excopsSouth by Southwest (SXSW) is all set to rock the stage for music lovers, innovators, start ups and upcoming artists in its March 2015 edition. However, the ghost of corporate branding (and its accompanying evil) do not seem to let the event’s free-willing spirit rest in peace. SXSW has become (in)famous for all the wrong reasons. This year it is their headliner McDonald’s missing out on budget allocation for, “an artist fee”. Needless to say McDonald’s earns in a few billion dollars every year. 2013 records place this amount at 90.3 billion dollars.

Ex Cops, a Brooklyn, New York-based pop-punk band, led by the duo of Amalie Bruun and Brian Harding, was asked by McDonald’s to perform at the event for free in return of “a great opportunity for additional exposure” and “cross promotion” with the help of its digital team. Oh, and of course, they were also wooed with free food! Responding to this, Brian wrote an open letter in their social media page blasting the corporation and the branding culture at SXSW for not giving emerging artists their due place in an event, which was originally meant to be all about them.

As information to those who aren’t aware and to those who have forgotten – South By Southwest was conceptualized with the original goal to bring together innovators, artists and companies to collaborate. It was meant to be a platform for upcoming talents to gain exposure. But this exposure thing has been taken too lightly by the big giants like McDonald’s (this year) and Doritos (remember the stager that looked like a giant vending machine?) who have somehow developed the notion that young artists will do anything for exposure.

Ex Cops was formed in the year 2011, still working its way towards getting the limelight with their sophomore album Daggers. They are working with the right people (Billy Corgan and Ariel Pink) signing up with an independent label, doing tours (other SXSW shows lined up) and taking the steps that would gradually ensure their popularity and loyal fan following (of which they still have a fair share).

So, McDonald’s somehow felt they would do this upcoming band a favor by letting them play at the music festival without paying them. Harding, as also pointed out in his open letter in Facebook that he is, “going to assume they paid Lady Gaga”, which they did ($2.5 million for an appearance). This is kind of hilarious and outrageous – considering the way talented artists are viewed by a few multibillion dollar corporations who don’t have the money to pay new bands!

And, McDonalds has also strategized its pitch sessions and “Fry-Fi” food truck (where the attendees can get free Wi-Fi access while standing in a queue for fries). Of course, with so much in tow, how could they have afforded to pay Ex Cops!

Ex Cops will perform at Brooklyn Night Bazaar on March 13 along with other appearances in Austin, paid of course, confirmed by Brian Harding.