Ahead of Hanson’s Australian tour next month, Isaac Hanson, the band of brothers’ eldest sibling, talked to TMN about the recorded music industry and why he believes it is falling apart.
Since their inception in 1992, Hanson have sold over 16 million records worldwide, had six top 40 ARIA singles and five top 20 albums – not bad for a band who commercially peaked with 1997’s Middle Of Nowhere and have been wholly independent since 2003. That year, Isaac Hanson and his brothers Zac and Taylor started 3CG (a reference to their 1998 compilation LP 3 Car Garage) after a merger between their then label Mercury Records and Universal lead to ‘creative differences’ between the band and the team they were assigned.
Now, after eleven years of dancing to the beat of their independent drum, Isaac has seen a shift within the recorded industry as labels forgo quantity over quality.
“The music business has fallen apart for all intents and purposes, and is continuing to fall apart,” he says. “I think most of the reason why it has done that is because it has lost focus on two most important things: first and foremost, the quality of your product; the artist you are signing and their ability to create music consistently that is quality and consistent with shall we say the first album that they made. And then subsequently, equally important, the other side of that coin is the relationship with the audience who is purchasing that music.
“People don’t value what they don’t purchase so you need to encourage people to see the products that you are making as valuable,” he continues. “When you release a crumby product, albums that don’t have an adequate amount of decent songs on them, people don’t value it, so they don’t feel they need to pay for it.”
Isaac also believes the rush of free music has affected the industry negatively and while Hanson’s last three releases are available to stream on Spotify, he’s a vocal and firm believer in paying for intellectual property.
“When you have people who are able to get hold of music for free, by and large, or at least more so than before, then you have a problem. I think the record industry, by and large, has done it to themselves and I think the artist will find a way to fix that.
“As long as fans understand that the goal is to have your favourite band be successful and for you to be as involved and engaged in that process – because the fans need to appreciate the bands and the bands need to appreciate the fans – as long as you can create a good connected relationship, everybody’s going to win.”
While Isaac would never directly condemn the major label industry, he does openly push artists to consider all options. Hanson may not have mirrored their Billboard #1 with MmmBop in 1997 but with international sell-out tours year-on-year, a “comfortable, blue-collar” touring lifestyle and their own beer (Mmmhops), their career sans major label has been a resilient one.
“There is an opportunity that we have as a music community in general to facilitate the music and the art that we’re doing without arbitrarily aligning ourselves with something that doesn’t have our best interests in mind,” he says. “I think it’s all about partnership, ultimately it’s about finding the right people to do the job.
“If you can find a label that is a major label where you have people that are in it that are passionate about what it is you’re doing you can be successful. If you have a small company that is passionate about what you’re doing and is focused on what you’re doing, you can be successful. If you can find investors or fans to acquire enough [money] to help financially or if you can do it on your own and fund your own music, which most aspiring and independent artists do, then all the power to you and you could probably be successful doing it. I think there are a lot of ways to skin the cat.”