- Social-media star Julius Dein has developed an online following of 20 million subscribers across four platforms in two years.
- The street magician and performer said he owes his online success to his knowledge of SEO analytics and his devotion to magic tricks.
Two years ago, Julius Dein was a college student performing magic tricks at weddings and bar mitzvahs to make some extra cash. Now he’s an internet sensation with an international online following of 20 million subscribers across four platforms.
Julius Dein is the impresario of the eponymous Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and Facebook accounts, where he performs comedic pranks and magic tricks to crowds of incredulous onlookers. His meteoric rise to internet stardom is a byproduct of what he describes as his two obsessions: magic and social media.
This is Dein’s most popular YouTube video, which has over 3 million views:
And people can’t seem to get enough of him:
On a recent trip to India, Dein scheduled a meet-up in a public square in Mumbai. Dein said that the turnout shocked even him. Here’s what happened:
While Dein’s videos speak to a global audience, he said the majority of his subscribers are from the US and Mexico, and they’re huge supporters of Dein’s online antics.
The 23-year-old Briton said he was attracted to magic at a young age for the amazed reactions his tricks elicited.
“It was like a drug,” Dein told Business Insider. “To get those freak-out-screaming reactions. I love pushing the boundaries of possibility.”
Head to Dein’s Instagram page and you’ll find a comprehensive video collection of Dein performing his mischievous brand of magic tricks.
Dein — with his compact stature, unruly hair, and signature glasses — looks like a cross between Elijah Wood’s Frodo and Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter. He’s often at rowdy public events with a crowd of curious passersby observing as he executes some sleight of hand.
Disappearing coins, bouquets procured from thin air, and levitating objects are all within Dein’s repertoire, and even when a trick falls flat, he laughs it off with characteristic good humor. The reactions from Dein’s audiences are largely the same: shrieks of horror or delight, confounded ponderings (“How did you do that, dude?!”), and cries of profanity.
There’s a Logan Paul roguery to Dein’s online presence as well. (In one of Dein’s videos, he hangs out with Paul at Team 10’s LA headquarters.) One YouTube clip features Dein wandering around London with two gay friends, hurling homophobic slurs to see how passersby “react to homophobia.” In another, he demos a set of electric toothbrush heads in the guise of Apple earbuds to a crowd of concertgoers.
Dein’s subjects are attractive, bikini-clad women reclining beachside: the modern-day equivalent of the magician’s stilettoed assistant. Dein has an entire series devoted to capturing a woman’s attention: There’s “How to impress a girl with magic tricks!,” “How to kiss a girl with a magic trick,” and “How to blow a girl’s mind with FAKE magic!”
Making magic tricks palatable to an internet-savvy audience isn’t easy, according to Dein.
“Magic isn’t very cool,” he said. “It’s actually quite niche, and it’s difficult to make it relatable. People say I’m like the new wave of magic, not like that old-school David Blaine stuff.”
Dein said older magicians who aren’t yet wise to social media will soon be replaced by a new order of Instagram elites. He asked me to consider the Instagram followings of some of the world’s most famous magicians to that of his two million: David Blaine has 463,000, Penn and Teller have under 50,000, and even David Copperfield, the highest-paid magician today, boasts a paltry online following of under 100,000. (It’s a similar story on Facebook, where Dein’s 13 million followers eclipse those of the aforementioned magicians.)
Isn’t this just a generational thing? I asked Dein. Established magicians might perform on live TV shows or in schmaltzy Vegas showrooms, but that doesn’t mean the up-and-coming Instastars of today are going to replace them altogether.
Dein disagrees. “It’s not even that Blaine is from a different generation,” he said. “He was big, like, seven years ago, whereas I’m using social, which is the new big thing. Social media is how the new generation of superstars are being made.”
Dein’s meticulous obsession with social media shines. At the beginning of our phone call, he rhapsodizes about SEO analytics, social media, and content distribution with the sort of raw enthusiasm that most people typically reserve for their favorite pet.
More than once, he suggested a potential headline during the course of the interview. “You know what a good headline would be?” he said. “”How this magician became the biggest magician in the world.’ Or what about: ‘How this magician became the biggest magician in the world in only two years’?”
Like any internet star with a sizable online following, Dein spends a great deal of his time thinking about what people would or wouldn’t click on.
“I’m utterly obsessed,” he said. “It consumes my entire life. I think about it from the moment I wake up and grab my phone to the moment I go to sleep at night.”
But even with his growing online presence and resolute devotion to social media, Dein said he’s considering opting into a medium that’s just a tad more old-school: television. While he envisions social media as being his primary platform for now, Dein said that his material would do well for something like “a badass show on Netflix.”