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McDonald's SXSW
Miguel Vaca via Flickr / Creative Commons

McDonald's refuses to pay band performing at SXSW showcase

Just do it for the exposure and the free Big Macs, you get me?

UPDATE: McDonald's has announced that it will pay bands after all, which may or may not be something to do with the shitstorm created by their previous stance. A spokesperson said in a statement: "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. To further support these artists, all bands performing at our showcase will be compensated."

If you've been in a band, you're probably familiar with the promoter's old standby: "Hey man, we'd love to pay you but there just isn't the budget. But what's actually waaaay more valuable is the incredible exposure we can offer you through our dedicated flyering team and our social media channels (read: 500 Twiter followers)." Turns out McDonald's, a $91bn global corporation, is exactly that guy.

The fast food emporium is hosting a music showcase at SXSW this year, but are declining to pay any musicians for the privilege of performing. As Gawker reports, Brooklyn band Ex Cops were asked to play for free at the gig in Austin, Texas. 

In an open letter posted to Ex Cops' Facebook page, band member Brian Harding says that McDonald's called the invite "a great opportunity for additional exposure" and that McDonald's would "have their global digital team on site to meet with the bands, help with cross promotion, etc" before landing the big caveat: "there isn’t a budget for an artist fee (unfortunately)".

"I don’t, and doubt that they know what this means either," he wrote. "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!)'." 

He added: "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." (Editorial note: Doritos did – they coughed up $2.5 million.)

Oh, and McDonald's would also offer "free food to all audience members". 

Harding's post has now gone viral. You'd expect McDonald's would now take the chance to respond and offer some form of compensation, right? Nah.

Instead, the corporation rolled out this statement: "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."

What McDonald's fails to realise here is that it really is big news that one of the biggest companies in the world wants to throw a party and pay musicians absolutely nada. You can't buy a plane ticket with 500 Big Macs. You can't pay your rent with nuggets. You can't afford to produce your next record on McFlurries.

But if you want to continue in life with near-bottom levels of self-respect, you can always go play at the McDonald's SXSW showcase for free.

Read Ex Cops' open letter below: