Icelandic musicians and organisations within the local music industry are calling for more support of working musicians, many of whom have lost all their income due to COVID-19 regulations and are not eligible for unemployment benefits due to the independent nature of their work. Supporting technicians, booking agents, and others who work in the industry is also crucial in helping the industry survive the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Singer Sigríður Thorlacius told RÚV musicians have not been able to work due to gathering and social distancing regulations, which have made it near impossible to hold live performances for most of this year. While such regulations remain in place, she says, it’s important for workers in the music industry to be able to access financial support. “We are not demanding to hold concerts while the situation is what it is, because we are all in the middle of it,” Sigríður stated. “What we have maybe been pointing out is that many [of us] have for example not received unemployment benefits, that’s one thing. That it can be arranged so that we can apply for benefits.”
Freelance musicians’ ineligibility for unemployment benefits is one issue covered in a recent report exploring the effects of COVID-19 on Iceland’s music industry. The report also calls for the Icelandic government to review and adapt artists’ salaries and other grants to better support artists during the pandemic.
“One of the things we have emphasised a lot is for some sort of compensation fund to be established and for that we have been looking to Denmark,” explains María Rut Reynisdóttir, one of the report’s editors. Denmark’s has set up a specific fund to compensate musicians who have lost 30% or more of their income due to the pandemic. María added that many musicians work part-time jobs alongside their freelance work in music, and fall outside of many of the government’s response measures.