UPDATE: A McDonald's rep has told Billboard that it will now compensate the bands performing its showcase. Ex Cops will not be among the featured groups, but their manager said they were thrilled to hear the news.
A rep for McDonald's has responded to an indie-rock band's Facebook post claiming the fast-food giants asked them to play a South by Southwest showcase for free in exchange for exposure. Indie-pop duo Ex Cops wrote a scathing Facebook post Wednesday alleging that the McDonald's invite said, "There isn't a budget for an artist fee (unfortunately)" and offering food in lieu of payment, to which they noted the reported $90 billion the company made in 2013. "We're totally open to branding and it's 2015 and you have to roll with the punches, but that brand is something that we cannot work with," band member Brian Harding tells Rolling Stone.
"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"
"That's not true," Ex Cops singer Amalie Bruun said after hearing McDonald's response. "They're not following any guidelines because everyone else is offering money. They'll have to take that up with South by Southwest if they think they're following the guidelines...Other, much smaller corporations are offering us money."
"It's gross," Harding says. "It's a perfect example of an archaic company trying to be hip by putting a hashtag at the end of an e-mail."
Brunn says the pair originally decided to share the e-mail on their Facebook "so people know what the music industry is like today."
Harding wants corporations to understand that that they can't take advantage of what has become artists' main source of income. "The people that have been supporting the music industry lately understand that we don't make money off albums anymore, and that's why you see so much merchandise and bands tour all the time," he says. "It's our only kinds of income."
"If we're not going to get paid for our live shows, what are we going to get paid for?" Brunn asks.
Ex Cops released their second album, Daggers, last year and will embark on a run of South by Southwest appearances, listed on their Facebook, later this month.
Additional reporting by Jason Newman