Update, March 11: Buffeted by a tornado of negative publicity, McDonald’s now says it has “changed its approach”.
In a statement to Billboard, the fast food giant says it has been “working closely” with the executive team at South By Southwest and has also spoken directly to the invited artists. “We are excited to expand our support of music at our SXSW activation where the lineup features a great assortment of more than 20 bands, honoring the spirit of the festival,” a McDonald’s spokesperson said. “To further support these artists, all bands performing at our showcase will be compensated.”
The $90 billion company has picked a fight with indie duo Ex Cops.
McDonald’s has responded to a claim that it asked bands to play its South by Southwest showcase for free in exchange for “exposure”.
Ex Cops allege that the invitation to play the fast food giant’s showcase stated that there “isn’t a budget for an artist fee (unfortunately)”, instead offering burgers in lieu of payment: “McDonald’s will offer free food to all audience members.”
“Doritos received a lot of flack for their stage a couple years ago, but I’m going to assume they paid Lady Gaga,” wrote Ex Cops’ Brian Harding on Facebook, referring to the time Gaga got spit-roasted and puked on in the name of art. He later told Rolling Stone: “We’re totally open to branding and it’s 2015 and you have to roll with the punches, but that brand is something that we cannot work with.”
McDonald’s global media relations director Becca Harry responded by stating: “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.”
As Ex Cops singer Amalie Bruun points out, that’s not true – other brands pay their showcase talent. “They’re not following any guidelines because everyone else is offering money,” Bruun told Rolling Stone. “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.”
The McDonald’s rep also signed off the response with “#slownewsday”, which Harding deemed “a perfect example of an archaic company trying to be hip by putting a hashtag at the end of an e-mail.”
This year’s SXSW kicks off next weekend in Austin, Texas. FACT TV will be in town to dig up the brightest new talent, just like last year – see all our coverage from 2014.