Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Prancing to Playlists: Museums on Spotify.

Maybe it’s just us, but museums seem to be everywhere at the moment? We live and breathe museums whether it’s starting the day with a mug from The Museum of London gift shop, working in one or spending our evenings checking out events. Here at The Ministry we just can’t get enough, and luckily for us their large presence on social media and collections online means that we can be part London’s museums 24/7. So it’s not too much of a surprise that they have even found a place on our favourite free music player is it?

When recently bopping along to some very cheesy music on Spotify I was interrupted (of course I can’t afford to pay monthly fees on a museum wage!) by an advertisement for Lowry: The Painting of Modern Life at Tate Britain. ‘Eh?’ I thought to myself is this really the best way to advertise something so visual? London has been inundated with those matchstick men stomping across posters on the underground and every other wall space in London this summer.  Is it a bit of a sneaky reminder that when I’m shaking my bum to Rihanna I must go and do something of cultural significance or just my Museum geek guilt?

I soon found out however that not only was there an advertisement but a whole Playlist inspired by the Exhibition produced by Tate.  Created by Adrian Shaw, Programmer for Late at Tate he often draws connections between music and art for the Lates. Offering a bit of ‘northern realism’ through The Smiths, working class culture with the Verve and a commentary on Thatcherite Britain by Billy Bragg Shaw the Lowry playlist attempts to echo the moods of the show.  

Upon conducting some more research I found that Tate wasn't the only one engaging in this musical outreach. The V&A have a playlist dedicated to the Post Modernism exhibition of 2011 – 2012 celebrating the music of the 70’s and 80’s ‘when style became an attitude and postmodernism ruled’ But it’s the Museum of London who has perhaps the most comprehensive playlist, not only frolicking on the links of art and music but with playlists inspired by permanent displays, exhibitions, events and even their film club. 

I’ve even heard from very reliable sources that the Horniman are in the later stages of creating a playlist including little gems like this.Horniman advert.

All very exciting for the non stop museum geek like myself. But what is the marketing strategy behind these? A recent  survey conducted by the Digital Media team at the V&A for the Online Managers Forum discussed statistics about ‘what visitors say about using mobile devices in Museum's'.  Typical use of Wi-Fi and engaging with younger audiences came out top. But they also found that participants responded well to the idea of music related to period or place.

However with such playlists its unclear where their use should take place in the museum or at home? I myself would hate to visit a calm and quiet gallery disturbed by the tinny feedback of headphones.  But in a sound appropriate area I think it’s a great way to engage audiences, encourage contextualization and get down to some new  tunes. 

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