March 25, 2020

Rock Hall News: Museum CEO Greg Harris Guests on "Debatable"

The show must go on. It was announced this week that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will now be held on Saturday, November 7 at Public Auditorium in Cleveland (fingers crossed). Prior to that, as with the vast majority of "non-essential" public places, the Hall's museum temporarily closed its doors starting March 14 due to concerns over the current COVID-19 pandemic. (The current reopening date per the Rock Hall site is March 27, but that seems likely to change.) 

In times of crisis and uncertainty, it can be helpful to hear from the people in charge. On that note, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum CEO Greg Harris was a call-in guest on SiriusXM's "Debatable" show today, chatting about all the recent Rock Hall upheaval with hosts Mark Goodman and Alan Light. Here are some of the highlights of what Harris had to say, transcribed for those who missed it:

On the induction ceremony postponement: "It was the right thing to do as Coachella was postponed, as [SXSW] was being cancelled, as the NBA was looking to pause their season... it's one of those decisions that as soon as it was made, you knew it was the right decision."

On the Rock Hall museum's closure: "It was a Friday, and we were thinking, do we keep the museum open for the weekend, because there are already tickets out, people may have traveled, and all those things. And our Governor came out with this message. We knew we were closing, the question was, were we going to close on Friday or were we going to close on Monday, and after getting a lot of information, quite frankly from the CDC and others, we made the move to close at the end of [Friday]."

On the museum's mission going forward in our current era: "Our museum's mission is to engage, teach and inspire through the power of rock and roll... does that hold up in a changed world? And the mission actually holds up because it isn't dependent on physical space. Looking at how do we make the items in our vast collection available, how we do a lot of live concerts at the museum...[we] use the induction as an example - there's going to be 5000, 6000 people in the room for the ceremony, but there's going to be millions, and tens of millions that watch it online and through HBO's broadcast and through Sirius' broadcast. That's still very relevant and very important, and that's an opportunity to continue to expand and reach and connect."

On the challenges of rescheduling the induction ceremony: "Balancing the time when HBO could handle the broadcast, when [SiriusXM] could handle the broadcast, when the artists could travel, when our city had the spaces available. We take up a ton of hotel rooms, and getting all that together was a real Tetris puzzle... locally, we needed to get the hotel rooms, we needed to get the venues. There was a group called Union Home Mortgage that was holding an event for 1,200 friends and clients on the exact day we needed. They generously took on the task of moving that to another weekend, having to rebook all their hotel rooms... it got as granular as that."

On the scope of putting on the induction ceremonies: "It's an event that's on par with hosting the Final Four, or on par with major conventions. It's a citywide thing, it'll be the biggest event in Cleveland of that quarter. And quite frankly, if this [COVID-19] crisis continues, this could be the big party when we're all in the clear and ready to come back out again and celebrate rock and roll and how important it is to us."