If the last time you heard of Hanson was in 1997 when you were singing along to “MMMBop” while driving, then you’ve probably missed a lot! In fact, the song was first recorded for the band’s demo album, MMMBop, in 1996, before being included in their debut studio album, Middle of Nowhere, the following year. That record was what made the three brothers from Oklahoma extremely famous and loved all around the world.
But now, it’s been 20 years since that very first single that had us all humming “Mmmbop, ba duba dop, ba du bop…” and so on, with most of us having no clue as to where these boys are today! As far as I’m concerned, I slightly lost their musical tracks after their 2007 album, The Walk. Still, over that span of 20 years, Hanson have released six studio albums, the latest one being Anthem in 2013, plus a holiday one and a bunch of EPs.
If you’re not familiar with their music, you will be surprised with how much the kids you once remembered have changed. Their songs have soul – and, honestly, you’ll see they always had, if you get the chance to listen to anything other than “MMMBop”, which is also deep in its own right. As they get older, they keep proving that their talent is real, even if it’s not as mainstream as it used to be. Still, Hanson’s fan club is stronger than ever; from attending sold-out gigs (I was in one of them in 2013 so I can confirm) to taking a one-mile walk in support of poverty and HIV, those are some devoted fans for a band you’d think is long forgotten.
Apart from writing amazing music, though, and investing their time and energy in charitable causes, Hanson have managed to be the masters of their own brand, which has helped them evolve both as musicians and entrepreneurs. They hardly ever needed anyone to promote their music. Relying on their own powers for over a decade, they have accomplished what no other band has; the freedom to make choices.
What’s even more amazing is how these choices resonate with people, exactly because they speak directly to their hearts, without the need of managers and labels. In fact, Hanson have their own label now, called 3CG. They quickly realised that in order to connect with their fans, they had to build a community by selling t-shirts, organising events and even brewing their own beer, all by themselves! (Yes, Mmmhops is now available in 16 states, so, if you live in the US, drink up!)
The brothers explained the idea behind it all during an interview with Entrepreneur. “There’s an epidemic in the music industry, which is the idea that artists need all these other people to succeed”, said Taylor Hanson. “You need the manager, you need the label, you need the publicist. But artists of all kinds — designers, painters, everybody — are now seeing that they can be their own brand manager and marketer. The whole creative world needs artists to embrace that. They are the center of their business, not just the center of their art”.
Taylor then added, “We wanted to make the community bigger than us. We can’t be in people’s eyes and ears every single minute of every day, so how can we create a culture with a community that fuels itself?” Apparently, the answer was easy! Members of their fan club have exclusive benefits, such as a new Hanson EP every year as well as the chance to attend ‘Hop Jam’, Hanson’s annual beer festival! Besides, music and beer is all one could ever ask of a band, really.
It’s always interesting to see how our favourite ‘90s bands have turned out and, in the case of Hanson, I’d say they’ve done a pretty amazing job. That’s because they were never a ‘boy band’ but a band; one that’s made of pure talent and some very wise business decisions! In view of the 20th anniversary of “MMMBop” on March 22, the brothers have also shared their thoughts on the song as well as the history behind it with Vulture. Until their seventh album comes out, you may feel inspired by Hanson and see for yourselves how those little boys from Tulsa have managed to grow into successful musicians, businessmen and parents. And it’s not “weird” at all.
Words by Konstantina Pyrnokoki