McDonald's To Pay Performers at Its SXSW Showcase


A McDonald's storefront, photographed Jan. 22, 2014.

The March 4 Facebook post from Ex Cops blastin McDonald's for not allocating a budget to pay artists invited to play its planned Music showcase at South By Southwest proved to be a lightning rod for media chatter about the latest pain point in the ever-growing trade-offs between artists and brands. 

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But after several days of working closely with the executive team at South By Southwest and speaking directly with the invited artists themselves, McDonald's today tells Billboard in a statement it has changed its approach. 

"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," the company says, through a spokesperson. "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."

A source tells Billboard that Ex Cops is not playing the McDonald's showcase in question, nor was the band ever officially confirmed. However, the band updated its Facebook page Wednesday (March 10) night shortly after Billboard's news of the McDonald's statement broke, saying, "We are thrilled that our letter made a difference. Thank YOU for helping us. Artists should be paid for their work."

Scott McNearney, SXSW's Sponsors chief, says the Music festival typically offers one of two value propositions to artists who play Official showcases. "They can either take a cash payment or they can take a credential package to participate in the conference and see other showcases. It's up to those artists to decide which package they want." While McDonald's offerings are "apples and oranges" to a typical showcase package, McNearney was pleased the company had pivoted over the past few days, in addition to "offering an added-value of exposure for those artists."