McDonald’s Claims No Budget for SXSW Artists

McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food restaurant chain, apparently can’t afford to pay the bands performing at its South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) showcase. However, the Big Mac-pedaling leviathan can afford to give all attendees free food.

In a lengthy diatribe posted to Facebook, Brian Harding, one half of the band Ex Cops, delivered a detailed description of the pitch he was sent by a representative of McDonald’s. “This week our band was asked to play the McDonald’s Showcase at the annual South by Southwest,” Harding writes, “also known to music insiders as ‘SXSW.’” He continues: “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.’”

With a marked use of apophasis, Harding also delivered a brief socio-ethical indictment of the company: “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.”

Many small-time or independent musicians will undoubtedly recognize the phrase “a great opportunity for additional exposure” as one of the oldest tricks in the book, so to speak, in terms of getting creative folk, be they writers, musicians, or graphic artists, to work for free. Being asked to play, write, or draw something for free isn’t unusual, and artists of all types field requests like these frequently. However, the notion of McDonald’s—which, according to Harding’s post, was valued at $90.3 billion in 2013—being unable to afford to pay a handful of presumably small bands smacks of ridiculousness and incredulity.

The exploitative move on the part of the fast food titan was met with vitriol from all corners of the internet. “Of course, if you are a band, you are free to turn down such a showcase. Similarly, and less complicatedly, if you are McDonald’s, you are free to f***ing pay people,” writes Gawker’s Kelly Conaboy.

While a company of McDonald’s’ size can most certainly afford to pay a small number of touring musicians to play a showcase at one of the country’s most prominent festivals, it’s worth noting the company’s profits saw a well documented downturn in 2014. However, as Brian Harding puts it, “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 [sic] going to assume they paid Lady Gaga.”

FDRMX Eyes: Lirrika is a Russian band formed by Boris Grim and Bratya Grim. Lirrika’s music video “Pzdtz/Something” follows a group of friends running wild and having fun.

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