Majority of Icelandic Music Catalogue Sold to Universal Music Skip to content
Bubbi Morthens musician concert
Photo: Ian Funk. Musician Bubbi Morthens performing in 2016. Bubbi is signed to Alda Music.

Majority of Icelandic Music Catalogue Sold to Universal Music

Iceland’s largest music label, Alda Music, has been bought by Universal Music/Ingrooves Music Group, the largest music corporation in the world, Vísir reports. The head of Iceland’s Musicians’ Union expects the acquisition to give Icelandic musicians “bigger speakers” and open doors for them abroad. The purchase directly impacts the majority of music released in Iceland as well as the local music industry as a whole.

Alda Music was founded in 2016 by musicians Sölvi Blöndal and Ólafur Arnalds. The label purchased the rights to a large catalogue of Icelandic music previously belonging to Sena, including the music of current and decades-old hit artists. Alda, and now Ingrooves, hold the rights to 80% of all music released in Iceland, according to the company’s own figures.

“In just a few years, Sölvi and his team at Alda have built Iceland’s most powerful distribution network with an incredible roster of local artists,” Bob Roback of Ingrooves stated on the purchase. “We are looking forward to working closely with them as we invest in the local music community and expand opportunities for artists both within Iceland and around the world.”

Bigger speakers for local musicians

The purchase could help increase value in the Icelandic music by increasing its reach abroad, according to Gunnar Hrafnsson, chairman of the Musician’s Union of Iceland (FÍH). “I think [Icelandic music] has got bigger speakers now. There is more capital behind it and a more powerful company.”

Others in the industry may have more reservations about the sale. “Important to think about and discuss this news of a foreign company’s purchase of the distribution rights to a large portion of Icelandic music,” Icelandic musician Logi Pedro Stefánsson tweeted today. “As a small nation with a tiny language we have to stand guard over our cultural wealth and legacy, and how we support the arts as well as possible in the future.”

Copyright remains in composers’ hands

It is clear the purchase will greatly impact the Icelandic music industry, Bragi Valdimar Skúlason, chairman of the Composer’s Rights Society of Iceland (STEF), told Fréttablaðið. “There are of course huge interests at stake here. There is a remarkable catalogue of Icelandic songs from the very start [of recording].” Bragi Valdimar points out that musicians still hold the rights to the songs themselves, though Universal has acquired the rights to the masters (or recordings). This could be positive for STEF, as Universal will invest in distributing the recordings.

What impact the purchase of Alda will have is yet to be seen, Bragi Valdimar added, but it is just one step of a development that has been ongoing for some time, and not only in Iceland. “It’s been something of a trend that these independent labels have a tendency to merge together in the end.”

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