Icelandic music scene creating world class scores

When you think of Iceland and music you may think of Eurovison, the song contest or that swan dress worn by one of Iceland’s famous musical daughters Björk to the Oscars twenty years ago. But there is so much more to the Nordic island’s music scene than meets the eye.

It’s the land of creativity where artists collide over their need for peace, nature and inspiration and that collision provides us, the lucky audience with some of the best music available to ears around the globe.

Thanks to a new collaboration between one of Iceland’s newest music start-ups and one of the world’s largest music companies the opportunities to hear Icelandic produced music have greatly expanded.

Icelandic independent music company INNI have just signed a global publishing admin deal with Kobalt Music which will see Kobalt represent INNI’s diverse catalogue of homegrown and international composers, writers and producers including Skúli Sverrisson, Sin Fang, Amiina, aYia, and Úlfur Hansson. 

INNI was founded by Atli Örvarsson and Colm O’Herlihy in 2019 primarily as a publishing company, they also are independent record label and music production house.

Both Örvarsson and O’Herlihy recognised that there were music supervisors looking for Icelandic music to put in their films and TV shows and there were also a lot of Icelandic artists, writers and composers who didn’t understand copywrite and contracts, so they began their music publishing company to bridge that gap.

“There is not really an industry of music publishing here,” explains O’Herlihy, “there was basically a lot of confusion here and contracts were taking too long. They were just lacking someone on the ground that could help with that.”

Colm and Alti. Photo by Juliette Rowland

The deal with Kobalt gives artists and creators even more scope to have their music recognised world-wide.

“We’re sort of tapping this community into a larger network, essentially,” says O’Herlihy. “I’m on the ground working with artists, working on TV shows and music for film. We have about five or six film composers that we work with and also about six or seven artists releasing albums and different things – we just adapt to what they need.”

O’Herlihy himself is a musician from Ireland and had toured worldwide from a young age. He moved to Iceland over ten years ago and found himself getting more into the music and production side of things. Coming from a country with already a very strong musical heritage he was surprised to find how much more Iceland supports their artists and creatives.

“There’s a lot more opportunity here because there’s such an investment in music and art,” explains O’Herlihy. “And the way that they value musicians and creative people is like something I hadn’t really experienced before.”

“There’s a confidence in my musician friends here,” he continues. “In Iceland’s you can get an artists’ salary so if you have an album, or you have a book you want to write, or you have a research paper, you can apply for it, there is real support here.”

“You can feel that confidence in people, like there’s nothing holding them back. The community gets behind people and values poets, musicians and artists to a high degree,” he adds.

Another force helping to drive new innovation in the Icelandic music scene is Record in Iceland ‘a promotional effort run by Iceland Music, a public export office for Icelandic music, in collaboration with Promote Iceland. The project is funded by the Ministry of Industry and Innovation’

This initiative encourages artists to come and record their material in Iceland and the state will reimburse 25% of the costs incurred of making their music in Iceland.

“It’s incredible,” says O’Herlihy, “a massive incentive to bring international artists here. It’s brought so much business here.”

So, the next time we think of the Icelandic music scene, we can think further than the Eurovision song contest, for a small population they are thinking on a global scale. Incidentally O’Heirliy’s co-founder Atli Örvarsson composed the music for the Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, among many other composer credits.

Fiona Alston is a freelance journalist based in Ireland covering tech, innovation, start-ups and interesting SMEs. Alston is also passionate about athletics, health and horses having competed in triathlons, equestrian events and horse racing, and her lived experience comes through when covering sports personalities or fitness features. Growing up on the family farm in Scotland, Alston graduated from the University of Sunderland with a BA (Hon.) in Broadcast Journalism, and is frequently published in The Irish Times, The Business Post, RTÉ and 4i Mag.