First Comprehensive Music Policy Approved by Alþingi

Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir

Alþingi has approved the Ministry of Culture and Trade’s bill on music, the first comprehensive policy on the matter in Iceland.

The legislation aims to establish a new music policy for 2030 by strengthening the environment for the creation and performance of music in Iceland, establishing a comprehensive framework for music-related issues, and creating favourable conditions for its creation, promotion, and performance.

The bill is seen as especially important given the role that music has historically played in Icelandic culture and the promotion of Iceland abroad.

Read more: Draft Iceland’s First Comprehensive Music Policy Approved

In a statement, Minister of Culture and Trade Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir said: “These are truly milestones for music in this country. I wish all of our wonderful musicians congratulations and I am truly looking forward to listening to the results of these significant changes. I also want to thank all of the amazing people who worked on the policy-making.”

A key achievement of the bill is the creation of a new centre for music, to be established later this year, and is intended to support all kinds of music activities and export projects for all music genres. In addition, the centre will manage the registration, administration and distribution of Icelandic music.

New sources of funding will also become available under the law, which merges the current Music Fund, the Sound Recording Fund and the Icelandic Music Export Fund. The role of the new fund will be to promote Icelandic music, sound recording and development work in the Icelandic music industry. The fund will promote  Icelandic musicians and their work, both in Iceland and abroad.

Lilja stated further: “I am grateful for the great support that the issue received in the Icelandic Parliament. I also want to thank the good and powerful group of people who have participated in this work. The future of Icelandic music has become even brighter following these changes, which will be enjoyable to follow along the way.”

Phallological Museum to Display Cast of Jimi Hendrix’s Penis

The Icelandic Phallological Museum will soon add a new artifact to its extensive collection: a plaster cast of legendary American guitarist Jimi Hendrix’s penis. RÚV reports that the cast was made by visual artist Cynthia Albritton in 1986, two years before Hendrix’s death. Albritton bequeathed the cast to the museum prior to her death at the age of 74 last month.

Albritton was better known as “Plaster Caster,” a nickname immortalized in a Kiss song of the same name, and made casts of almost 50 phalluses, most belonging to rock musicians. She also eventually added rock and roll breasts to her repertoire. She claimed not to have a favourite cast, but remarked in a 1995 interview with The Evening Standard that “other people are most interested in the Hendrix,” which was also sometimes stylized as “the Penis de Milo.” The project started as an art class assignment at the University of Illinois, continued as “a great ruse to divert rock stars from the other girls,” and eventually, Albritton said, became “an art form,” something she took seriously, despite the inherent absurdity. “I’m laughing with them, not at them.”

The idea to display Albritton’s work at the Phallological Museum didn’t come from the artist herself, says director Þórður Ólafur Þórðarson, but rather, her neighbours and close friends, a couple who visited the museum around Christmas. After speaking to Þórður about Albritton’s work, they suggested holding an exhibition at the museum, and eventually, Albritton decided to donate the Hendrix. She was unable to deliver it in person before her death, however, so her friends will be bringing it to Iceland on her behalf in June.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum claims to be “probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country” and boasts a collection of more than 215 “penises and penile parts,” including specimens belonging to whales, seals, “a rogue polar bear,” and more. It also has human specimens, both “legally certified gift tokens” from four individuals, as well as casts like Cynthia’s, most notably of the entire Icelandic Men’s National Handball Team, which won a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Impostor Syndrome: Fake Artists Posing as Icelandic Musicians on Spotify

Björk Guðmundsdóttir musician

Minister of Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir will meet with the CEO of Spotify this week to discuss the proliferation of “fake artists” posing as Icelandic musicians on the music streaming platform, RÚV reports. She says Spotify has thus far ignored requests to remove the impostors, which is costing real Icelandic artists a substantial amount of potential revenue.

