Music Canada and Slaight Music have each pledged $250,000 (CAD) to the newly created Unison Benevolent Fund, which will become operational once $1 million (CAD) has been raised. Music Canada (until recently called the Canadian Recording Industry Association) has also provided $80,000 for the immediate operations of the fund. The Unison Benevolent Fund is an assistance and referral program created and administered for the Canadian music industry by the Canadian music industry.
A registered charity established in 2010, the Unison Benevolent Fund is designed to provide discreet relief to music industry personnel in times of personal hardship and crisis. The Fund's short-term objective is to provide emergency financial assistance and crisis management to those in need, as well as counseling services (personal, financial and bankruptcy, career and legal). The long-term objective is to provide low cost group insurance.
"The idea of Unison started shortly after a tragic accident to a well-known musician," founder Jodie Ferneyhough explained in a press release. "It occurred to me that although benefit concerts and fundraisers, for the short term, were a great thing and it brought the community together, there was no long term support in the music business for people who fall on hard times.
"Musicians, roadies, riggers, sound men, managers, indie publishers and labels and a myriad of others, didn't have anywhere to turn in times of crisis. We felt it was time for the industry to have a way of taking care of itself."
While Canada does have a publicly funded healthcare system, not everything is available free of charge to those with a valid Provincial health card, including prescriptions and dental. Private health care is available but used minimally. Many people who work within the music industry are self-employed and do not have other forms of benefits or assistance outside basic health care.
The first two priorities for Unison are the Emergency Relief Fund and the creation of a counseling service, similar to the Employee Assistance Programs often available to staff of larger organizations. Details on the launch of these services will be announced shortly.
"On behalf of Music Canada, I'm proud to be able to help Unison get off to a viable start," said Graham Henderson, president of Music Canada (formerly known as the Canadian Recording Industry Association), said in a statement. "With [this] announcement comes a unique opportunity for the entire industry to work hand in hand for the benefit of all workers in the music community. I have every confidence that we will reach the million dollar target."
"This is an important step forward for the music industry and I am extremely pleased to be part of it," said Gary Slaight, CEO of Slaight Communications. "Unison will be a welcome safety net for people in the music community who need a hand up during difficult circumstances. I challenge others to match our donations so that Unison can be there for our community for many years to come. By helping to raise $1 million in total for the capital endowment fund, we can ensure that Unison provides emergency assistance for many years to come."
The pledge was made at Music Canada's Annual General Meeting in Toronto on July 13 in a presentation by laight and Derrick Ross representing Slaight Music and Henderson representing Music Canada. Receiving the cheque on behalf of Unison were Ferneyhough and co-founder Catharine Saxberg. Joining Deane Cameron, president of EMI Music Canada on the Unison Board of Directors is Ross, president of Slaight Music.
Music Canada is a non-profit trade organization that represents the major record labels in Canada. It also provides certain membership benefits to some of the leading independent record labels and distributors.
Slaight Music's mandate is to support the Canadian music community through various initiatives and to develop Canadian talent via strategic partnerships with industry peers.
Those interested in learning more about the Unison Benevolent Fund, making a donation, helping the cause, or accessing Unison's services can go to www.unisonfund.ca and register.