History of the Music Experiments

The Icelandic Music Experiments (IME) have been a big part of Iceland’s music scene. IME started with the collaboration of Tónabær and SATT (Association of folk poets and musicians) which, among other things, hosted a marathon concert session in the basement of Tónabær in November 1982.  Musician Jóhann G. Jóhannsson was the founder of the collaboration. 


The IME has always been held at Tónabær, with the venue originally located at Skaftahlíð 24 in Reykjavík. In the year 2000, Tónabær relocated to Safamýri. The semi-finals typically take four to five nights and draw large crowds, with attendance often reaching 500-600 people. Fun fact: admission to the first IME was only 50 kr. 


Sessions at recording studios have always been the main prizes for the IME, and more sponsors came on board early on. The most promising or talented instrumentalists were chosen and rewarded with credits at various music stores. A special judging panel was quickly started to stop so-called "popular votes", as the audience chose which bands proceeded. The judging panel began selecting interesting bands for the finals, regardless of audience choice.


It is often said that the Music Experiments have been a stepping stone for young and inexperienced bands into the “hard music industry.” Bands such as Kolrassa Krókríðandi (Bellatrix), Botnleðja (Silt), Maus, Mínus, Jakobínarína, Agent Fresco, Vök, Samaris, Mammút, Of Monsters and Men are great examples of the success that can follow participation in the IME.


Many of the above-mentioned bands dove into the deep end after taking part in the Music Experiments. They continued by recording their first EPs, touring in far-off lands, playing with world-famous bands, and experiencing the rock-and-roll lifestyle in various ways. As happens, some of these bands lasted longer than others, but that's how the world goes on. Of course, we cannot forget all the bands and musicians who did not make it to the finals, or did not receive prizes. Many of them continued their work and became prominent, albeit not necessarily with the same names they used during the competition. The experience and synergy with other musicians is no less valuable or important for those involved. New ideas and bands continue to be formed and flourish in the Icelandic musical landscape. Which is, of course, one of the main purposes of the Music Experiments.


It is a fun fact that the first band to step up on stage at the Music Experiments in 1982 was the all-female band Sokkabandið. However, the lack of female participants has been a common topic of discussion concerning the Experiments. There have, however, been quite a few all-female bands in the finals and in first place, such as Dúkkulísurnar, Kolrassa Krókríðandi, Á túr, Mammút,, Between Mountains, Atería, gusgusar and others.


The final nights of the IME were held at Tónabær's main venue until 2001, when they were moved to a larger venue for the first time. The Fram Gym in Safamýri was the first choice, and in the following years, both the semi-finals and finals have been held in various locations around Reykjavík. Over the years, this spectacular music festival has been held at a variety of locations around Reykjavík, including Hitt Húsið – Youth Center in Pósthússtræti, Austurbær Event Hall at Snorrabraut, Tjarnarbío Cinema, Loftkastalinn Theater, the Icelandic Opera, Reykjavík Art Museum, and Harpa. Ever since, this music event has been one of the main platforms for young Icelandic bands and musicians aged 13-25 to promote their music.