During the meeting, Lilja intends to discuss the seriousness of this matter with the streaming service and fight for real Icelandic musicians to get the exposure and revenue they deserve. “The whole landscape has changed so much with streaming services and this can be a positive thing in some ways, but there are negative sides, too, and this is clearly one of them,” she said. “I believe our musicians deserve more for their efforts and I intend to say so. I understand that people think Iceland is cool, but this [appreciation] can’t be [performed] in such a way that our musicians’ earnings go down. That’s out of the question, in my mind.”

The Swedish Connection

The phenomenon of so-called ‘fake artists’ on Spotify has caused considerable consternation within the international music scene for years. Fake artists are the inventions of a small number of individual music producers and/or record companies that create untraceable pseudonyms with little-to-no digital footprint, and then mass-produce songs that are added to Spotify’s popular playlists. Playlists encourage song play and Spotify revenues are, of course, paid according to the number of plays an artist receives. Therefore, fake artists funnel streaming profits to a select few entities and deprive actual working musicians of their already scant streaming royalties.

A recent report by Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter discovered that Firefly Entertainment, a Swedish record label whose management appears to have close personal ties with a former Spotify executive, boasts a roster of over 800 fake artists, nearly 500 of whom are found on key Spotify playlists. Per Music Business Worldwide: “DN also discovered–via the register of Swedish publishing body STIM–that music from over 500 of these “fake artists” have been created by just 20 songwriters. The publication says it even found one composer who is the creator of songs for no less than 62 fake artists on Spotify; his music is currently attracting 7.7 million listeners on the service each month.” (Read Music Business Worldwide’s latest reporting on this developing story, in English, here.)

RÚV reports that a number of Firefly Entertainment’s fake artists are reputedly Icelandic. These Icelandic impostors then appear on a number of Iceland-themed playlists and thereby cash in on the country’s cachet as a nature- and music-lover’s paradise.

Ekfat the Fake “Icelandic Beatmaker”

One particularly egregious example of Firefly’s undercover antics is a fake artist going by the moniker Ekfat, whose song “Polar Circle” has generated over 3.52 million listens. According to the artist bio on Spotify, Ekfat is the pseudonym of “upcoming Icelandic beatmaker” Guðmundur Gunnarsson, who has been “part of the legendary Smekkleysa Lo-Fi Rockers crew since 2017.”

But in reality, no such musician exists and neither does his “legendary crew,” although Smekkleysa Lo-Fi Rockers is undoubtedly a play on the real (and actually iconic) Smekkleysa SM, or Bad Taste Records, which launched Björk’s career, among others. And yet, until recently, Ekfat could apparently be found on the Spotify-created playlist “Lo-Fi House.” (At time of writing, Spotify showed that Ekfat was supposed to be featured on this playlist, but no song by the artist appears on the playlist anymore.)

Real Icelandic Music from Real Icelandic Artists

Some of Iceland Music’s Verified Icelandic Playlists on Spotify

Luckily for Icelandic music enthusiasts, there’s an easy way to find and support real Icelandic musicians on Spotify. Iceland Music, an organization that promotes and exports music from Iceland, has created a number of playlists on both Spotify and Apple Music, all of which are populated with verified songs and musicians from Iceland. These include a playlist of new music from Iceland, which is updated on a weekly basis, as well as playlists of ‘atmospheric’ songs, contemporary classical music, music by Icelandic women, Icelandic hip hop, metal, electronic, and more. (Icelandic artists who want to have their music added to these verified playlists can request so here.)

More on Icelandic musicians and streaming platforms in our latest issue.

Three Wins for Pop Star Bríet at Icelandic Music Awards

Bríet - Icelandic pop singer wins the Icelandic Music Awards in 2021

The annual Icelandic Music Awards were held in Reykjavík last Saturday. Pop musician Bríet, who received seven nominations, took home three awards in the categories Pop Album of the Year, Lyricist of the Year, and Female Singer of the Year. Female artists won in six out of the nine Best Album genre categories.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nominees were invited to attend the presentation of the awards in small groups. The presentations were pre-recorded shortly before the ceremony was broadcast on Saturday evening. The broadcast did feature five live performances by nominees, however, including Best Jazz Album winner Ingibjörg Turchi and crowd favourite GusGus.

