Like many major corporations these days, McDonald's wants badly to get in on the SXSW action, reaping the benefits of the long-running music festival but becoming part of the reason it's not as fun as it used to be to attend. But because SXSW's core focus is (ostensibly) "emerging" musicians, as McDonald's put it, the company apparently believes said musicians should play its showcase—in essence, work—for free.
On Wednesday, the pop group Ex Cops posted a complaint on Facebook about their experience after McDonald's asked them to join their SXSW showcase. Brian Harding wrote:
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.
Harding went on to detail other McDonald's-cited "benefits" of playing their showcase, including being "featured on screens throughout the event, as well as POSSIBLY mentioned on McDonald's social media accounts like Facebook (57MM likes!)" and also, "free food to all audience members." (He also brings up the way McDonald's treats its regular employees, which seems pretty close to what it expects from its musicians, minus the Facebook shout-outs.)
McDonald's Global Media Relations Director Becca Hary responded to Harding's post at Rolling Stone, essentially saying they're just practicing poor labor policy cause everyone else is, oh well! Also LOL HASHTAGS:
We follow the same standard protocol as other brands and sponsors by inviting talented and emerging musicians to join us at the SXSW Festival," McDonald's Global Media Relations Director Becca Hary tells Rolling Stone. "We look forward to serving McDonald's food, drinks and fun in Austin. #slownewsday
Ex Cops' Amalie Bruun told Rolling Stone that "other, much smaller corporations are offering us money... if we're not going to get paid for our live shows, what are we going to get paid for?"
And it's not even that Ex Cops are all that "emerging," especially for a SXSW audience, where attendees are presumed to generally have a tacit awareness of what's going on in music. The Brooklyn duo has been a band since 2011, and their second album, 2013's Daggers, was released on Downtown Records, a large independent distributed by Sony. Harding told Rolling Stone, "We're totally open to branding and it's 2015 and you have to roll with the punches," pointing out the way that these days, participating in brand-created shows, ads, or "CONTENT" is one of the few ways outside of touring and merch for mid-level musicians to be paid. (It's dark and nefarious, but do you buy albums?)
When corporations worth billions of dollars start expecting musicians to donate their time in exchange for possibly a tweet and lunch they could purchase themselves for under five dollars, it becomes exceedingly plain that said corporation doesn't value the music so much as the cachet they expect it will bring them among the college students and music fans that go to SXSW. And that, my friends, is a problem.
Ex-Cops photo via Facebook.
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