McDonald’s recently revealed its plans to “improve the SXSW experience for everyone” by doling out free French fries and Wi-Fi—finally liberating festival-goers from toiling all day in Austin’s potato fields, composing their “Where you at?” missives with ink and quill. But the quest for bettering lives that has always been the mission of the world’s biggest downmarket meat-shack doesn’t end there: McDonald’s is also looking to liberate bands from the growing commercialization of music, by hiring them to play, then not paying them.
In an open letter posted to Facebook, Brian Harding of the Brooklyn band Ex Cops says a company representative recently asked the group to perform at a McDonald’s-sponsored showcase, in exchange for getting “a great opportunity for additional exposure.” Specifically, the band would “be featured on screens throughout the event, as well as POSSIBLY mentioned on McDonald’s social media accounts like Facebook (57MM likes!)”—thus POSSIBLY exposing them to McDonald’s vast social network of influencers, who regularly go to the McDonald’s page to learn about the hottest new bands and complain about milkshakes.
However, as Harding and Ex Cops have not yet caught on to this digitally innovating, “authentic content”-curating future that McDonald’s is pushing, they say they would still prefer to be paid in actual money, rather than in promised meetings with the McDonald’s “global digital team” to discuss “help with cross promotion.” Ex Cops still live in a 20th-century world, where McMuffins don’t even have social media integration, and artists employed to advertise French fries get paid for their troubles.
“There isn’t a budget for an artist fee (unfortunately),” responds McDonald’s, sadly. While, as Harding points out, McDonald’s is a company with a listed market cap of $96.91 billion as of last May, all of that is (unfortunately) being routed toward more important things, like making ordering a hamburger an invasively Orwellian ordeal.
Still, the band doesn’t see it that way. In fact, it sees this whole thing as endemic of a growing problem at the festival, where increasingly Doritos looks like a paragon of artistic integrity. Harding writes:
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.
McDonald’s has yet to comment on what is already shaping up to be a great, exposure-heavy week for them in Austin. Though it may still remind Ex Cops that it recently began phasing out money and replacing it with love, which can be exchanged for hamburger goods and services. And isn’t that SXSW is about?