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Insights

Money, money, money – it’s a museum world….

Just returned from ABBA The Museum in Stockholm where I added my version of Money, money, money – to those recorded by visitors. It seemed appropriate – more about that later. ABBA The Museum opened in May in a prime position – close to popular tourist venues, Skansen, Grona Lund and the VASA museum. This is a wonderful experience for any ABBA fan as well as for those more lukewarm about the Swedish pop group who shot to worldwide fame after winning the Eurovision contest in Brighton with Waterloo in 1973. In a packed decade ABBA created a new sound, a brilliant songbook, fantastic costumes and stage settings, and redefined the pop-video. The exhibition traces their individual careers through the early years singing in Sweden’s folk parks and clubs, until they became ABBA. Bjorn and Benny were the brains behind the music and the lyrics, while Anni-Frid (Frida) and Agneta had the voices and the looks to deliver. In videos, film clips, and lots of audio, one popular tune follows another, while filmed interviews with the foursome then and now portray them as normal, likeable people. This is not a museum as such – more an exhibition crammed into surprisingly small spaces with unsophisticated displays which properly reflect the ‘70s. The songwriters’ hut is recreated overlooking the archipelago; there is the recording studio where they all worked tirelessly to perfect each number and also the dressmakers where some of the costumes were made. And there is a huge number of costumes set on dummies for you to stroll among, and a few you can try on, as well as private cubicles to record your own version of an ABBA song, alternatively you can perform on a small stage! The Swedish Music Hall of Fame shares the 2,000 sq m exhibition space right at the end but somehow doesn’t make the same impact. Who could compete with Dancing Queen or Thank you for the music or Knowing me, Knowing you.

After a fraught history, one plan for the museum fell through after the costs escalated, this version of the museum has been set up without glitzy technology apart from the film and audio clips but plenty of opportunities to join in. There is an array of supporting partners on the website for this private venture. The steep entrance charge (195 kr or nearly £20 per adult) and a large gift shop as well as a new, small hotel above (operated by Clarion) with its own restaurant will no doubt keep the museum afloat…and I imagine ABBA royalties are still rolling in. Will it be a success with visitors? We all know the challenges pop music exhibitions have faced over time in the UK. But the Beatles Story is still going strong, and the British Music Experience at the O2 is proving that it can work, if you get the right mix and sponsors. ABBA The Museum has the Beatles’ usp of worldwide fans to keep it going, the commitment of Bjorn Ulvaes and his team, and apparently a strong financial base to ensure its future.