The CMW Show Everyone Needs to Know About

By Vanessa Markov

There’s a lot going on during Canadian Music Week (CMW2015) this year, with a lot of competition for attention, but there’s one event going on that I think all festival goers need to know about:

This Wednesday evening, the Unison Benevolent Fund is hosting a star-studded fundraiser show, in order to raise money for Canadian artists in their time of need.

Most people, including musicians themselves, don’t tend to think about the lack of insurance available to the artist community. In a tough job market where it’s difficult to afford independent insurance, there’s no telling what will happen if you have a medical or otherwise serious financial emergency. The Unison Benevolent Fund, established by a group of local industry professionals in 2010, is a charity that provides financial relief on a case by case basis to artists in such circumstances.

Awesome, right?

In order for Unison to survive, it requires ongoing contributions from us, and has come up with great ways to raise money which is what Wednesday night is all about – a “pay what you can” style show with a lineup including: Finger 11, I Mother Earth, Kim Mitchell, Kardinal Offishall, K-OS, The Trews, and more. Holy Canada.

I was able to catch up with Brian Byrne of I Mother Earth, who already played a killer CMW set at Phoenix on Saturday, to talk a bit more about the event and why Unison is an important cause.

“Unison is great because most musicians don’t have insurance against things like major medical expenses. I had to have vocal surgery a few years back and could have really used that kind of help. It’s a very necessary relief fund.”

It’s pretty obvious why Canadian artists would want to support a cause like this, but for the record, Brian made a great point about why I Mother Earth and other bands are participating:

“The fund is finite, it needs ongoing donations in order to work. Membership is free and support is free, so we need to keep finding ways of putting money back in for future causes.”

Basically, Unison is a massive communal piggy bank for Canadian artists.

“Who knows,” Brian adds, “the next person who needs help could be one of us.”

It got me thinking that bands should really consider cutting Unison into their budgets, even if it’s something like ten bucks per member per month. I know the last thing a broke musician wants to hear is a plea to spend more money, but consider that it’s likely some of that money is coming right back to you when you need it most.

I asked Brian if he had any other tips for musicians on preparing for the unexpected:

“Don’t pigeonhole yourself to one way of making it in this industry, because chances are you won’t. It’s extremely difficult to make a good living as a performing artist alone, so you have to figure out other ways to make money so you can keep doing what you love to do.”

In other words, don’t avoid developing other skills you may have to offer, because you will only make yourself more valuable to the world and, in turn, increase your chances of success.

“When the band was on hiatus, I used my experience as a singer to do voice acting, and I loved it.”

What I took from my conversation with Brian was that you have to be creative and versatile to survive in an industry that offers little security. “And when things go wrong and they’re completely out of your control, hopefully Unison will still be there to help. It’s up to us to make that possible.”