“Icelandic Music or Music from Iceland?” The Image of Icelandic Popular Music in British Media


  • Margret Sigrun Sigurdardottir University of Iceland
  • Kristjan Mar Gunnarsson University of Iceland
  • Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen University of Iceland




Iceland, popular music, national image, Icelandic music, Björk, media


This article aims to understand the image of Icelandic music as it is portrayed in three British media outlets and how this relates to the country of origin and the national image of Iceland. Using qualitative methods, the authors analysed 195 articles about Icelandic music. The image of Icelandic music has strong connections with Icelandic nature, whether imagined (other-worldly) or real (e.g., lava formations and glaciers). This is particularly true for Björk’s and Sigur Rós’s music. Findings indicate that these artists, specifically the eccentric Björk, have paved the way for a symbolically loaded “Icelandic sound” and, accordingly, have built a strong image of Icelandic music. At the same time, emerging popular artists from Iceland, such as Of Monsters and Men and Kaleo, go against this trend by following a different path which does not match established expectations for Icelandic music, thus shifting the focus from Icelandic music towards music from Iceland.

Author Biographies

Margret Sigrun Sigurdardottir, University of Iceland

Margret Sigrun Sigurdardottir is an associate professor at the Faculty of Business Administration at the University of Iceland. Her PhD thesis, from the Copenhagen Business School in 2010, was on the organization of the British music industry. She has since conducted research on the creative industries in Iceland with a particular focus on music.

Kristjan Mar Gunnarsson, University of Iceland

Kristjan Mar Gunnarsson earned his four degrees at the University of Iceland, the most relevant being M.S. in Marketing, earned in 2016. He works in marketing and market research in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, University of Iceland

Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen earned his PhD in 2019 at the University of Edinburgh under the supervision of Professor Simon Frith. He is the director of the undergraduate media and communication studies programme at the University of Iceland. He is the author of three books on Icelandic music with the fourth in progress.


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How to Cite

Sigurdardottir, M. S. ., Gunnarsson, K. M. ., & Thoroddsen, A. E. . (2021). “Icelandic Music or Music from Iceland?” The Image of Icelandic Popular Music in British Media. Journal of World Popular Music, 8(2), 185–206. https://doi.org/10.1558/jwpm.41191