Ex Cops. Photo by Annelise Phillips.

UPDATE: We received this response from McDonald’s public relations office:

We follow the same standard protocol as other Brands and sponsors by inviting talented and emerging musicians to join us at the SXSW Festival.  We look forward to serving McDonald’s food, drinks and fun in Austin. #slownewsday

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Brian Harding of the Brooklyn-based indie rock band Ex Cops posted an open letter to McDonald’s on the band’s Facebook page this evening. The band who was already travelling to the South by Southwest as an official showcasing artist claims a representative working on behalf of McDonald’s, who plans to be at the conference and festival this year with a food truck and a presence in the fest’s Startup Village, sent the band an offer to play a McDonald’s showcase. “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,'” Harding writes.

Harding claims the query noted, “There isn’t a budget for an artist fee (unfortunately).”

“In lieu of being paid like a real artist, or anyone who is employed to do a service, McDonald’s assures us that we will ‘be featured on screens throughout the event, as well as POSSIBLY mentioned on McDonald’s social media accounts like Facebook (57MM likes!),'” Harding writes before going into a thoughtful analysis of what it means for a multi-billion dollar corporation to ask an independent artist for free.

Harding notes, “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.”

SXSW offers bands a nominal flat fee or a badge to the conference in exchange for their performance. Many bands play corporate-sponsored day events to help recoup their travel expenses. We have reached out to McDonald’s and Ex Cops for further comment.