Justin Vernon & The Dessner Brothers Explain Their New “Publishing Platform” PEOPLE

Bon Iver leader Justin Vernon and the National’s twin brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner are among the founders of a new collectivist music platform called PEOPLE. Yesterday, the site went live, dumping tons of new music online featuring Vernon and the Dessners plus Sufjan Stevens, Phoebe Bridgers, and more. And today a new feature in The Guardian provides some information about what’s going on.

Bryce Dessner describes PEOPLE as a “publishing platform” designed “to de-formalize some of the artifice and structure that goes into releasing music, and to get a little bit closer to the creative and collaborative process, and to the people.” It sprung from the collaborative, improvisational music event this crew organized at Funkhaus in Berlin in 2016, which also called PEOPLE. Bryce explains:

The first PEOPLE festival was a revolutionary event for all of us, for many reasons. I get to do a lot of fun stuff, but the Funkhaus experience was completely new – I’d be performing with a Peruvian guitarist, then making tracks with Boys Noize. The overall feeling we took away was: why can’t music feel like this more often? Those conversations fed into creating a structure where this music could develop.

So the Dessners, Vernon, and Berlin hoteliers Tom and Nadine Michelberger developed an online space for artists to share music that exists off to the side of their main canon: outtakes, alternate takes, demos, low-stakes collaborations, stems for remixing, that sort of thing. More from Bryce:

Take a band that releases 10 songs on a record. What about the other 30 songs they didn’t release? What about the way those songs changed? What about the outtakes? All that stuff is fascinating, but it doesn’t have a place where it can live. Hopefully this will be an environment where new types of music, new types of collaboration can pop up that don’t fit in with a standard release. If it’s just National B-sides, it won’t be a success.

When I spoke with Aaron Dessner about PEOPLE at the National’s Homecoming festival, he said he liked the idea of a more informal outlet to share new music, one that circumvented the usual PR circus and all its auxiliary responsibilities like shooting band photos. In today’s Guardian report, Vernon shared similar sentiments:

It feels like one of the major reasons “pro” musicians get caught up and lose focus, consistency and confidence is because they sometimes have to wait to put albums out months after they are done, and that really screws with your rhythm. So for me, PEOPLE is a necessity for publishing certain music without cause for PR alarm, or any other reason than just to publish it.

The article cites Big Red Machine, a collaboration between Vernon and Aaron Dessner, as a project that PEOPLE gives leeway to exist. Much more such content will probably arise later this summer, when the next PEOPLE festival takes place in Berlin on 8/18 and 8/19. Until then, you can access PEOPLE here.