SXSW is no stranger to corporate overlords, and no stranger to bands calling them out for that kind of behavior. This year, McDonald’s is getting in on the action. Back in December, the fast food empire announced that it would be an official sponsor of the Austin festival, and that it would take steps to “improve the SXSW experience for everyone,” according to an open letter from Micky D’s Chief Digital Officer Atif Rafiq. Apparently, this involves the creation of a McDonald’s Lounge, and a “Fry-Fi” (lo-fi DIY) food truck that will give out Wi-Fi and fries. It also looks like they’re trying to put together a music showcase.
In a Facebook post today, Brooklyn band Ex Cops — who put out a new album last year — say that they were recently asked by McDonald’s to play a sponsored showcase, but were told that the company did not have a budget to pay any artists to perform. While it’s true that bands often play SXSW showcases for little to no pay, those showcases aren’t usually sponsored by multi-billion dollar corporations. It’s egregious to think that the company couldn’t put up a little cash.
“In lieu of being paid like a real artist, or anyone who is employed to do a service, McDonald’s assures us that we will ‘be featured on screens throughout the event, as well as POSSIBLY mentioned on McDonald’s social media accounts like Facebook (57MM likes!),'” band member Brian Harding wrote.
Here’s their letter in full — it’s a very interesting read:
McDonald’s asked us to play SXSW. This is Brian’s open letter about it.
This week our band was asked to play the McDonald’s Showcase at the annual South by Southwest, also known to music insiders as “SXSW.”
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”
I don’t, and doubt that they know what this means either.
Getting past that rhetoric, at the very least a big corporation like McDonald’s can at least pay their talent a little. Right?
“There isn’t a budget for an artist fee (unfortunately)”
As of 2013, McDonalds is valued at 90.3 billion dollars.
I won’t get into the internet semantics of things you’ve probably seen on your Facebook feed; like that thing where it takes a McDonald’s worker 4 months to earn what the CEO makes in an hour, or their GMO love affair, and I will certainly spare you the bounty of photos showing how they treat their animals.
In lieu of being paid like a real artist, or anyone who is employed to do a service, McDonald’s assures us that we will “be featured on screens throughout the event, as well as POSSIBLY mentioned on McDonald’s social media accounts like Facebook (57MM likes!)”
We recently headlined a show at the Brooklyn venue Baby’s Alright. They are by no means a DIY venue, but they are still an independent small business. The owners are people our age who used to book shows at Pianos and busted their asses to open a venue of their own in Brooklyn.
While I haven’t asked Billy or Zach how much they make annually (that would be weird) I’m going to guess they’re not looking at brownstones in Prospect Park at the moment. Yet when we played, we were paid very very fairly, were provided with drink tickets, and each band member fed a full entree from their menu (try the Brussels sprouts)
I will also go ahead and save time for any schill / troll rebuttals; “Are the other showcases paying you? No one is holding a gun to your head!” This is true. It is our choice (pretty much) to fly to Austin, play shows without soundcheck, and get paid nothing to a little. But hear this loud and clear, we LOVE making music, it is what we do, and despite some of its very apparent flaws, SXSW still provides a decent venue to be heard by some people who are really there to hear new music and not just do blow with dudes who wear square toe loafers.
It is a horrifying and gross reality when one sees the true nature of corporations and their pathetic attempts to achieve relevance with millennials. Doritos received a lot of flack for their stage a couple years ago, but i’m going to assume they paid Lady Gaga.
Oh, I almost forgot; “McDonald’s will offer free food to all audience members”
I don’t doubt that tons of bands will kowtow to this lame, lame attempt at a rock show. And I’m aware that to achieve any exposure is a Herculean task in 2015, but the Boethian Wheel is a real thing, and this will continue to exist if we, as artists, keep saying yes in exchange for a taste of success. Even if smells like a shitty Fish filet.
At last, another Where’s The Beef that actually involves beef!