At £19 a ticket (£21 on weekends) it’s not cheapest way to spend an hour in London but for fans of the Stones or just a music fans, like my husband I, it was a rare chance to get a close and a deep look into the lives of ”The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World.”
"It's come out better than I thought. It's a fun half-hour walk-through," Mick Jagger
Mick was right, it was fun, and it’s clear the the show’s primary focus is on entertaining visitors. It does this through its varied mix of media, its designers say was more like designing a concert than a traditional museum or gallery experience…. And that’s why it works so well. You can’t help but want to engage in every aspect of the well considered experience and the information in it. This is largely down to the clever use of media and how well the content has been presented.
The show starts with digital graphics presenting a timeline of their musical output (over 600 songs) and a map of their 1800-plus gigs… Most people were memorised by this opening and you can’t help but think had this been a static piece of information the impressiveness of the narrative would had been lost.
Then a multi-screen display combines footage of screaming fans, vast arena tours and shock headlines documenting drugs charges, arrests and band departures. Quite a start to the show, but you’d expect nothing less from the Rolling Stones – it was a brand amplifying welcome that made it clear this wasn’t going to be like any other ‘museum’ exhibition.
You then move through a series of spaces each looking at a particular aspect of the band’s work, rather than a show arranged in chronological order. From their first apartment, backstage dressing rooms, costumes through to a 3D show of their recent tour it’s completely immersive – so much so you felt like you had been transported to that moment in time.
The incredible attention to detail was best bought to life in a recreation of the studio where they recorded their first single (you can almost smell the stale cigarette smoke) and a recreation, to scale, of the band’s first flat in Chelsea. As Keith Richards puts it’s “a pigsty”, unwashed dishes fill the kitchen sink, a dining table is littered with dirty plates and cigarette butts. The flat’s only bedroom has peeling wallpaper and spots of mold on the ceiling, unmade single beds, a tatty armchair and a sofa. Blues music is playing from a record player and vinyl records are scattered across the coffee table.
"The milk bottles were just growing this…stuff," Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts says through a speaker as visitors walk through.
“Having the voices [of the band] in there adds so much… Without them, you might think it was a little overdone, then you listen to them and you realise it’s a pretty accurate representation of just how dirty it was.” Exhibitionism Designer
The experience was one I felt was worth every penny and a big reason for this was it was completely aligned to the Rolling Stones brand. Everything they appear to stand for was evident in this exhibition – spirit, flamboyance, confidence, stylishness, flair and confidence.
Before going, part of me, ignorantly perhaps, did just expect a traditional museum exhibition but by the end of it I felt like I’d had an ‘experience’ having been completely immersed in the essence in the Rolling Stones brand. In hindsight anything other than this design-led, energetic walkthrough experience would have been completely wrong – the Stones have always been about variation, creativity, being different and being top of their game and this exhibition proves why they are still regarded as “the greatest rock & roll band in the world”.
Brand take-out – don’t restrict or benchmark ideas against an ‘experience category’. Break the rules and norms of what people would expect. Your brand, its values and personality is the best guide to help you design differientating experiences.