Unison Holiday Schmoozefest Raises $20K for Music Industry Emergency Fund

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If you gathered dozens and dozens of the nation’s top music professionals in a room, you’d expect it to be a schmooze fest – and that’s how it was on Dec. 12 at the Spice Route Bistro and Bar in Toronto. Yet this wasn’t elbow-rubbing for its own sake. This was the annual Canadian music industry Holiday Schmoozefest, and it raised $20,000 for the Unison Benevolent Fund.

Unison Benevolent Fund executive director Sheila Hamilton was on hand along with various musicians and industry people who were there to show their support for the fund and the services it provides, which includes counselling and emergency assistance for Canadian music industry workers.

The Schmoozefest, launched in 2015, is an affordable $25 ticket, including hors-d'oeuvres and door prizes. DJ Brendan Canning (of Broken Social Scene) provided the soundtrack to the evening. Attendees further supported the cause by buying raffle tickets, for items such as courtside Raptors seats and recording time at The Bathhouse.

In the crowd Deane Cameron, president & CEO at The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall and Lisa Zbitnew, president and owner/pperator of the Phoenix Concert Theatre, both of whom were acknowledged for their roles in getting the Unison Fund off the ground as members of the founding board of directors. Also seen at the festivities were CARAS president Allan Reid; The Tragically Hip’s manager Bernie Breen; CCS Rights Management founder Jodie Ferneyhough; Instinct Entertainment’s Michael Perlmutter and far too many more industry types to mention. The red carpet, however, belonged to seasonal sensations Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Sponsors for the event included Entertainment One, Labatt Brewing Company, Slaight Music, SOCAN, Sony Music, The Arts & Entertainment Plan, Universal Music Canada, Universe, and Warner Music.

The Unison Benevolent Fund is a non-profit group formed to benefit those in the Canadian music community who face personal or professional challenges due to hardship, illness, or economic difficulties. According to the Unison website, almost half of those who work in the music business have experienced personal and economic difficulties that prevented them from working. As many people in the business are self-employed, many musicians and music business professionals have no access to pension plans, unemployment insurance, employee assistance programs, sick leave or medical benefits.

The idea for the fund came from music scene stalwarts  Ferneyhough and Catharine Saxberg. After seeing many friends and acquaintances lost to illness or burdened by difficulty, the two took action and, mirroring similar relief programs existed in other sectors, they set out to unite individuals in the music industry to help one another. 

The Unison Benevolent Fund is designed to assist everyone in the field - songwriters, musicians and performers, sound techs and roadies, managers, agents and publishers, marketing, PR and promotion staff; basically, anyone whose career has been predominately spent in the music industry.

As Unison points out, if you’re an avid fan of Canadian music, you’re a part of the music community too, and your help is welcome. Visit Unison Benevolent Fund’s website to learn more or to donate. Contributions to Unison will help to pay for medical expenses, housing, food and other vital wellness services such as counseling, drug addiction support, and legal advice. They have even provided a page of helpful seasonal self-care advice, to help those facing frustration and stress at a time of year when many simply want to enjoy the holiday cheer.

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