Cohesion & collective voice: An organizational ethnography of the Icelandic music industry

This is an ongoing project.

Faculty Researcher: Jeremy Peters

Contact Details

Jeremy Peters


Familiar popular narratives discuss how the nation of Iceland’s cultural contributions outsize those of peer countries and countries that dwarf it in size and access to resources (Swed, 2017; AWAL, 2019). In practice, the nation lays claim to many well-known and internationally successful musicians. Amongst the group of musicians are Björk (nominated thirteen times for Grammy Awards), Sigur Rós and lead singer Jónsi (who have collectively released six albums that have charted in the top 100 releases in the highly competitive United States music market as tracked by Billboard Magazine), and two Academy Award nominated-and winning film composers (Hildur Gudnadóttir and the late Jóhan Jóhannson). These results are impressive but amplified given the country’s population of just over 360,000 residents (Statistics Iceland, 2019) and relative lack of density (United Nations Statistics Division, 2019).
This project connects existing research on Iceland’s music industry and the nation’s cultural impact to the broader study of organizations. Notably, the project will uncover what factors allow this small, geographically diffuse population to come together to promote and compete on the world’s stage by exploring how stakeholders in the Icelandic music industry (creators, promoters, and institutional actors) organize themselves to create large-scale impact relative to size. More specifically, the ethnographic study of the industry-as-organization may uncover findings that are not readily seen by top-down or other analytical tools – particularly granularities in how stakeholders connect, align, and build upon one another (Rosen, 1991; Neyland, 2008a; Ciuk, Koning and Kostera, 2018)


I am looking to work with an undergraduate researcher who is interested in qualitative and ethnographic methods, and who is equally interested in the creative industries. Appropriate prior coursework could include introductory musicology, ethnomusicology, music industry studies, anthropology, and economics courses. These are not strict pre-requisites, but suggestions. Prior research experience is not necessary, but students should have a general sense (via web readings) of methodology.

Project Timeline

The project will take place in four large parts. The first part includes pre-work, including comprehensive literature reviews. This part will take place first, and will be available for a single term during Fall Term 2022. The PI will then conduct field research in two separate visits (during Spring/Summer 2023 and a short visit in Fall 2023), and then begin coding and interpreting data collected during Winter 2024 and Spring/Summer 2024. Most of the student-oriented work will take place during this period.


Students will spend upwards of 10-15 hours per week working alongside the PI to code ethnographic interviews with subjects from video and audio recordings. This coding process will include digital transcription, checking transcriptions for accuracy, coding interviews in Atlas.ti 9, and performing initial analysis.

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Last Updated

October 14, 2021