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Free Speech

Taylor Hanson on Social Media’s ‘Beautiful,’ ‘Toxic’ Power of Instant Opinions

The Hanson and Tinted Windows musician also muses on artistic expression
Taylor Hanson of Hanson performs at The O2 Arena on September 10, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

Taylor Hanson seems to get nostalgic when thinking back to the early days of his band Hanson—and of social media. The singer-songwriter sat down with SPIN backstage at SXSW to discuss the evolution of the music industry.

“When we broke, we were literally at the crest of the analog becoming the digital. The birth of the Internet, the birth of the digital landscape. We genuinely lived in a world where you went to record stores still, radio was how you got [music], [and] the magazines owned the communication,” Hanson said. “How did you access an artist? You had to read an article. There was no social media. … But we connected with a generation that was discovering the Internet for the first time. We all of a sudden had a dialogue with people, which was pre-social-media. It was messaging boards. That was revolutionary because there was no conversation between the audience and the artist.

“So as far as whether artists have ramifications [for speaking their minds],” he continued, “part of what’s happened now is this beautiful, toxic, and amazing thing has happened, which is this idea of instant commentary. We all have an instant opinion.”

Hanson also mused on the idea that “artistic expression is personal expression.”

“We worked with some of the most amazing artists, singer-songwriters, professional songwriters, and people [who] are considered almost folk songwriters,” he said. “But every one of them has the same challenge, which is, ‘I want to write something that I care about, and then I hope it finds its way to someone else.'”