Spotify Dominates Icelandic Music Market

Lucky Records in Reykjavík music

Overall revenue in Iceland’s music industry increased between 2018 and 2019, for the fourth year in a row. The sale value of sound recordings from distributors increased 18% between those two years, according to newly-published data from Statistics Iceland. Almost 90% of the sale value in 2019 was due to payments to streaming services. Streaming platform Spotify had a 98% share of all streaming of Icelandic music and was responsible for nearly 90% of total music sales.

Total Revenue Still Just Half of 1991 Revenue

Payments for music streaming are responsible for the increase, while at the same time, the sale of CDs and LPs has decreased year on year over a long period. The total sale value of CDs, LPs and digital files for streaming in 2019 was ISK 802 million ($6.35 million/€5.27 million), of which payments for streaming were ISK 713 million. Despite an increase in the sale value of sound recordings for the last three years, the total sale value in fixed 2019 prices amounted only to half of the sale value in 1999 (see Figure 1 below).

music sales hagstofan

For many years, releases and sales of CDs and LPs have been falling fast. The number of released titles on CDs and LPs decreased sevenfold between the years 2006 and 2019, or from 301 titles down to 41 (see figure 2).


The decline in sale of units has even been more severe. From the turn of the century, the number of sold copies has declined 17-fold. In 2019, the sale of CDs and LPs was 48,000 copies compared with 868,000 copies in the year 1999 when the number of sold copies was at its highest (see Figure 3). The number of copies sold per capita has fallen from 3.1 in 1999 down to 0.1 in 2019.

Fast growth of streaming revenue in the last few years has not fully compensated for the fall in revenue since around the turn of the century. In 2019, the total revenue was some ISK 802 million ($6.35 million/€5.27 million) compared with ISK 1.586 million ($12.55 million/€10.42 million) in 1999, calculated in fixed prices.

Weakening of Atlantic Currents Could Cool Iceland’s Climate

Þaravinnsla Þari Skip Breiðafjörður sjór haf

“All research has shown that here in Iceland the average temperature is closely linked to the temperature of the sea. There is no other single factor that has as big an effect on temperature here as the average temperature of the sea because we’re an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, it’s very important for us to follow all the discussion on this topic very closely and all the research and do our part to increase monitoring and measurements here.”

These are the words of Meteorologist Einar Sveinbjörnsson, who spoke to Vísir about newly-published research on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a series of currents that bring warm water to the North Atlantic and cool water to the equator, thereby impacting the global climate. While older data suggested the AMOC had been weakening since 1930, new research shows the development in fact began 1,000-1,500 years ago. It has been reported on by global media including the Guardian and the Washington Post, the latter of which call the weakening currents an ‘Achilles’ heel’ of the climate.

Global Warming Could Slow Circulation Further

While global warming is not responsible for the weakening circulation – which includes the Gulf Stream, known to moderate Iceland’s climate – it could accelerate the development. “Other forces were at work, but nonetheless, people have demonstrated that with global warming, there is an increased likelihood that it will slow [the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation] down even more,” stated Einar.

The new findings should encourage Icelanders to pay more attention to this aspect of climate change, Einar says. While the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute does conduct some research related to this area, Einar would like to see much more.

Sea North of Iceland is Warming

Weakening currents in the Atlantic are not the only change impacting climate in Iceland. The sea off Iceland’s north coast is currently warming, likely as a result of less sea ice in the region. The lack of ice means that cold currents arriving from the north are warmer than before.

“This causes winters to be milder in the North and with less severe frost, and often just wet weather, rain, and sleet, which are brought by northerly winds in the middle of winter, as has been the case this winter.”

Einar points out the paradox in that sea temperatures north of Iceland are warming while sea temperatures south of the island may be cooling. “What effect does this have on the climate, what effect does it have on marine life, and just generally Icelanders’ living conditions in the long run?”

Tipping Point Unknown

Einar points out that we don’t yet know what the overall effect of a weakening AMOC could be, but it’s possible it could lead to cooler temperatures in Iceland even as average temperatures rise overall across the globe. “We might need to be more thoughtful and vigilant about these things because we hear so much about the climate warming and global warming, but in the long run this could have the effect that it cools down here [in Iceland]; naturally, since the reason why it’s warmer here than at comparable latitudes in the northern hemisphere is that we are surrounded by warm sea.”

