From Iceland — Not Like All The Other Labels

Not Like All The Other Labels

Published June 21, 2023

Not Like All The Other Labels
Photo by
Anna Maggý Grímsdóttir

American record label FOUND enters the music scene

The Icelandic music industry is not known for its size or the generous revenue streams it generates. It’s mostly haphazard – musicians ebb and flow between different bands, genres and styles, never settling down to a cushy record deal. The spontaneity and curiosity of Icelandic artists are perhaps due in part to the music industry’s lack of formal frameworks. Record labels are few and far between, and most form out of a grassroots necessity for artists to be able to release their own work.

Not to say that the Icelandic music industry is completely devoid of formal organisation or business practices. You can find corporate labels mixed in between those run independently – from Alda Music to Why Not? Records – which all have their own artists to support.

You’re gonna need a bigger suitcase

From America to Iceland, the record label FOUND is entrepreneur Scott Blum’s newest venture. Based in California, Scott has a tech and music business background. Some of his notable achievements include co-founding the company behind iMusic; producing Peter Gabriel’s multimedia album EVE; and working on numerous music projects on his long list of ventures. Moving on from the music industry, Scott established the yoga and meditation company DailyOm, which he helmed for 18 years until selling it in 2021.

In need of some rest and relaxation, Scott decided to search out the opposite of sunny Santa Barbara – Iceland. On his trip in 2022, he was struck with his next big idea: a record company exclusively signing Icelandic artists.

“I just sort of fell in love with the music,” Scott says over the computer from California. His first introduction to the Icelandic music scene during his visit was his encounter with Örlygur Steinar Arnalds from the electronic group Sideproject, at Reykjavík’s flagship Smekkleysa record store. On his way back home, Scott had to buy extra luggage to fit all his newly acquired vinyl records. He flew back to Santa Barbara, enchanted by the music he discovered. A month later Scott established FOUND.

Exclusively focusing on Icelandic artists, FOUND currently has three names on its roster: Gróa, Magnús Jóhann and Silva & Steini. Varying in genre and style, the diversity of the label’s roster is deliberate. “I think it’s representative of the real Icelandic music scene, where you see all of these different types of artists all performing on the same night, sometimes on the same stage.” Scott says that his perception is that Icelandic musicians are on a constant quest for ingenuity and novelty – nobody tries to emulate what once broke through.

“There isn’t another artist like Sigur Rós – because Sigur Rós is Sigur Rós.”

“One of the first things you do when you come to Iceland as a foreigner is you go into a record store, and say, ‘I really like Sigur Rós. What’s another artist like them?’ And they always say the same thing, which is, ‘Well, there isn’t another artist like Sigur Rós – because Sigur Rós is Sigur Rós.’”


Due to the lack of formal record labels, Icelandic musicians not working within the mainstream pop framework often need to look abroad for marketing and managerial support. The domestic market doesn’t seem to sustain them. This tendency often leads to a loss of capital derived from the artist as well as knowledge of industry best practices in Iceland. In essence, the specialisation within the domestic music industry becomes degraded. Although FOUND aims to elevate Icelandic musicians to the global level, its operations are sure to affect the current domestic landscape.

“I think that the successful record labels in Iceland, in general, are focusing on the Icelandic market, which forces them to focus on the pop side of things in order to make it work for them,” says Scott. “And I think, since our market is worldwide, we can help find the more unique voices in the Icelandic music scene, which are going to have a bigger ultimate impact,” he continues.

Scott attributes the success of Icelandic superstars like Björk and Ólafur Arnalds to their highly unique and individualised voices. “Their voices were distinct from a particular genre, and they truly did craft something that changed the world. I believe the artists we’re working with have that same potential, and that’s what I’m really looking for,” Scott says, not positive but convinced. “I think this label has the ability to foster and nurture those artists at the smaller level … and hopefully have artists break out more regularly, as opposed to once every decade,” he continues.

“What we’re really looking for is to share as much of the Icelandic culture with the rest of the world.”

Slowing down

Because Icelandic music has displayed its notable effervescence and diversity for multiple decades – at least since the start of the punk and new-wave era, it’s a wonder no entity has already tried to capitalise on this treasure trove. For Scott, it’s about time, place and the overall atmosphere within the scene. He notes increased cross-semination and collaboration between artists. “If I was going to credit one thing for what has stirred everything up – in my mind it’s post-dreifing. The scale of what post-dreifing has accomplished in such a short amount of time is really amplifying that excitement and I think that’s infectious across the entire Icelandic music scene.”

In terms of the practical aspect, Scott aims to be in this project in the long run, developing the artists and building relationships. He looks to the record labels of yore where artist development was an investment and not a liability – slowing things down in a sense. “The main thing you have to do is be patient, be pure to the artist’s vision and make sure that they reach the audience that truly resonates with them.

In Scott’s view, the advent of FOUND will not lead to further loss of Icelandic talent out of the country as the label aims to utilise the available domestic resources. “We’re just a little bit different than everybody else,” Scott responds to these concerns. “We’re not based in Iceland and we’re not completely outward facing. We are a blend, based in America but focused on working with local industry professionals – shooting music videos with Anna Maggý for example or recording albums in Icelandic studios. What we’re really looking for is to share as much of the Icelandic culture with the rest of the world,” he says.

While Icelandic artists will still probably coagulate into loose collectives to release their recordings, FOUND introduces an exciting new dimension into the otherwise stagnant Icelandic music industry.

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