With the live music industry still not up-and-running due to covid-19 and its latest aggressive variant, demand for the financial and mental health services offered by Canadian music industry charity The Unison Fund is expected to remain high, but the non-profit says it experienced more than 60 percent decline in donations in 2021.
In total, more than $1.8 million was distributed in 2021 and $3.8 million since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020, but more is needed to fulfill the anticipated requests.
“The reason for the PR is awareness both within and outside of the music industry,” Charlotte Thompson of Red Umbrella PR explained to Samaritan in an email. “As we enter the third year of the pandemic, we a) want to make sure the industry knows that The Unison Fund exists, what we do and represent as an organization and that more than anything, we are HERE to help. AND, in order to continue providing lifesaving support we need help to keep our programs running and to ensure we can continue to help those who need it most in 2022 and beyond.”
As well as the need for financial support by its applicants, to cover such basics as rent and food, Unison’s counselling program, provided by LifeWorks (formerly Morneau Shepell), has seen “a significant increase in the last two years,” helping over 600 people, including 85 “urgent mental health crisis intervention counselling support requests,” according to Unison.
To help drive up donations this year, and explain the need for such a fund to those not in the music industry, Unison is renewing its efforts to get the word out by asking people to post on social media, @unisonfund. “Your financial contribution to The Unison Fund provides critical support for life necessities deemed most urgent, such as rent, groceries and medical expenses,” the press release reads, sounding like the perfect line to tweet or post on Instagram or Facebook.
"More than 25 percent of arts, entertainment, and recreation workers lost their job during the pandemic, and 85 percent of musicians have a difficult time making a living if they can’t perform live,” it says, using statistics gathered by industry advocates Music Canada.
“As a registered non-profit charity, Unison can only support the most vulnerable in the music community with your help. Of every dollar donated, $0.92 cents directly support our programs, ensuring whether a music professional is facing a layoff, mental health difficulties, or a work-related concern, Unison is there to help.”
While it has received significant financial support from major music businesses, Unison gave particular shout-outs to some of the Canadian artists that have helped spread the word, including Avril Lavigne, Classified, Dallas Smith, The East Pointers, Eleanor McCain, The Glorious Sons, Hugh Dillon of The Headstones, Nickelback, Sam Roberts Band, Shawn Hook, Skydiggers, The Tragically Hip, and The Trews.
Unison was the brainchild of Jodie Ferneyhough (CCS Rights Management) and Catherine Saxberg (SOCAN) back in 2011, who a year later created the Counselling & Health Solutions Program, provided by Morneau Shepell and supported by the RBC Foundation. Finally, after years of fundraising, the Financial Assistance program launched in 2015.
Since that time, Unison has dispersed $4.5 million with twice the amount of funds allocated in 2020/21 than in all previous years combined. Before covid-19 hit, in 2019 it dispersed over $614,000.
“Unison defines a music industry professional as someone who has earned 55% of their income from music related activity for a minimum of 2 consecutive years,” it states on the web site. “For those who are retired, or over the age of 65, a music industry professional is defined as someone who earned at least 55% of their income from work as a music industry professional.”
Music industry professionals include individuals in the following areas: musician/artist, booking agent, music association, consultant, distributor, festival, artist management, marketing, publisher, producer, production company, promoter, publication, publicity/PR, radio, recording studio, retailer (instruments and supplies), tour management, road technician, songwriter, talent buyer, tour operator, venue, video, and merchandiser.