So, you want to work in the music industry? Whether it be as a producer, a record label owner or a musician, there is a lot of pressure. Strong Enough To Break is just one band’s story of the struggles with recording an album. The documentary deals with the current state of the music industry, the corporate structures of major labels and bands, and the challenges of being an independent artist.
Strong Enough To Break was produced by Hanson, the three brothers from Oklahoma who charmed radio stations everywhere with songs like “MMMbop” and “This Time Around.” The band hoped to have their fourth studio album, Underneath, recorded in 2001 with Island Def Jam. What they didn’t know is that the next three years would be a constant battle between art and the industry.
Concordia student, Jessica Mealey organized the screening on March 23 with the help of the Concordia Student Union. The idea for the screening came about when she talked with a friend who works with one of Hanson’s distributors in Toronto. “It’s been a lot of work,” Mealey said of promoting the event. “You have to convince someone to go ahead with it if people are going to come. You have to convince someone to sponsor it, you have to convince people to do work for it and find a contact for media people to come and cover it.”
Ashley Greyson, who directed the film, lived with the band during the three year period. Initially, the movie was to be a film on the process of making an album, from writing a song to everything in between. Things took a turn when phone calls from Jeff Fenster, CEO of Island Def Jam, started to get a little heated.
Zac Hanson sees the film as a “normal process” of making a record. The problem is that owners of record labels are not artists and do not see the music as a musician does. “Music is not a required commodity,” Hanson said. “Music is selling on the stock market. [The label owners] are concerned with the long term of the band five records from now. If you’re interested in quarterly billing, you should make tires or toilet paper: those are required commodities.”
The band had travelled to Europe and worked with other songwriters such as Carol King, Ed Robertson and many others who did not get to be in the documentary. The band hosts an annual song-writing event where twenty artists get together for a week, strengthening the community. “You always just follow your passion and take advice from people you trust,” Hanson said.
Underneath was finally released in 2004, on Hanson’s independent label 3CG Records. Currently, there are no other bands on the label, but there are a few different projects that the band has taken interest in working with. “We feel really passionate about different genres,” Hanson said. “There are bands we want to sign, and we want to give bands what they require from a label.”
The band has been screening the film as an educational piece around schools, hoping to get people talking and thinking. “There are young people who want to get into the business, and they should be the better version of all the labels of the past,” Hanson said. A webcast question and answer period followed the film, allowing the audience to show their appreciation. “This is really about the connection we create with the fans,” said Hanson. “That’s the power you get to control.”