Bon Iver and The National Launch Free Music Platform

Photo courtesy of RollingStone.

Bon Iver and members of The National have come together to create a free online music platform for artists called People. 

The site is still pretty bare bones, but has a rainbow banner at the top and a lengthy mission statement that reads, “We are a steadily growing group of artists, freely creating and sharing our work with each other and everyone. We call it PEOPLE. It was born of a wish to establish an independent and nurturing space in which to make work (generally around music) that is collaborative, spontaneous and expressive in nature and where all unnecessary distractions or obstacles that get in the way are removed.”

The goal of People was explained by the founders Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National in an interview with The Guardian. “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,” Dessner said. “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.”

People seems like it will be a true place for musicians to thrive and share all their work with open arms. Vernon tagged onto those statements and added, “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.”

People only launched recently, but already has big plans. They’ve announced a week-long residency in Berlin in August to come together and jam. The website states of the event, “About 160 artists will spend a week to work and play together. On the weekend of August 18th/19th we open the doors to perform across all stages and studios at Funkhaus Berlin. Inside and outside. There will be artists you have not heard before and ones you know every song of. The work itself lighting the way.”

The founding members are also excited about the experiences the layout (seven performance stages)of Funkhaus will deliver to audiences. “It’s about new material, collaborations, unique arrangements and dissolving borders. The Funkhaus, built in the 1950’s, is the historic site of the radio and recording HQ of the former East German Republic. It’s a maze of studios of varying sizes and allows for an unrivalled sound quality in performance as well as a wide range of audience numbers. One of the aspects of this event is that no timetable will be communicated. The aim is to provide a situation where an audience member will not know what they are going to see until they sit down and the lights come up. With this arises the possibility to be genuinely surprised, moved, or opened up to something new. It liberates the artist and audience alike from preconception or expectation.”

Although they deliver a ‘all is welcome’ message, the platform is currently invite-only. Musicians invite fellow artists to the service, so it’s not a free-for-all of noise like other music platforms. The service’s first release will come from Big Red Machine, a collaborative project from Aaron Dessner, Vernon, Sufjan Stevens, Reed Parry of Arcade Fire.

People could be the new wave of music listening in the hands of artists themselves. A curated environment for artists, by artists. It will be interesting to see the progress of the founding member’s efforts against the big, evil record labels and capitalist greed. But if they stick to their guns, this could be the start of something new and powerful.


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