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With a total population of just over 375,000, Iceland has one of Europe’s smaller markets for live entertainment. The country’s modest size and small population meant that the island nation took a lot longer than other territories to recover from the fallout of the pandemic.
“Our biggest show ever came just before Covid took over, when we ended up selling 15,000 tickets and adding an extra day for Ed Sheeran at the National Stadium [Laugardalsvöllur] in Reykjavik,” says Isleifur Thorhallsson, managing director of Sena Live. “Back then, the population was close to 340,000 to 350,000, so to sell that many tickets was crazy. However, things aren’t the same now as they were before the pandemic, so ticket sales are generally weaker and more unpredictable compared to a few years ago.”
“Our biggest show ever came just before Covid took over, when we ended up selling 15,000 tickets and adding an extra day for Ed Sheeran at the National Stadium [Laugardalsvöllur] in Reykjavik.”
According to Thorhallsson, the post-pandemic recovery period hasn’t been kind to other national promoters keen on bringing over global acts, citing the “unpredictability” of the Icelandic live entertainment market. “The rates of booking international acts were always a challenge as flying here is pretty expensive, but rates have since increased significantly.”
However, a major positive for Thorhallsson and the Icelandic live industry in general, is artists’ “willingness to come to the country.” The Backstreet Boys performed in Reykjavik in April, which Thorhallsson hailed as the “biggest new show we’ve had since we came out of Covid.”
Additionally, he oversaw another successful Iceland Airwaves last winter, a festival that saw over 100 acts — including Arlo Parks, Arooj Aftab, and Röyksopp, among others— perform across three days. “The showcase festival features a mix of Icelandic and international artists performing across eight to ten venues,” says Thorhallsson. “Given that Icelandic music is a bit all over the place right now, it’s incredible to see a lot of talent coming out of our country every year.”