The Unison Benevolent Fund is an assistance program – created and administered for the music community, by the music community. Unison is designed to provide discreet relief to music industry personnel in times of personal hardship and crisis.
The music industry in Canada stretches across many sectors and offers many different types of employment – having said that, though, it is a relatively small and close-knit community. Often we have seen our friends and colleagues fall on tough times due in part to the many changes the industry has gone through over the past 10 years. We’ve also experienced the pain of losing friends and peers to illness or accidents and seen up close the heartache and unanticipated financial hardship that these tragedies create for families.
Because so many of us are self-employed, we don’t have access to pension plans, unemployment insurance, employee assistance programs, sick leave and medical benefits; when tragedy strikes, many are unprepared to deal with the devastating financial and emotional burdens left in its wake.
Unison is the brainchild of Jodie Ferneyhough and Catharine Saxberg, both of whom had been touched by the loss and illness of several friends. Catharine had seen that similar relief programs existed in other sectors, and decided it was time to unite the music industry: to create a process by which we can help each other.
Ferneyhough explains: “The idea of Unison started shortly after a tragic accident to a well-known musician. It occurred to me that although benefit concerts and fund raisers, 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 when people fell on hard times. Musicians, roadies, riggers, sound men, managers, indie publishers and labels and a myriad of others, might not have access to money if there was ever an emergency, can’t afford dental or medical coverage or have any plans like so many in other fields and 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. The industry has come together already, even with very little knowledge of how Unison works. Everyone I talk with is eager to help, eager to volunteer and generally very supportive of the fund. We are looking forward to spreading the word across the country and getting more people involved, growing the number of people who can fundraise for us and generally spread the word about the benefits of Unison.”
Catharine and Jodie began speaking to their friends and colleagues in the industry and quickly discovered unanimous support for the idea – and the Unison Benevolent Fund was born. The Board of Directors was formed, and demonstrates a wide cross-section of the industry itself.
Unison is for everyone – from songwriters, musicians and performers, to sound techs and roadies, to managers, agents and publishers, to marketing, PR and promotion staff – to anyone and everyone who’s career has been predominately spent in the music industry.
Catharine Saxberg adds: “The creation of an emergency fund was our first priority – as we’re mostly self-employed, it’s often more difficult for us to secure bank loans, or other types of emergency financing when we need it. Our long-term goal is to provide access to an assistance program and insurance options, we’d like to use our strength in numbers.”