How Hanson carved out the perfect indie career after MMMBop

By | June 21, 2017

The Industry Observer

Written by Nathan Jolly on Jun 21, 2017
Of all the ’90s bands you’d have thought might spin a somewhat unexpected radio hit into a two decade-strong indie career, Hanson would sit just above M2M and slightly below Crash Test Dummies. They inspired grand-scale pandemonium for about eighteen months, then started the real work. They turned a daisy into a rose, so to speak.

Think about the first time you heard MMMBop. That was actually the lead single from the young band’s third album, after two independently-produced and distributed records helped them secure early shows, and the slow-burning label connections that culminated in an offer by Mercury Records. They played state fairs, and spruiked themselves to local radio stations long before Isaac — the oldest of the three brothers — hit puberty. They did the hard-yards inbetween maths lessons.

Far from being a manufactured pop act, Hanson had already written, recorded and released versions of ‘MMMBop’, ‘Thinking Of You’, and ‘With You In Your Dreams’ by the time they were signed. These are key songs from their major label debut, and proof that, as Taylor told Forbes in 2014: “Even when we started out, it was truly ours.”

Label mergers within Universal meant Hanson were shunted across to Def Jam after Middle Of Nowhere shot them to fame; Def Jam proceeded to complete mishandle the band’s second major label album, This Time Around. They wanted a teen pop band, but these guys had aged three years – an eternity in pop. The band left Universal, started their own label, netted a distro deal with Cooking Vinyl, and released their next four albums independently. Despite avoiding the majors, the band’s 2013 album, Anthem, debuted at No. 22 in the U.S, the band’s eighth Top 40 album.

As with most bands these days, live shows are where the band makes the majority of their money. Pollstar estimated Hasnon were earning an average of US$40,000 per show throughout 2013 and 2014 – a period during which they played close to 100 shows. They have kept up this touring pace since.

“First and foremost, I’m an artist,” Taylor Hanson told Forbes. “Songwriting and creating music from the ground up has always led what we do. That’s one of the coolest things that we’ve been able to do over time. Even when we started out, it was truly ours.” The band have, for the most part, kept songwriting credits between the three of them, another major earner for a band in these days of dwindling record sales.

In addition, they have teamed with a local Oklahoma brewery to produce the cleverly-named MmmHops , which spawned an entire company: Hanson Brothers Beer Co.

If the music dries up, the beer will continue to flow. Regardless of trends, the three Hanson brothers have built an empire which has held steady for over two decade.

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