McDonald’s Invites Indie Band To Sell Out For No Pay

The South by Southwest Music Festival is an annual event in Austin, Texas, where you can discover relatively unknown independent bands and absorb other forms of culture. Playing the festival can be a great opportunity, and McDonald’s apparently knows this. The duo Ex Cops received an invitation to play at the “McDonald’s Showcase” at this year’s festival. How much was the global mega-corporation going to pay the band? Well, um, they don’t have a budget for paying the artists.

Brian Harding, who comprises 50% of the band, didn’t post the entire pitch from McDonald’s, but shared the gist of it:

Their selling point was that this was “a great opportunity for additional exposure,” and that “McDonald’s will have their global digital team on site to meet with the bands, help with cross promotion, etc.”

Yes, McDonald’s was asking bands to sell out without actually paying them. “There isn’t a budget for an artist fee (unfortunately),” the McDonald’s representative explained. That’s because they know that there must be some perfectly great bands out there who are willing to play for free.

One thing used to entice bands? The opportunity to maybe be featured on the company’s social media feeds, which have millions of followers. They plan to entice festivalgoers by offering free food and drinks. I’m not sure what kind of overlap there is between “people who love passing platters of McNuggets” and “people who travel to Austin for an indie music festival,” but apparently there is some.

Yes, the budget for a given marketing project is very specific, and it’s not fair to point out that they can’t toss a band traveling from far away a few hundred bucks while they pay former CEO Don Thompson $3 million to consult after his retirement.

“Doritos received a lot of flack for their stage a couple years ago, but I’m going to assume they paid Lady Gaga,” Ex Cops member Brian Harding wrote in his open letter about the invitation. No, maybe she needs the exposure.

The media staff for McDonald’s sent Gawker a statement that even included a snarky hashtag.

We follow the same standard protocol as other Brands and sponsors by inviting talented and emerging musicians to join us at the SXSW Festival. We look forward to serving McDonald’s food, drinks and fun in Austin. #slownewsday

Nuh-uh, says Ex Cops singer Amalie Bruun. She told Rolling Stone that other showcases do offer money to their performers. “They’re not following any guidelines because everyone else is offering money. They’ll have to take that up with South by Southwest if they think they’re following the guidelines…Other, much smaller corporations are offering us money.”

On the plus side, now we’ve all heard of Ex Cops, and you can check out their music and decide for yourself whether you would want to trade more than a couple of McNuggets for their latest album.

Ex Cops Blast McDonald’s For Offering Its SXSW Talent Exposure Instead Of Money [Stereogum] (via Gawker)

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