Read More: Bríet at the 2018 Iceland Airwaves Festival

Sigur Rós received this year’s Honourary Award for their contribution to Icelandic music over the past 17 years (the band was established in 1994). Unsurprisingly, Iceland’s Eurovision representative Daði Freyr won Best Pop Song for last year’s viral hit Think About Things.

A playlist featuring all of this year’s nominees is available on Spotify. The full list of winners is below.

2021 Icelandic Music Awards Winners

Pop, Rock, Rap, Hip Hop, and Electronic Music 

POP – BEST ALBUM
Kveðja, Bríet  – BRÍET

ROCK – BEST ALBUM
Endless Twilight of Codependent Love  – Sólstafir

RAP & HIP HOP – BEST ALBUM
VACATION  – CYBER

ELECTRONIC MUSIC – BEST ALBUM
Visions of Ultraflex  – Ultraflex

POP – BEST SONG
Think About Things – Daði Freyr

ROCK – BEST SONG
Haf trú – HAM

RAP & HIP HOP – BEST SONG
Geimvera  – JóiPé x Króli

ELECTRONIC MUSIC – BEST SONG
Think Too Fast  – JFDR

BEST MUSICAL EVENT
Heima með Helga

BEST LYRICIST
Bríet Ísis Elfar

BEST SONGWRITER
Hjaltalín

BEST MALE SINGER
Högni Egilsson

BEST FEMALE SINGER
Bríet Ísis Elfar

BEST PERFORMER
Bubbi Morthens

BEST MUSIC VIDEO (awarded in collaboration with albumm.is)
Sumarið sem aldrei kom – Jónsi. Leikstjórn: Frosti Jón Runólfsson

BRIGHTEST HOPE (emerging artist awarded in collaboration with Rás 2)
Gugusar

 

CLASSICAL AND CONTEMPORARY MUSIC 

BEST ALBUM
John Speight, Solo Piano Works  – Peter Máté

BEST COMPOSITION
Accordion Concerto – Finnur Karlsson

BEST FESTIVAL
Sönghátíð í Hafnarborg

BEST CONCERT
Brák og Bach

BEST FEMALE SINGER
Álfheiður Erla Guðmundsdóttir

BEST MALE SINGER
Stuart Skelton

BEST SOLO PERFORMER
Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson

BEST GROUP PERFORMER
Icelandic Symphony Orchestra

EMERGING CLASSICAL ARTIST
Steiney Sigurðardóttir (cellist)

 

JAZZ AND BLUES

BEST ALBUM
Meliae – Ingibjörg Turchi

BEST ORIGINAL COMPOSITION
Four Elements – Haukur Gröndal

BEST SONGWRITER
Sigurður Flosason

BEST SOLO PERFORMER
Haukur Gröndal

BEST GROUP PERFORMER
Frelsissveit Íslands

BEST MUSICAL EVENT
Reykjavík Jazz Festival

BRIGHTEST HOPE (emerging artist award)
Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir


OTHER MUSIC: OPEN CATEGORY, FOLK AND WORLD MUSIC, MUSIC FOR FILM AND THEATRE

BEST ALBUM – MUSIC FOR FILM AND THEATRE
Defending Jacob – Atli Örvarsson & Ólafur Arnalds

BEST ALBUM – FOLK AND WORLD MUSIC
Shelters one  – Jelena Ciric

BEST ALBUM – OPEN CATEGORY
EPICYCLE II – Gyða Valtýsdóttir

BEST SONG/COMPOSITION – OPEN CATEGORY
Astronaut  – Red Barnett

BEST ALBUM ARTWORK
PLASTPRINSESSAN  – K.óla:
Kata Jóhanness, Katrín Helga Ólafsdóttir, Ása Bríet Brattaberg, Arína Vala Þórðardóttir, Ída Arínudóttir, Elvar S. Júlíusson

BEST PRODUCTION
Meliae – Ingibjörg Turchi:
Sound engineer: Birgir Jón Birgisson, mixing and mastering: Ívar Ragnarsson