popeyes
[photo via Flickr Creative Commons]

Popeyes is looking to help out musicians looking for work during the coronavirus pandemic but their recent initiative is catching some flack.

Yesterday (May 4), the company announced a new campaign encouraging musicians to join a contest performing their “Love That Chicken” jingle using the hashtag #LoveThatJingle for cash but Rolling Stone caught wind of some careful wording landing them in hot water.

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The winner of their competition is receiving a one-time payment and will perform the song on TV and radio advertisements.

It began through an ad in local New Orleans newspaper Times-Picayune but was expanded as a national ad. According to Rolling Stone‘s report, they declined to confirm how many win or how much they are being paid. A spokesperson from the company says it will be “higher than on typical payment for artists.”

According to Popeyes’ website from yesterday though, unionized musicians are being excluded.

Shortly after, Rolling Stone contacted the fast food company requested clarification on the wording. This led to “open only to non-union members” being removed from the description.

After they asked about the original language, a spokesperson replied and adjusted their sentiments. They said the company “is welcoming all artists to participate and will pay those selected according to the union regulations.”

The publication asked for comment from two of the largest musician’s unions, the American Federation of Musicians and SAG-AFTRA. Both voiced concerns about the contest and how it works. Popeyes’ parent company Restaurant Brands International doesn’t have contracts with either union and union regulations are determined by negotiations.

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Union reps are saying the contest is exploiting musicians. They also expressed a want for the company to advocate for better unemployment benefits for musicians through the federal government’s coronavirus relief.

“It’s despicable to see a large multinational corporation take advantage of musicians during a global pandemic by asking performers to sign away all their rights for an undisclosed chunk of change,” AFM International President Ray Hair says in a statement.

Following the description change, a spokesperson for AFM says they’re “relieved that the original casting call discriminating against union musicians was revised, and now musicians are anxious to negotiate a fair contract with Popeyes that appropriately compensates performers for their work.”

SAG-AFTRA has similar thoughts on the topic.

“SAG-AFTRA does not condone this contest or any opportunity that seeks to exploit talent. Instead of providing a meaningful opportunity, this contest is purely exploitative,” SAG-AFTRA Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told Rolling Stone in a statement. “Singers and musicians have been offered a chance to work but at the cost of creating content for a for-profit entity to use forever.  Vocalists and musicians will never see additional profits from their participation in this campaign. Without the protection of a union, performers are more vulnerable during this uncertain time than ever before. It’s no wonder they are asking for non-union talent.”

Popeyes’ did not respond to further requests for comment regarding the union reps’ statements.

What do you think of Popeyes’ contest for musicians? Let us know your thoughts on the topic in the comments below.

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