Canadian Musician - November/December 2017 - Page 10

INDIE INSIDER A Lifeline for the Canadian Music Industry The Unison Benevolent Fund Is There for You By Michael Raine W hen Hill Strategies Research released its 2014 Statistical Profile of Artists and Cultural Workers in Canada, it was little surprise that artists (musi- cians, authors and writers, directors, choreog- raphers, etc.) are significantly more likely to be self-employed than the wider labour force. Over half of artists are self-employed compared to between 11 and 15 per cent of the general labour force, according to the report. That has significant consequences for the music industry, making folks in it more vulnerable, which is why the Unison Benevolent Fund was so des- perately needed. “Unison was founded in 2011 when an accident befell a very well-loved community member in the industry and it sort of brought into focus that really, there is no safety net within Canada. Over 61 per cent of the Canadian music industry is self-employed and that’s really great - it’s that entrepreneurial spirit that makes our industry so wonderful - but we have nothing to help our people when they need it most,” says Amanda Power, development man- ager for Unison. Started by Catharine Saxberg, then executive director, and Jodie Ferneyhough, president of CCS Rights Management, Unison offers professional counselling and emergency financial assistance to members of the Canadian music industry during times of need. Who qualifies as a member of the music industry is very broad. “It’s any role within the industry,” says Power. “You can be the musician, the songwriter, the performer on stage – those are the ones that come to mind first – but really, it’s the producers, the publishers, it’s pub- licists, the merchandisers. I often say you can be the bus driver on the tour and you would qualify because you’re earning your income from supporting Canadian music.” The counselling service, which has been available since 2011, 10 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N is provided through a partnership with Morneau Shepell. Done by phone or online with accredited professionals, the counselling ad- dresses a very wide range of topics, which Unison says includes, but is not limited to, mental health support, managing relationships and family life, finding child and elder care resources, legal advice, finan- cial guidance, workplace challenges, tackling addictions, improving nutrition, and focusing on health. The second service offered by Unison is emergency financial assistance, which was launched in 2015. “The way that works is whatever the situation that has come up – so if the person is un- able to work due to illness or whatever challenges life has thrown at them – we’re there to support them to get through that situation. So we provide things like grocery gift cards for food, medical assistance – a lot of dental surgeries we help cover – and rent. A lot of people, the first thing, unfortunately, is the rent needs to get paid and they Unison Development Manager Amanda Palmer