McDonald's Decides to Pay Bands at SXSW Music Showcase

Fast-food chain changes course following criticism of original exposure-based policy

Last week, indie-pop duo Ex Cops made headlines with a scathing Facebook post, alleging that McDonald's asked them to play a South by Southwest showcase for free in exchange for exposure – and burgers. The company initially brushed off the criticism, with Global Media Relations Director Becca Hary telling Rolling Stone that McDonald's "follow[s] the same standard protocol as other brands and sponsors" at SXSW. But now the restaurant mega-chain has reversed its stance, with a rep telling Billboard that it will compensate the acts performing at its showcase. 

"SXSW started as a conference and festival for the music industry, related press and up-and-coming musicians bringing the community together to showcase their talents," 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."

Though Ex Cops will not be featured among bands playing the showcase, the duo expressed their enthusiasm via Facebook. "We are thrilled that our letter made a difference," they wrote. "Thank YOU for helping us. Artists should be paid for their work."

Scott McNearney, SXSW's sponsors chief, told Billboard that artists are typically offered one of two "value propositions" for playing showcases. "They can either take a cash payment or they can take a credential package to participate in the conference and see other showcases," he said. "It's up to those artists to decide which package they want." McNearney also emphasized his enthusiasm for McDonald's new approach and "offering an added value of exposure for those artists."