When most people think of the band Hanson, many things may come to mind: that infectious mega-hit “MMMBop,” the boy band genre and maybe even the label of “has-beens.”
The words innovator and indie, however, may not be some of them. But the three brothers from Tulsa, Okla., are trying to change that. They are spending this fall touring the country and going to colleges to try and get the word out about what they see as an amazing opportunity to change the way the music industry is run.
This past Sunday, Hanson came to GW to screen their upcoming documentary, “Strong Enough To Break,” which documents their four-year struggle to release their latest studio album, “Underneath.” After their sophomore album, the band went through several years of what could be termed “artistic differences” with the heads of their label, Island/Def Jam. The label and band eventually parted ways, and their struggles lead them to start their own label, 3CG Records, and release “Underneath,” an album that went on to become the highest-selling independent release ever.
Using their own personal story as an example, Hanson is showing how today’s major record labels have gone from their beginnings under the control of “smart, passionate music people” to companies “which are now being run by attorneys and accountants,” Taylor Hanson explained during a question-and-answer session following the documentary screening this past Sunday in the Marvin Center Ampitheatre.
Hanson is encouraging not only their own fans, but all music lovers to take control and get involved in making the music industry and radio support music that people can get passionate about.
“Where are the bands that you can follow . where are the U2’s now?” Isaac Hanson asked. One of the major problems today, Hanson members said, is the consolidation of radio that followed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which lifted the quota on the amount of radio stations that one company could own. As a result, the same music is being played across the country and bands that cannot afford to pay for the airtime have little to no chance of getting on major radio stations.
Hanson is doing more than just telling people to get actively involved in choosing the music they hear; they are giving their fans a direct opportunity to do so. Teaming up with college radio stations, they are allowing fans in each city to vote on a local band to open up the show, giving the crowd a taste of local music that they may have never otherwise found.
That discovery, Hanson members said, is key. Unlike many bands today, Hanson is encouraging people to use the Internet as a source for finding new music. When asked about the controversial issue of file sharing, Taylor Hanson’s response was a unique one: “I don’t think it’s a black-and-white question now because I don’t think the industry has figured it out yet.” They recognize the Internet as a valid outlet for underground bands to gain a dedicated fan base in the face of radio giants such as Clear Channel.
While Hanson may always be known as those three kids who sang “MMMBop” back in the day, they are certainly not the band or the people they were in 1997. There are some that believe, as strange as it may seem, that Hanson is going to be the wake-up call that the music industry desperately needs to get back on its feet.