Ontario announces $2.5 million to help live music industry

·2 min read
Ottawa musician Shawn Tavenier performs from behind a sheet of plexiglass on Sparks Street last summer. On Friday, the Ontario government announced $2.5 million in funding to support the province's struggling music industry. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)
Ottawa musician Shawn Tavenier performs from behind a sheet of plexiglass on Sparks Street last summer. On Friday, the Ontario government announced $2.5 million in funding to support the province's struggling music industry. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)

The Ontario government has announced $2.5 million to help musicians struggling during the pandemic and to chart a path for how the industry can be supported after COVID-19.

The largest chunk of that funding, $2 million, will go toward the Unison Benevolent Fund, a non-profit that offers emergency relief services to Canada's music industry.

With the vast majority of live concerts cancelled over the past year, the fund has seen applications for financial help soar by 3,000 per cent, according to the charity's executive director, Amanda Power.

"The story that is repeated more often than not is they're just trying to pay their rent. They're trying to keep food on the table. They want to feed their kids," said Power.

"So we are supporting as best we can with cheques made out directly to the applicant."

In addition to the thousands of musicians seeking financial help, requests for the organization's counselling services have also risen sharply, she said.

The Canadian Live Music Association will receive the other $500,000 to create a road map that can help Ontario municipalities become "music cities" that support their local music communities through permits, bylaws and venues.

MacLeod wants to 'build back better'

The funding was announced by Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod, the province's Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.

MacLeod described Friday how she'd become close with those in the sectors she represents, trying to find solutions ever since they were "shuttered" by the pandemic and put on "an emotional roller-coaster."

"The Unison money might save someone's life," MacLeod said.

She has made other announcements, including one earlier this month to pledge $25 million for the struggling arts sector.

"But I think this one is about hope, and about building back better and stronger, but at the same time recognizing at a grassroots and organic level, these people need support," said MacLeod.

The funding "couldn't have come at a better time," said Erin Benjamin, president of the Canadian Live Music Association

"Today's announcement won't solve all of our problems, but what we have now are additional tools to help us find our way out of this nightmare," said Benjamin, who praised MacLeod for listening to the industry's concerns and looked forward to the day when people could once again take in live concerts.