The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
turned 20 years old last year, which prompted discussions of a new strategic plan to keep on rockin’ and give the museum an updated look and feel while keeping up with technology.
“We’re 21 years old and the inside joke is: ‘We’re of age. What are we going to be when we grow up?’” says Todd Mesek, the Rock Hall’s vice president of marketing and communications. “We’re looking at this with a new set of eyes. It’s about looking at how we can really engage people and make it exciting for everyone.”
Achieving that goal means looking at every generation and rock music style. It’s about telling in-depth stories and connecting visitors to the artists and musicians showcased in the museum.
“We’re going deeper, telling stories and making it engaging,” says Mesek. “For the Baby Boomers, the Rolling Stones might be an entry point, but we want to take them to Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga – make that connection point. If you’re 17, there are a lot of connections to classic rock – who’s doing it today, who’s carrying on that torch.”
Many of the exhibits will be more interactive, Mesek says, like the new permanent exhibit on the first floor, Backstage Stories, which chronicles how live concerts are produced, or the Paul Simon exhibit that includes film footage of the musician in his everyday life.
“It’s not just the music, the artist, the genre,” says Mesek. “It’s how it crosses over in other parts of their lives.”
The planned Garage Zone, will be a true hands-on experience with an educational element, where visitors can make their own music. “It’s a space where they can touch instruments, pick up a guitar or mix a soundtrack and learn what happens in a mix down,” Mesek explains.
Another future planned project is the Signature Experience, which will combine enhanced inductee exhibits with a signature multimedia presentation production by Oscar-winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme.
The experience will begin before visitors even step inside the Rock Hall, though. The giant Rock Boxes
, installed before the Republican National Convention, are now permanent public art pieces lining East 9th
Street - AKA Rock and Roll Boulevard - playing music and drawing visitors to the museum.
“It’s a long walk so we wanted the space to really come alive,” says Mesek of the trek down East 9th
to North Coast Harbor.
Last Thursday, Nov. 17, the Rock Hall officially dedicated its giant welcome message – seven-foot-high red letters, spelling out LONG LIVE ROCK on the 65,000-square-foot entrance plaza. “People are climbing on them every single day,” says Mesek of the letters. “And they light up at night, adding energy to it.”
The atrium also has a new look, painted red, gold and black. “The red symbolizes the passion and energy of rock and roll; the black represents the edge and grit of rock and roll; while the gold, used sparingly, represents the inductions,” says Mesek.
The museum store has been redesigned to better meet the needs of visitors looking for more than just a souvenir t-shirt, as well as create a better layout with a relaxed atmosphere.
“There’s a place for people to sit down and charge their phones,” says Mesek of the new store, which is also keeping up with the times in a way. “There are fewer CDs, but more vinyl in matching consumer trends. We have lifestyle products that are co-branded with the inductees, like women’s scarves and cool unique t-shirts you’d wear out to a club.”
An “all-access” café, featuring cuisine from local celebrity chefs Michael Symon, Jonathan Sawyer, Rocco Whalen and Fabio Salerno, will offer unique, tasty dining, and no admission ticket is required. Mesek says people are encouraged to dine at the café for a casual lunch or as part of the whole Rock Hall experience.
“They’re so excited,” Mesek says of the chefs involved. “Rocco was joking about changing his name to RockHall. We wanted something that is fresh and forward-thinking.”
By next summer, a permanent stage with new sound and lighting systems will grace the entrance plaza for live entertainment. The popular beer garden and food trucks and plenty of greenspace will also add to the outdoor venue. “Sit down, have a beer, grab something to eat,” Merek says by as a welcome to future visitors. “It just adds to the experience.”
Other improvements include an updated ticketing system, which will speed up on-site and online advance ticket purchases and motorcycle parking.