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What Is the British Music Experience?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 04 April 2014
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The Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Experience Music Project in Washington are where America keeps many of its choicest music memorabilia, creating a distinctly American pantheon of legends. In 2009, with the creation of the British Music Experience in the O2 Bubble entertainment complex in London's North Greenwich area, the United Kingdom had established its own respectful pantheon. The museum and educational institution goes back all the way to the 1940s to pay tribute not only to local artists who have shaped modern pop and rock but also musicians from other countries who have been widely embraced by British culture.

Some of the greatest bands in British modern music are represented, by chronological era, in the British Music Experience. The World War II era, with exposure to American country and big band music, fed into the later eras of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones on into more modern musicians like Stone Roses, Oasis and Amy Winehouse. According to a BBC report on the opening of the museum in 2009, each era from 1945 had detailed memorabilia, such as the iconic costumes from Adam Ant, David Bowie and Duran Duran filling in the late 1970s and early 1980s glam- and punk-heavy section.

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The non-profit museum received $6.5 million pounds [about $10,000,000 US Dollars (USD)] worth of collectibles when it opened, from more than 100 artists and producers. Famous British music promoter Harvey Goldsmith, chairman of the British Music Experience board, contributed much of the remainder of the items in the museum, which cost $9,500,000 million pounds (nearly $15,000,000 USD) to design and build. At 6,500 square meters, the O2 Bubble also has room for three entertainment venues to fully promote the British Music Experience — the massive central arena that holds 23,000 as well as the indigO2 and Matter clubs. The complex also has a movie theater, restaurants and shops.

Goldsmith and a team of curators at the museum decide which artists and displays are given prominence at the museum. This differs from the Rock Hall in Cleveland, which nominates and inducts members based on the votes of a sizable committee of industry leaders. The British Music Experience filled a decade-long gap in the United Kingdom, however, that formed when the Sheffield-based Centre for Popular Music closed.

Apart from the exhaustive chronological displays and play-back booths at the British Music Experience, visitors also have access to other areas with a hands-on focus. An interactive studio produced by the Gibson instrument maker offers the latest musical rock instruments to sample. Another area, called Dance the Decades, teaches visitors popular dances from different eras. All of Great Britain is highlighted, with one display letting patrons move a cursor around a map of the island nation to learn where various musical milestones occurred.

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