How to throw a music festival in Iceland

By Stephan Blackwell, First posted on Death and Taxes, November 6, 2012

Ever go to a music festival and wonder how it all comes together? Well, Kamilla Ingibergsdóttir, PR and Marketing Manager for Iceland Airwaves, took the time to explain to us the ins and outs of producing one of the premier music festivals in Europe, Iceland Airwaves.

Reyka Vodka partners with Iceland Airwaves to bring incredible U.S. talent to perform alongside the global heavyweights that rock Iceland Airwaves. Ingibergsdóttir explains how Iceland Airwaves comes together (hint: they’re already planning 2013), and how Reyka helps to curate some of the best U.S. talent appearing at the fest.

Iceland Airwaves is one of the most exciting festivals in Europe—how do you pull it together every year? How long does it take to plan?
We start planning the next Iceland Airwaves before the current one ends! We are always on the lookout for new music—Icelandic or otherwise—to make keep each year’s program unique and unexpected. It takes a lot of effort to pull together but we are proud of being known as one of the premier music festivals in the world.

You have a long-standing relationship with Reyka Vodka—how does your relationship work in regards to activating the festival?
We began working with Reyka Vodka in 2011 and partnering with them on their Breakthrough at Iceland Airwaves contest. Reyka hosts the contest and we choose the winning bands based on their style, sound, and fit with the Iceland Airwaves lineup. It’s been a beautiful partnership—Reyka comes from Iceland and shares the same creative and unique approach to having fun that we do too.

How do you go about choosing artists to come to Iceland?
While we’re always on the lookout for up-and-coming talent, we’re known for creating a premier showcase of unique sounds and styles. Some of the world’s most exciting artists have performed here including Björk, Sigur Rós, Of Monsters and Men, The Shins, The Rapture, TV On The Radio, Florence and the Machine, Seabear—the list goes on and on!

Much like SXSW, Iceland Airwaves takes place across multiple venues in Reykjavik—who curates the shows?
Reykjavík is quite possibly the perfect festival city—small enough to be welcoming, sophisticated enough to offer cultural, historical and nightlife diversions to rival cities ten times its size. We work with multiple venues around town that will show off the various styles and accommodate the crowds throughout the festival week.

What turnout are you expecting for Iceland Airwaves 2012? How many attendees come from different countries?
The festival is growing year after year and is consistently sold out. This year we will have record attendance with close to 7,000 people attending from 40 countries around the world. Icelanders, Europeans, and more and more Americans are coming to our little island—we’re thrilled to host some of the hippest people in the world for the week!

What 2012 performances are you most excited for?
All of them!! Each and every artist that performs at Iceland Airwaves is special and with over 200 artists performing, how can you choose? This year we will have a special performance from Iceland’s own Sigur Rós. It’s been 11 years since they last performed at Iceland Airwaves, and it’s certain to be special.

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