Reykjavík Music City
Reykjavík has long been known for its vibrant music scene and a massive creative output. Internationally revered musicians such as Björk, Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Rós, Ásgeir, Emiliana Torrini, múm, Kaleo, Ólafur Arnalds and Gus Gus along with composers like Hildur Guðnadóttir, Víkingur Heiðar, Anna Thorvalds and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson have all played a part in establishing Reykjavík’s reputation as a unique place to enjoy live music. The city is home to an eclectic collection of genres, venues, events and performers that makes any music experience memorable. No matter what time of year, a visit to Reykjavík is not complete without exploring its unique music scene!
Thousands of concerts are held every year at traditional and alternative concert venues around the capital area. Reykjavík’s award-winning concert hall Harpa is a city landmark and home of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, Icelandic Opera, and the Reykjavík Big Band but many music festivals of various genres are also held in the house. For smaller and less formal live music events, Reykjavík offers a wide selection of historical venues such as Hannesarholt (the former home of writer and Iceland’s first prime minister, Hannes Hafstein), Gamla Bíó (the first cinema in Iceland) or Mengi (where the first record in Iceland was recorded). Gaukurinn, Röntgen, Hard Rock Café, Prikið, Salurinn in Kópavogur and Bæjarbíó in Hafnarfjörður are just some of the other places that organise concerts on a regular basis.
Iceland Airwaves and Secret Solstice are the biggest music festivals in the city but Reykjavík boasts of festivals in a wide variety of genres throughout the year and new ones are regularly added to the mix. Dark Music Days, founded by the Icelandic Composers’ Society, takes place during the long Icelandic winter months and focuses on contemporary and new music, Extreme Chill and Raflost are festivals of experimental electronic music and sonic arts, whereas Reykjavík Jazz Festival, Reykjavík Blues Festival, Melodica Festival,
Opera Days and Reykjavík Metalfest hardly need any further explanation.
Children and youth
For the younger audiences, events like the Childrens’ Culture Festival and Big Bang! provide immersive experiences and opportunities to engage with others through music. Músiktilraunir (En. Icelandic Music Experiments, the Icelandic battle of the bands) and Upptakturinn are popular platforms for young people taking the first steps in creating and performing their own music. Of Monsters and Men and a number of other Icelandic bands like Mammút, Mínus, Agent Fresco, Samaris and Vök have all participated in Músiktilraunir and gone on to become popular international acts.
Beyond live music, Reykjavík is home to a handful of world-class record stores that all release music on their own labels. Make sure to stop by Lucky Records, Smekkleysa, Reykjavík Record Shop or 12 Tónar whether it is for a copy of the newest Icelandic release or gem from the archives. In 12 Tónar you can even enjoy a cup of coffee or locally brewed beer from the in-house bar while browsing their selection!
Reykjavík Music City
To ensure an ongoing vibrant and diverse music sector, the City of Reykjavík supports the local music scene in several ways. Public funding secures that a high number of music schools are available across the city to children of all ages – from toddlers to high school students wishing to pursue a career in music.The city also runs four school bands across the city to secure access to music education to even more children. Hitt húsið is a youth center run by the city that organizes the Icelandic Music Experiments and features a stage for concerts and a studio for young musicians taking their first steps. The city also backs rehearsal spaces and under-age concert venues, currently in three locations around the city: Tónhylur, TÞM and Stelpur rokka. Reykjavík’s yearly cultural funding supports a wide variety of music projects and the Festival City project currently features two music festivals (Iceland Airwaves and Dark Music Days) that receive generous funding from the city.
In 2017, the City of Reykjavík established the Reykjavík Music City project whose aim is to create favourable conditions for musical activities throughout the city. During the first years of existence, the project has established an Improvement Fund for venues who wish to upgrade their facilities and/or equipment, created a workshop series for the finalists in Músiktilraunir to prepare them for a career in music, hosted a music tourism symposium during the 2019 edition of Iceland Airwaves, mapped Reykjavík’s music infrastructure and collaborated on the music business startup programme Firestarter to name a few examples. Read more about the Reykjavík Music City project here.
Music in Reykjavík
Map of music venues and record stores in Reykjavík
Reykjavík Folk Festival
No Date Yet for 2020
The Reykjavík Folk Festival is a three-day musical feast celebrating the diversity and breadth of the Icelandic folk music scene.
Reykjavík Blues Festival
4. - 9. April 2020
Watch blues artists from Europe, Iceland and North America perform together in some of the most unique jam sessions in the Northern Hemisphere.
Innipúkinn Music Festival
31. - 2. August 2020
Innipúkinn is a 3-day annual music festival held in Reykjavik, Iceland the first weekend of August.
Cycle - Music and Art Festival
16.-17. June 2020
Cycle Music and Art Festival is sprung out of the mere interest of creating a platform where experimental music and visual art are given an opportunity to engage in dialogue and experiments.
Dark Music Days
No date yet for 2021
Dark Music Days is a festival of contemporary and new music which takes place during the darkest period of the Icelandic winter at the concert hall Harpa.
Reykjavik Jazz Festival
29. Aug.- 05. Sep 2020
The festival hosts performances in a variety of styles, from contemporary jazz and the avant-garde to Latin jazz, gospel and big bands. It features many acclaimed international Jazz players as well as Iceland’s leading Jazz musicians.