National Centre for Popular Music

An example of preparing the business case.

National Centre for Popular Music

The National Museum of Pop Music, Sheffield. Photo by

What happens when a strong vision lacks a strong business case

The £15 million National Centre for Popular Music opened in Sheffield in 1999. But by 2000 it had gone into administration, and then had to close its doors. How could this happen to an iconic building in a major British city that had secured £11 million of National Lottery funding?

Ultimately, the Centre failed to attract enough visitors and cash flow to ensure its viability. A major problem was reported with assumptions made in the business case that there would be 400,000 visitors per year.  But the exhibition itself was not successful enough with audiences to bring in revenues in line with the projections made.

Even before the museum had opened, the high-tech displays, which blurred the distinction between different types of popular music, were criticised by industry experts. Driven by the museum’s creative director, the displays employed a non-conformist approach which, despite extolling local music heroes, confused audiences. The press described the exhibitions as ‘bafflingly vague’

With only 104,000 visitors in the first six months, it failed to attract the necessary audience numbers that the business case was based on.

Following a change in management, displays were altered and admission prices reduced. However, it was too late, and the museum could not recoup its losses. It subsequently closed, and the building has now reopened as a students’ union in a deal reportedly worth just under £2 million.  

Telegraph article, 'Student group takes over pop museum', 21 February 2003
Guardian article, 'Museum of Pop loses its rescuer', 12 January 2000