“Mmmbop” is the typical first reaction heard when the name Hanson is mentioned. But the group is striving for a new connotation: indie rock band.
It’s been eight years since Hanson burst into the commercial music scene with their infectious hit. But in those eight years, there’s no doubt that Isaac, 24, Taylor, 22, and Zac, 20, have grown up. Armed now with their own independent record label, a campaign to support independent music entitled Are You Listening?, a new live album in stores nationwide, and a fall tour complete with an opening band contest for each tour date, Hanson is ready to fire up the crowds. It will be touring colleges this fall to speak with students about the current state of the music industry.
On tour the Hanson brothers be showing a documentary, Strong Enough to Break, which they filmed about the making of their last record, the decision to form their own label and become an independent record company. They’ll also sit down and talk to students about the film, and any questions about the music industry.
Hanson formed 3CG Records in 2003, after splitting ways with Island Def Jam. Though the label was reluctant to drop the band, who’s sold more than 15 million albums worldwide, Hanson was able to walk away with more than 80 master recordings of songs for their new album. Island Def Jam did not feel the songs had commercial potential, whereas Hanson was very passionate and determined to release them. The CD, Underneath, was released in 2004 and hit #1 on the Billboard Independent Chart.
“In a changing music industry, the major labels that were once the great exciting places to be have become more of a corporate environment where music is based more on stock prices and not on great songs,” said Zac, the band’s drummer. “We want to help find a way to get back to a place where it’s about releasing lots of great albums and building great catalogs of records.”
He also sees a problem with the timeline for releasing an album on a major label.
“Some of the records in the past that have made the greatest impact were backed by small labels that were able to say, ‘I’m going to work this album for a year and a half and not six weeks. I’m going to work it because I believe it,” he said.
3CG Records is now only releasing Hanson music but will soon expand to include other artists.
Hanson is also targeting problems within major music media outlets such as terrestrial radio stations and MTV.
“The media outlets don’t play nearly enough songs or have diverse playlists,” Zac said. “There are situations where the same playlist is being played in California, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Florida. It doesn’t represent the local people’s opinion and tastes in music.”
To target this growing issue, Hanson has started the Are You Listening? campaign.
“Our ultimate goal for areyoulistening.com is to offer a place where artists and fans can come together to discover new music and build a stronger collective community by featuring artists’ content and putting forth an arena for fans and artists to communicate,” Zac said.
Hanson also has a new album in stores, The Best of Hanson: Live and Electric.
“It’s not really a ‘Best Of,’ it’s a live album,” Zac said. “But in order to be representative of the music that is on there, we decided to put ‘Best Of,’ because is has any song that people would know of Hanson. The amount of greatest hits albums that are released nowadays is the basis of major labels trying to get more out of their catalog because there’s a perceived value with the words, ‘greatest hits.'”
The album also includes two cover songs: “Optimistic,” by Radiohead, and “In a Little While,” by U2, as well as new Hanson songs to be released on future studio albums.
“It has a lot more diversity than just being another ‘Best Of,'” Zac said. “We have no desire to try and cash in on the idea of a greatest hits album.”
To support the record label Hanson will be touring the U.S. this fall. In conjunction with each tour date, the band is running an Opening Band Contests. Bands in each market can enter, and the general public votes for the winner.
“The cool thing about the Opening Band Contest is those bands end up getting exposed to more people in their local area by playing a show with us,” Zac said. “And when they’re music is posted up on our website, that’s people from all over the world hearing them, and hopefully becoming fans.”
UPDATE: Hanson will be performing in FIU on Oct. 23.
More information about Hanson can be found at www.hanson.net.
Stacey Schneider can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.