According to Einar, it is also difficult to know where the “tipping point” is: at what point the weakening ocean circulation will cause significant impacts on climate. “[T]his heat and salinity conveyor belt, it’s like some cycles in the atmosphere: they continue on and falter despite changes, but then they come to some kind of cliff edge where things find some new balance and we don’t really know where that is in this context.”

Stefan Rahmstorf, the study’s initiator, suggested it could be less than a century before that tipping point is reached. He stated: “If we continue to drive global warming, the Gulf Stream System will weaken further – by 34 to 45 per cent by 2100 according to the latest generation of climate models. This could bring us dangerously close to the tipping point at which the flow becomes unstable.”

Reykjanes Earthquake Swarm: Magma Accumulation Suspected, Eruption a Possibility

Melissa Anne Pfeffer conduction gas tests at the Reykjanes Peninsula

New data from the ongoing earthquake swarm on the Reykjanes peninsula suggests magma is accumulating underneath Fagradalsfjall mountain, according to scientists at the Icelandic Met Office. Experts say there is a chance the earthquake swarm could lead to a volcanic eruption, but it is not likely to be very dangerous or threaten inhabited areas.

The earthquake swarm that began on Reykjanes six days ago continues, now mostly in the vicinity of Mt. Keilir and Trölladyngja. The frequency of quakes dropped slightly last night but after 10.00pm it increased again. Four earthquakes over M4 occurred last night, the largest at M4.6. In the past two days, around 2,100 earthquakes have occurred on the Reykjanes peninsula, about 100 of which were larger than M3. The quakes have been felt in the Reykjavík capital area as well as across South and West Iceland.

Experts Meet to Discuss Possible Scenarios

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management’s Scientific Advisory Board met yesterday to discuss the earthquake swarm on the peninsula. Present at the meeting were representatives from the Met Office, the University of Iceland, The Environment Agency of Iceland, Isavia, HS Orka, and ÍSOR. The Board went over InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) images they received yesterday, which show more land movement in the area in the last few days than had been detected earlier. Earthquake Hazards Co-ordinator at the Icelandic Met Office Kristín Jónsdóttir told RÚV that while earthquakes could cause movement of a few centimetres, the new data shows land has shifted by up to 30 centimetres in some areas. The most likely explanation is that a magma passage is forming underneath the area where the earthquakes originate. Scientists will be working with the new data to create models that might cast a clearer light on the development.

In light of the new data, scientists have projected five possible scenarios:

  • The seismic unrest will die down in the next few days or weeks.
  • The seismic unrest will pick up, culminating in an earthquake up to M6 originating close to Fagradalsfjall.
  • The seismic unrest will pick up, culminating in an earthquake up to M6.5 originating close to Brennisteinsfjöll.
  • The magma intrusion continues close to Fagradalsfjall but the activity dies down and the magma solidifies.
  • The magma intrusion continues, culminating in a fissure eruption and lava flow that will likely not threaten inhabited areas.
Iceland Met Office. The latest data of InSaR images gotten from Sentinel-1 yesterday. The image shows more movement than registered before in the area where the earthquakes are most active

Eruption Would Not Threaten Inhabited Areas

As activity in the Reykjanes peninsula is fluctuating, it is difficult to predict which scenario is most likely. Scientists are expecting to acquire new data later this week that may cast a clearer light on the reasons for the earthquakes. The Scientific Advisory Board will meet again today to further assess the data at hand. Kristín stresses that the location of the earthquake activity is far enough from inhabited areas that even a medium-sized lava flow would not affect people.

Geophysicist Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson and volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson went over the possible eruption in last night’s television program Kastljós, stating that a possible eruption close to Keilir would not be a large one and the lava would not flow quickly. It would mostly consist of lava production and wouldn’t be very explosive. For those worried that an eruption could cause an ash cloud (like the one that stopped air traffic in Europe in 2010) the scientists stated that data suggests the possible eruption would not produce much ash. While no inhabited areas would be threatened, it’s possible that the road across the peninsula, which links Reykjavík and the international airport in Keflavík, would be damaged. Both scientists interviewed on Kastljós stressed that even if magma accumulation was in fact occurring under the earthquake zone, that didn’t mean the earthquake swarm would end with an eruption. An eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula is as likely to happen in the coming weeks as in a century or two.