The future of the closed Alabama Music Hall of Fame remains uncertain as officials discuss possible sources of funding.
Just as a new documentary about Muscle Shoals music is gaining national attention, the area’s largest music attraction remains closed without enough money to pay its utility bills.
This sad contrast presents both a difficult challenge and a bright opportunity to chart a new direction for the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
The site on U.S. 72 in Tuscumbia was established as a statewide attraction to preserve and promote the state’s musical heritage through exhibits, education and performances. Through the years, however, the hall of fame suffered from lack of promotional funds, little investment in fresh exhibits, poor ticket sales and the inability to become a popular venue for concerts.
Already experiencing lackluster attendance, the hall of fame suffered the most serious blow when the state of Alabama ended funding for museums.
The hall of fame closed during the Christmas holidays and has not had enough money to reopen. It is behind on its utility bills and the power has been disconnected.
In this seemingly hopeless environment, five members of the local legislative delegation met with the museum’s board and other local officials this week to discuss possible solutions.
One idea was to use the good press created by a new music documentary to approach Gov. Robert Bentley about state assistance.
Indeed, the documentary titled “Muscle Shoals,” which showed at the Sundance Film Festival, is generating plenty of positive buzz. It features some of the biggest names in music, including Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin and U2’s Bono.
With the condition of state finances, however, we would assert that money from the governor’s office is the longest of longshots.
As stated before on these opinion pages, the best hope may be in narrowing the hall of fame’s focus to the Shoals’ rich music scene. People from around the world know about the Muscle Shoals sound, but if they visit here there isn’t much to see other than historical markers and private recording studios.
A fun and lively museum dedicated exclusively to Shoals music — past and present — would likely connect with more people than a hall of fame focused on Alabama music. It could be used as a launching point to experience the local music scene in more detail.
Of course, even a new mission would not easily solve the issue of money. Another matter is that the state owns the property and assets, and the museum might have to be relocated. But if the attraction is viewed as both a local problem and a local opportunity, perhaps more municipal and county government, colleges and universities, businesses, individuals and musicians would buy into the need to give the museum a solid future.