By Jeffrey Martin

Two significant issues were identified at a public workshop for musicians this past spring. One, there are not enough financial and professional resources available for musicians in Hamilton. And two, the “elephant in the room” issue that has challenged musicians for years – getting paid a fair and decent wage for their performance – their work. It comes down to having enough income to live – to pay rent and bills.

Kojo Damptey, who co-chairs the music strategy team’s Musicians sub-committee with local singer-songwriter and industry supporter Dan Medakovic, co-ordinated the workshop. “Musicians need to know how to manage themselves, what resources are available to help them to become competitive,” says Damptey. “They need to be able to play and tour outside of the Hamilton bubble.”

To help address the first issue – the financial and professional needs of musicians –Damptey and Medakovic worked with FirstOntario Credit Union, a major supporter of music in Hamilton, to develop a new micro-loan program for Hamilton musicians.

“FirstOntario truly cares about improving the lives of its members and their communities and is committed to providing solutions that work for its members,” says James, Lefebvre, senior vice-president, Member Experience and Business Services at FirstOntario.”

The micro-loan program is being launched this month. The plan is to hold an information session in October with representatives from FirstOntario Credit Union who will provide an overview of this exciting and much-needed program. The new music industry micro-lending program, which will offer loans up to $2,500, is part of the credit union’s growing commitment to community, and in support of this vibrant, important sector.

Kojo “Easy” Damptey is a singer-songwriter in Hamilton, and co-chair of the musicians subcommittee of the Music Industry Working Committee.

“We’re thrilled that FirstOntario so quickly agreed to address this glaring gap in funding options for local music industry professionals,” says Medakovic. “This program should be much simpler and faster than many of the other government-related options out there. Now it should be easier than ever to get funds to repair that precious vintage amp, purchase that instrument that will get your performance to the next level, or rent that recording equipment or studio that you need for that demo. Often it’s only a small amount of money that is needed to finish a recording project or shoot a video for a new release”

“This may be another first of its kind ‘made in Hamilton’ initiative to support musicians and the music community,” says Damptey. “Musicians will have a better understanding of all the little but important things by having to apply for a loan. They’re going to have to pay more attention to their financial affairs. In the end, it could also help artists determine whether they should be doing a gig that only pays $250 or should I be looking for $400.”

In the end, it’s not only about providing funds for musicians, but also getting musicians to look at their craft as a business and be better managers of their music and financial affairs. Like all businesses and professionals, you have to be vigilant on these things and this may help cut down on unnecessary costs and budget better, and help them maneuver through difficult times — and that is what music strategy is all about — to help musicians grow and prosper.

To learn more about the music industry micro-lending program call or visit an in-branch specialist at one of these FirstOntario’s three locations:

  • 1 James St. South
  • 50 Dundurn St. South
  • Upper Sherman Branch

(1-800-616-8878).

Writer and PR-marketing pro, Jeff Martin is owner of Quorum Communications, Inc. He’s a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and is co-singer-songwriter of Hamilton roots act The Caretakers.