Canadian Musicians On Board For Unison Jam and Big Announcement

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Unison Benevolent Fund — the emergency relief services charity set up to help members of the Canadian music community — might finally be activating its financial assistance program.  Other aspects of the fund have been available for over a year, including free counseling services.

There will be an announcement at the Unison Jam May 6 at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre about “a new program to provide financial support to Canadian music makers in times of crisis,” the press release reads. Performing at what sounds like a big celebration are members of Finger Eleven, I Mother Earth, Tom Wilson, Kardinal Offishall, K-OS, Jason McCoy, Matthew Good, The Trews, Kim Mitchell, Tomi Swick and Madison Violet.

Back in 2012, journalist Nick Krewen did a feature on Unison for Samaritanmag, at which time $800,000 of the $1 million needed to activate the fund had been raised.  In June of last year, Jodie Ferneyhough, president of Unison’s board of directors, told Samaritanmag that $150,000 was still needed.  Since then, there have been many fundraisers across the country, big and small.

“It is launched.  We’re already up and running,” Ferneyhough tells Samaritanmag. “One aspect of Unison is not active and that’s money, but it is active. You can get counseling and various types of help online and on the phone line, including marriage counseling, smoking cessation and new jobs.”

He falls short of confirming the activation of the fund, saying the “exciting announcement” will be made at the concert. He says "music makers" is the board's generic term that they are applying to everyone in the music industry, not just musicians, songwriters and producers.

Tickets for Unison Jam are $20 plus service charge in advance from Ticketweb. All proceeds go to Unison.

A few of the scheduled highlights for the concert are Kim Mitchell and The Trews performing each others hits; I Mother Earth and Jason McCoy doing some “full metal country,” and Matthew Good performing acoustically. The event will be hosted by Tom Wilson, with DJ support from Eon Sinclair of Bedouin Soundclash and K-OS.

There will also be a raffle and auction, including a trip to Dublin, Ireland, courtesy of event sponsor Jameson Irish Whiskey.

As well as self-employed musicians, behind the scenes of the music industry are a vast network of players that are largely self-employed that do not pay into E.I. (employment insurance) or receive health benefits from an employer. If work dries up, there is no severance pay; if they are ill, there are no paid sick days. There is no regular paycheck.  This goes for everyone from producers and engineers to publicists, journalists, lighting technicians, song pluggers, artist managers, music supervisors, tour managers, and more.

On the Unison Benevolent Fund web site, its mission is posted as follows:

Unison Benevolent Fund is a non-profit, registered charity that provides counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music community. We are here to help professional music makers in times of hardship, illness or economic difficulties.

For many, a career in music is a dream come true; however, the reality is that many members of the Canadian music community do not have access to the services that can make all the difference in a time of need: sick leave, medical benefits, pension plans, and unemployment insurance. Music makers can easily find themselves unprepared to deal with the financial and emotional burdens of an unforeseen emergency or illness. The Unison Benevolent Fund provides a lifeline in these times of crisis, and is there to ensure in the health of our friends, colleagues and collaborators.

The Unison Benevolent Fund is an assistance program – created and administered for the music community, by the music community – designed to provide discreet relief to music industry professionals in times of crisis. There are two distinct types of support available through the fund.

Financial Assistance. The Unison Benevolent Fund will provide emergency financial support to Canadian music makers recovering from an illness, injury or other circumstances that result in an inability to work, severe economic or personal hardship.

Counseling and Health Solutions. Through voluntary and confidential support services, eligible Canadian music makers are able to access qualified professionals who can provide counselling and other resources to support individuals and their immediate family members dealing with health, legal, relationships or work-related concerns.

The Unison Benevolent Fund is funded by support from individuals and industry organizations. All services and information is provided in English and French.

Unison will never charge dues or fees for membership or to access to any assistance program.”

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