It will come as no surprise to anyone that COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Icelandic music industry hard, but a sombre new report reveals the huge scale of the industry’s losses.
The investigation was lead by María Ruth Reynisdóttir and Bryndís Jónatansdóttir, with support Association of Icelandic Artists, the Record Company Organisation and the Reykjavik Music City board amongst other organisations.
The report explains that Iceland has a relatively large music economy that hundreds rely on for their livelihoods. There are countless companies involved that the public rarely thinks of – audio system rental companies and publicists to name but a few.
The report brings to light the holes in the Icelandic government’s attempt to react to the music industry’s plight. The authors explain that due to the music industry’s literal ‘gig economy’ structure and the complexities of many workers’ income streams, many self-employed individuals are falling through cracks in the government’s welfare provision. The report points out that resources and funding frequently revolve around musicians, forgetting the other professions that support them.
The state’s measures have also prioritised music creation over performance, leaving many venues, forced to close due to the gathering ban, on the brink of bankruptcy. Given that concerts are increasingly musicians’ main source of revenue, this could be particularity damaging in the long-run. For reference, in 2018 STEF, the Icelandic Composers’ Society, estimated that 68% of its members income came from domestic performances, and a further 13% from performances abroad. Organisers expect to struggle to regain attendees’ trust and it’s estimated that booking companies may pay musicians 20-40% less when concerts resume.
The report draws particular attention to the contribution the music industry makes to Iceland’s all-important tourism sector. Festivals like Iceland Airwaves attract hundreds of foreign visitors every year. The authors call for the government to place higher value on the industry and step in before it’s too late.
Read this next to get an insight into the individual struggles some of Reykjavik’s best-loved performers have been facing over recent months: Art In The Time Of Corona: Can Inherently Social Art Survive Isolation?
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