Monday, September 20, 2010

British Music Experience at the O2 complex

I love British music. I often scan the UK iTunes store to sample their top songs for music not yet or will never be available in the United States. So I was looking forward to the British Music Experience which opened in March 2009 at the O2 entertainment complex. The museum features a retrospective look at the British music industry since 1944.

The museum is separated into seven chronological sections featuring instruments to clothing to records from the likes of Cliff Richard to the Rolling Stones to Duran Duran to the Spice Girls to Amy Winehouse. The experience is bookended in a video presentation. Within the museum is the Gibson Interactive Studio and Dance of the Decades display. Unique about this museum is your entry is via a smart ticket which enables you to bookmark any info that interests you by touching your ticket onto an electronic sensor to be retrieved later online at your leisure.

Despite my high hopes, I'm afraid this museum may have a tough go. Located such a distance from central London, the attraction unfortunately needs to meet a higher expectation. Is it the medium of music that is difficult to convey in a museum? Possibly since I was equally disappointed with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in NYC which shuttered in January 2010 after a year.

The main issue I have is the museum is almost completely interactive. In order to enjoy the videos or even to learn about any item on display, there is some button to press or turn. I was lucky that there were very few visitors this day since it would be impossible for a huge crowd to be interacting with an exhibit at the same time. I tried using the smart ticket. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Each section has two glass walls where objects are on display and if you were to view only these and skip anything interactive, you will be in and out in a flash. My suggestion is for more traditional displays with descriptions beside each item. But the museum is almost darkness so someone will have to turn up the lights.

A visit to this museum will depend heavily on your interest in British music to make the journey out of central London. Hours are Mon-Sun 11am-7:30pm. Admission is £15 (US$24). More info at Tube: North Greenwich.

Note: US residents with an iTunes account cannot make purchases from an iTunes store serving another country. So if I find a sample of song I like for a release that may never have a domestic release, the only recourse is to purchase it from a foreign retailer such as amazon's UK store ( or visit a UK record shop while there on vacation.


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