Reykjavik Regains Control

Less than a year after the Icelandic financial institutions took the country to the verge of bankruptcy, its annual festival and music conference are both sufficiently recovered to go ahead in 2009.

The country’s financial systems went into meltdown just before Airwaves Festival, which meant the cost of foreign artists almost tripled as the Icelandic króna went into freefall against foreign currencies.

Promoter Steini Stephensen wasn’t able to pay deposits because the country’s banking system was paralysed. When it came to paying balances, he couldn’t get the money because the banks were closed.

This year’s Airwaves is unlikely to have a lineup to match the 2008 version (White Lies, Vampire Weekend, Biffy Clyro, and CSS), partly because the krona is worth less than half of what it was before the collapse and some of the U.K. agents were soured by the experience.

Although they understood the situation, which was making headline news worldwide, some felt the event didn’t do enough to keep them up to speed on when their acts would be getting what they were owed.

Previous editions have included such breakthrough international talent as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Bravery, Thievery Corporation, Kaiser Chiefs, Flaming Lips, The Kills, Keane, Hot Chip, and Klaxons. This year’s Oct. 14-18 bill – despite having Casiokids, Thecocknbullkid, and Kings Of Convenience – doesn’t look to have the same clout.

Anna Hildur Hildebrandsdottir of Iceland Music Export, organiser of the annual You Are In Control conference (Sept. 23-24) is on record as saying the real value of her funding is less than half of what it was 12 months ago.

In September 2008 a dollar would have bought about 60 Icelandic króna, but now it’s worth nearly 125. Anyone visiting from countries with similar stable currencies such as the U.K. pound or the euro will find the tiny volcanic island a cheap place to stay, but it doesn’t make it easy for Hildebrandsdottir to make sure the third You Are In Control measures up to the standards of the first two.

What she describes as a “resourceful and creative” approach looks to have paid dividends, as the programme features speakers from the U.S. and several European countries.

It also covers a range of worldwide issues, including disconnecting illegal downloaders from the Internet, the relationship between film, TV and music, the future of digital distribution, green innovation in the creative industries and how social media can be used as a marketing tool.

“Where is my money?” which features Dr. Eggert Claessen from Frumtak Investment Fund and Helga Valfells from New Business Venture Fund, is about how to present a business plan and find investors.