Opinion: The Bruce Springsteen Online Museum is Not Worth It - Icon Week

By Matthew DeMello

Bruce Springsteen at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland last year. Photo courtesy of Laura.

A few weeks ago, the BTR offices caught word of a new online museum devoted completely to the only boss I care to listen to: Bruce Springsteen. With slight but approving mentions in outlets-of-rapport like The New York Times, the exhibit has skimmed the margins of the internet, making a blip on a few other novelty radars before being forgotten.

Still, I was intrigued. What Springsteen freak could get a worthwhile experience looking at lyric sheets and concert posters without being able to smell them?

Let me begin here by mentioning that while I’m a die-hard Bruce Springsteen fan, I’m also pretty frugal. My brother bought me that $100-plus Darkness on the Edge of Town box set four years ago for Christmas that I doubt I would have purchased on my own, at least not for a few years.

So I could be persuaded to endorse a Bruce Springsteen online museum (as bogus as that sounds already) for a reasonable price. But The Ultimate Online Bruce Springsteen Experience does not charge a reasonable price. When tasked with giving this lofty exhibition a spin last week, I was asked to log into Pay Pal and pay these people $9.99 a month for access to this museum.

Let me also add that I would pay $9.99 a month for access to an historical look at Springsteen’s life and career that had some tactile value to it–or at least wasn’t impeded by the fact I’m digesting said media through a screen. I’m just saying for that same price, I could get a low-grade Sirius XM subscription good enough to tune into their E Street Band-themed 24-hour radio station–not to mention the numerous ways to cobble together a Springsteen-based playlist for free on other subscription services.

But I digress; a museum is not a radio station, even if it is on the internet. Then again, Bruce Springsteen is not an historical icon such as Abraham Lincoln. For starters, he’s still alive, and has enough trouble navigating the straights between tactfully honoring his own achievements as a living legend to stimulate fan interest while forging ahead in his career in pursuit of relevance.

Still, based on the “free room” the museum has available for preview, featuring a copy of Springsteen’s elementary school report card (his elementary school report card!), I have trouble imagining the rest of the Ultimate Online Bruce Springsteen Experience would be remotely insightful. Granted, this is but a small piece of a larger “narrative” that museum creator Michael Crane believes will draw fans into Springsteen’s life story (and assuage their third grade math skill-related insecurities).

Somehow, though, my interest remains thoroughly un-piqued, at least for the price. If The Ultimate Online Bruce Springsteen Experience only cost $5.99 for a one-time glimpse, I might actually muster the energy to plug PayPal into my browser (and I’d be okay with you calling me nuts, that’s what fans do)–but asking for more a month than a Netflix subscription?

The only compelling feature here is the first drafts of lyrics sheets, which can be appreciated just as easily behind a glass container as they can behind a glowing rectangular screen, I guess.

There are apparently enough well-off baby boomer fans who have the spare change to support this website, so I suppose I might come off here as stingy. The thing is, being dirt-poor while following my dreams is the whole point of being a Springsteen fan. And at least the Boss himself understands this well enough to pick fights with Ticketmaster when they try pulling money grabbing stunts to squeeze his fans’ wallets.

At the very bottom of the website, they very appropriately cite that they have no official affiliation with Springsteen or his longtime manager, Jon Landau. Sometimes music critics point out the pair can be a little too controlling when it comes to the Boss’s legacy, as evidenced by the very not-spontaneous or compelling documentaries that accompany most of his box sets.

Alas, The Ultimate Online Bruce Springsteen Experience shows you there’s good reason to be cautious, as a living icon, with who is allowed to celebrate your iconography. There are plenty of suckers out there, or at least enough to justify this online museum’s existence.