Tag Archives: McDonald’s at SXSW

McDonald’s at SXSW 2016

McDonald’s 2016


I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it just a little

McDonald’s is back at SXSW 2016 with a music venue and free food

McDonald’s showed up as an unexpected presence at SXSW last year. They were one of the main sponsors last year, with a large pop up venue that included live music, free food and swag.

This year McDonald’s is back and they have expanded their presence. They have a lounge for badge-holders in the Convention Center where many of the SXSW sessions take place. It’s oddly classy. There are flavored waters, flat screen TVs, chairs, and Wi-Fi. Quiet people in somewhat serious clothing are sitting and working on whatever it is they work on.

The big deal event here is the McDonald’s venue at SXSW. It’s right next to the Convention Center on Red River Street. The venue is called “Textile” and includes an outdoor patio area. The smell of burgers and fries emanates from blocks away.

There is a line that varies depending on the time of day. During the day, “guest pass” (a free pass available to the general public) holder can stand in line and be admitted as capacity allows. It’s a popular place to be. At night, it’s badges only, in general.

Walking in from the bright Texas sun requires a few moments of adjustment. Once the eyes adjust a carefully-curated world is revealed. Like many companies this year, McDonald’s has a VR station available.  People can paint in virtual reality and have a picture taken that shows them and their creation. It’s probably better to do this station before eating or drinking.

Eating and drinking are also popular activities at the McDonald’s venue. There is a soft serve ice cream sundae bar. The ice cream is served in a tall plastic cup, generously filled with the ever-so-familiar McDonald’s vanilla soft serve. Various candies, cookies, M&M’s, Oreos, and all the standards are there to hit your sweet tooth right in every weak spot.

McDonald’s has also brought the McDonald’s classic fare. There is a food truck setup where guests can request whatever their fearful heart desires. Within reason. There is a designated menu. At this moment it consists of:

Egg McMuffin

McDouble Sandwich

Jalepeno McDouble



Dude is waving at my camera. He was cool.

There is a second window where guests can pickup fries, Cutie brand oranges and tiny bags of apple slices. Because McDonald’s cares about your health.

A couple of people are walking around in uniforms carrying trays of fries and condiments, like the cigarette girls of old. They are ready with that second helping of fries, should you need it.

There is also a bar with free drinks. Pretty par for the course at SXSW, but this means that McDonald’s is rising to the expected level of extravagance. They have also decided to pay their musicians this year, minus the drama that surrounded last year’s “to pay or not to pay” dilemma. They even took it to the next level by having a table setup and dedicated to HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians) a charity that helps musicians get health care.

The stage is in the outdoor side of the venue. The area is entirely covered in a tent-like structure. There are wooden picnic tables so that people can sit down to enjoy their free food and music. There are tables to stand by, for those that want to be close to the music.  The audience is engages in a range of appreciative behaviors ranging from selfies to slight dancing movements.


Enter a caption

The bands are pretty good. Solid setup, decent sound. And they seem pretty happy to be there. Brief discussions with a couple of musicians reveal that some of them were surprised to find themselves playing the McDonald’s venue, but are pleasantly surprised by the legit setup.  Some of them were also surprised to learn that they would be paid.

There’s nothing to say about the food. Most people know what McDonald’s tastes like. That’s the whole point of McDonald’s. But there is something here. It’s sitting down with a nostalgically familiar flavor, listening to a couple new songs.

SXSW is all about walking miles a day. That leaves you hungry. This dose of hangover soaking fast food hits a particular craving that sneaks in at this sort of place.  It just might be the right snack for this particular moment in time.  No doubt that McDonald’s has effectively marketed to a demographic.


Tagged , , ,

McDonald’s at SXSW 2015

McDonalds comes to SXSW 2015 and there’s drama


Ronald is waiting for you

SXSW has an unexpected new sponsor. McDonald’s. The familiar golden arches traipse across each of the SXSW banners. There are mixed opinions on the matter. Nevertheless, their distinctive scent permeates the air around the Convention Center. This is because McDonald’s has set up right behind the Convention Center


Oddly beautiful lighting inside the McDonald’s tent

The venue is a parking lot, behind the Convention Center, and next to the “official” Convention Center parking garage. It’s right off of I35 and just asking to invite riff raff. Riff Raff being non-badge holders. This seems to be a badge only event. There might be open hours.

Inside the tent, the smell of McDonald’s permeates the senses, as well it should. To the left there is a food trunk serving burgers, fries, and coffee depending on the time of day. There are a few other rotating surprises. The staff seems reasonably cheery to be here.


Free food

There is a band on the stage. This is the part of the setup that became a magnet for drama.

Indie band Ex Cops went Facebook public with the knowledge that McDonald’s wasn’t paying their acts.

McDonald’s reps said that other people weren’t paying their acts either so why just hate on them. This might not have been the most diplomatic response.

The drama bloomed and became a mildly-popular topic of discussion around SXSW. It was the perfect storm. People are constantly looking for ways to say that SXSW sold out and doesn’t care about the music anymore. A mega-corporation becoming a main sponsor then refusing to pay musicians was the gasoline needed to make this trashcan fire burn.

Initially, reps from McD’s dismissed it with a condescending hashtag “#slownewsday.”


Ronald sees you. Run. 

This probably wasn’t the best way to deal with issue of a giant corporation not allocating a budget to pay their performers. Especially not at a festival that is supposed to promote up and coming musicians. Corporations might be people, but they aren’t necessarily the people that get away with saying snarky things like that. Those people have moustaches.

McDonald’s relented. They made the statement that they would be paying their musicians.

. Some people are still complaining, because why should McDonald’s be held to a higher standard when other brands are still getting away with not paying artists. Some people like to complain.

The current band seems happy enough to be here. They are a young group from New York. A few people are listening to their show, but the crowd isn’t huge. The daytime shows are usually smaller. Presumably the bands more likely to bring in a crowd are reserved for a later time.


Ambient lighting

Then the swag arrives. There is a table by the entrance. One of the employees comes out with a boxful of McDonald’s T Shirts, tote bags, and Buttons. These are the original, official, promotional items. The T Shirts are a cheap, but hearty material, with mildly amusing slogans. One is a picture that equates happiness to the presence of French Fries. They are everything you want at SXSW.

At night the activation really comes to life. Dangling lights lend an eerie sort of beauty, further separating this space from the outside world. There is a statue of Ronald McDonald, and his eyes are shining in the blue light. The statue is taking a “selfie.” People are encouraged to take a selfie with him.

Many people are standing in line to take a selfie with Ronald. They are milling about, munching warm, golden, French Fries. Through the duration of this activation at SXSW, people who look like the poster children of “Austin hipster” are walking around carrying various food items branded boldly with the iconic “Golden Arches” Never before, have so many people in downtown Austin been seen carrying McDonald’s.


SXSW summarized


Tagged , , , , , ,