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You don't know Hanson. Forget the preteen sensation, which blasted onto the scene in 1997 with long hair and the Grammy-nominated hit "MMMBop."

The brothers three grew up, got haircuts, maintained a strong following and adapted as the music industry melted down.

Isaac - the oldest - called before a Chicago sound check last month. It was raining, something common across most of the country in September. But back at home in Oklahoma, they were in desperate need of precipitation, he said.

The band tracks the weather much as it does web stats and fan feedback. Bands these days survive by being in tune with audiences.

For the release of its fifth album "Shout It Out" last year, Hanson also created a career-spanning DVD package. The group decided to perform a string of four shows leading up to the release show. Each night, they played a different album, ending with their new one.

"We kind of lucked out that the album didn't leak," Isaac said.

They streamed shows online in 120 countries and tweeted about sets. The formula worked so well that they used it for the U.K. release.

After a break from touring, the group started talking about getting back on the road. The challenge was to keep things fresh.

What if we just let people pick a featured record per show, they wondered.

For the "Musical Ride Tour," fans get to do just that. They vote online for the album they want to hear. The band's five albums rotate so that there are three choices for each date. Hanson plays the record that receives the most votes.

"It gives people a lot of opportunity for involvement," Isaac said. "It makes it interesting and gives (fans) a closer look at who we are as a band."

Before they play, the brothers study previous set lists to make sure the show is different every single night. Having to work in an entire record gives them an opportunity to set the pace. Sometimes, they slow things down with an acoustic song.

After shows, the group reviews what worked and what didn't. They keep track of what album each crowd chooses.

Even though Hanson is coming up with new social media strategies, it's been online since its inception. Early on, the band phased out its quarterly magazine and moved its fanbase to the web. In the mid-90s, the band provided dial-up service directly on its fan site, Isaac said.

Its original URL was, but they switched it to Other servers then started to adopt the .net domain.

About 15 years later, is going strong. The band has shifted the focus to providing users with exclusive content, including fan club-only EPs.

Isaac said that in the past few years, they've branched out on Twitter and Facebook, which have been huge resources. The goal is to figure out how to sell music when record labels are dissolving. After its tour wraps next year, the band will take stock before starting a new album.

"We're trying to assess what the future holds for the record business in a broader sense," Isaac said. "We feel like the music business is behind the curve."

The way people consume music in general is changing, he added. The long-form album could become a dinosaur.

In the early days of the record industry, artists released 45 singles. It cut back on expenses and led to a constant flow of new music. The long-form album - with a dozen tracks or more - didn't surface until the '60s and found an audience on FM stations.

"Now we're seeing (the industry) reverse back to short-form," Isaac said. "People don't want to wait long between CDs. You might be better off releasing (an EP) every six months."

For many bands, especially newcomers, that's creatively and economically achievable, he added. Plus, it might cut back on pirating.

Hanson might decide to play with its release schedule and gauge feedback. Maybe, Isaac mused, having a theme for a string of EPs would pique people's curiosity.

"Maintaining constant contact and reasons for interest for the audience is important," Isaac said. "There has to be suspense."

- Erin McCracken, FlipSide staff

If you go

Pop group Hanson brings its "Musical Ride Tour" to the area 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, at the Chameleon Club, 223 N. Water St., Lancaster. Tickets are $27.50 to $30. For details and tickets call or visit


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