AUSTIN -- One of South by Southwest's newest sponsors, fast food institution McDonald's, took considerable heat online a few weeks ago regarding its plans for a promotional music showcase at the festival. The indie pop band Ex Cops set the Internet ablaze after reporting that the chain had asked it to perform at the event for free.

All that digital anger stemmed from the view that a corporation the size of McDonald's can and should give struggling musicians more than a Big Mac and a pat on the back. And in the end, the burger giant agreed and decided to compensate the bands that said yes to its proposal (thanks mostly to Ex Cops, who'd already said no).

McDonald's gave away 1,300 sandwiches, 1,200 smoothies, and 2,500 bags of fries on Tuesday at SXSW. We do not yet have numbers for Wednesday. But wow: 2,500 bags of fries!

McDonald's gave away 1,300 sandwiches, 1,200 smoothies, and 2,500 bags of fries on Tuesday at SXSW. We do not yet have numbers for Wednesday. But wow: 2,500 bags of fries!

Julia Robinson/Special Contributor

With that settled, how did the Mickey D's showcase fare on Wednesday at SXSW? Just fine, I suppose, especially for those who desired a respite from the sun, a free Egg McMuffin or a selfie with a clown. 

In addition to up-and-coming acts taking the stage at the sprawling downtown McDonald's tent open to registrants and volunteers, the "experience" touted free wi-fi and free breakfast all day. Hash browns, coffee, Egg McMuffins and Sausage McGriddles were handed out. Life size Ronald McDonald statues stood by for the purpose of taking creepy selfie shots. All in all, the pop-up lounge amounts to the same kind of marketing move already perfected at SXSW by companies such as Samsung and Yahoo. And did I mention the free coffee?

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