic Circle so I could learn magic myself. At 13, I got my first job at a magic stall in London performing magic to passersby, which kick-started my career in magic. At the time, I had no idea where it would lead.
I started making magic videos on YouTube while I was in college in Los Angeles
I continued practicing magic throughout school and only got better. I started at King’s College in 2014 and, in 2015, got a 12-month study-abroad placement at the University of California, Los Angeles.
While there, I created a website to promote my work and focused heavily on search-engine optimization, hoping to secure my spot as the most sought-after magician in Los Angeles.
Soon, my website was the first result when you Googled “magician in Los Angeles,” which led to Kelly Rowland booking me for her husband’s surprise birthday party. This was a great boost to my confidence, and though it was a private party that Rowland didn’t promote, the event gave me great promotional material for my website. This led to more bookings.
Soon after, I met Logan Paul at the gym. I saw how successful he was on YouTube. I knew the platform could help my magic career, so I started making videos.
My videos were made well. I told stories while I did magic to keep things interesting and fresh. I made them fairly quick so I wouldn’t lose people’s attention. It was a simple formula, but it worked, and not many other magicians at the time seemed to be doing the same thing.
When I returned to London, I made magic videos on the street every day
I returned to London to complete my final year of college, and after graduation, I decided to continue doing magic full time.
I’d perform magic on the street every day and capture what I did to post on my social-media channels and use as marketing. My friends had graduated college and were working for nongovernmental organizations, charities, and political organizations, and here I was, making daily videos and performing magic.
After I had about 100 videos, one of me doing magic tricks for my grandmother blew up on Facebook and got over 100 million views. From there, my follower count on Snapchat and Instagram grew; soon, I had half a million followers across my social-media platforms. This led to sponsorship deals from companies who wanted to be featured in my videos.
I was only 21 and being paid up to $20,000 a deal. I was earning a six-figure annual salary and employed a small team to help me make content. Soon, I was traveling the world filming magic videos in places such as Singapore and Rome.
Across my accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, my videos would get tens of millions of views, and my followers would suggest where I should travel next to perform magic.
I began performing for more celebrities and doing TV shows
I was being recognized publicly as my social-media follower count approached 30 million. I did tricks for Drake, Post Malone, Paula Abdul, Kelly Clarkson, and Lionel Messi. I also appeared on TV with people such as Steve Harvey.
I was at an all-time high. Then, the pandemic started while I was on vacation in Mexico. I couldn’t perform magic videos or live performances and was trapped in an apartment in Playa del Carmen with my girlfriend wondering how to earn money. That’s when I saw a trend of people doing mindless prank videos online. They would run for three or four minutes with very little point, but they were popular with people bored in lockdown.
So I started making prank videos, too. The first video I made in Mexico was of my girlfriend pretending to be asleep while I drew a mustache on her face.
In my opinion, it wasn’t my best work, but it still went viral. After that, I started making similar videos; they were so successful that I soon had a small team of 20 people across three apartments in Playa del Carmen making them with me. This consisted of friends who had joined me from the UK and locals I employed.
I hate mentioning money, but my team and I were making more money than we could dream of by posting these videos on Facebook and YouTube. Over 2020 and 2021, we got more than 45 billion views across my platforms — more than MrBeast and Paul combined. This made me the most viewed creator on the internet.
I was young, living with my friends, and making a fortune. It seems like I should have been happy, but I wasn’t.
Even with all my success, I was miserable
During this period, I broke up with my girlfriend, and when I wasn’t making videos, I would lock myself in my bedroom. I hated our content, as it felt mindless and unrelated to my magic. I was purely focused on the money.
Then, late in 2021, something changed with how video monetization worked on Facebook, and I could no longer gain money from my work on the platform. So without the benefit of earning revenue, my team and I stopped making videos for a week.
Without the burden of producing mindless videos, I noticed that I started feeling happier. I decided not to make any more prank videos and refocused on magic.
I deleted all my old videos
Despite the fact that the videos I had uploaded were still earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in what was basically passive income, I decided to delete them.
I had a digital asset earning significant money, but it didn’t represent me or my brand. I decided my long-term goals were more important than the money and had them permanently deleted.
When pandemic restrictions in the UK were loosened, I returned to London and now focus on my magic shows and magic-related videos. I’m also starting a magic academy where I will teach others.
This experience has taught me that no amount of money or views can make me happy if I’m not following my passion. That’s more important to me than anything else and a message I’m keen to share.
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