By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
Taylor Hanson is the last person we expected to discuss the bean-counting intricacies of the music industry. Or smoke a pipe.
But the ever-androgynous author of "MMMBop" does both in his band Hanson's new film, "Strong Enough to Break," a documentary about the hit trio's major-label nightmare. After signing with Mercury in 1997 and scoring a huge hit with its debut disc, "Middle of Nowhere," Hanson (including brothers Zac and Isaac) wound up a victim of the music industry massacre of years later, when Mercury was folded into the Island Def Jam conglomerate. Its supporters were fired or bailed, and Hanson was battling just to get a record made.
"Strong Enough to Break," which shares the title of one of brothers' recent singles, chronicles the now grown-up Hansons' decision to form their own indie label, 3CG Records, and manage their own affairs. It follows the tale right up to the release of this season's new disc "The Best of Hanson: Live and Electric" and the current tour, which comes here for a two-night stand at 7 tonight and Thursday night at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn. Tickets are $28; call (312) 559-1212.
Q. You're taking the documentary around to college campuses. Any particular reason why you're targeting that audience?
A. Students can play a role in what is happening out there. We're activating them, getting them involved in music. It's a crucial time in the business, and this documentary illustrates some of the issues. ... Media has been a one-way street. TV, radio, newspapers, publications — you couldn't interact. And now so many media companies have consolidated to a level where they've removed choice from the roster. There aren't as many songs on radio and TV anymore. The pipeline has narrowed, and the fans have been disenfranchised. We're saying there are new ways around that; ... [students] can change the way music will be heard tomorrow.
Q. What can students do, and to effect what changes?
A. They can actively express what they want to hear on radio and TV. Get involved in saying, "I want my request to be heard." And they have to actively pursue the places filling the gaps — the indie labels, seeing more local gigs, indie Web sites, streaming radio stations, etc. Look for the models that allow you to interact.
Q. You were home-schooled. Where did you learn how to run your own business?
A. Before we started our label, we were already running a business. We already had employees creating videos and Web sites and merchandising and touring. That's part of why we're such believers in actively communicating directly with the fans — we always have. But nothing can educate you for the realities of running a business other than just running a business.
Q. Will you ever be able to write another "MMMBop"?
A. We have the freedom now to write whatever we want. That's the point.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.