It's said about writers that you should never get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.

But United Airlines has learned not to get into fights with musicians who have videocameras.

As Dave Carroll, of the folk-rock group Sons of Maxwell, reports on his blog, it all started on March 31, 2008, when the group began a week-long-tour of Nebraska by flying United Airlines from Halifax to Omaha, by way of Chicago. After they landed in Chicago, another passenger witnessed baggage handlers throwing guitars owned by the group, which ended up causing $1200 in damage to Carroll's $3500 Taylor guitar.

Then followed a nine-month saga where Carroll tried to get the airline to accept responsibility, eventually being willing to take $1200 in airline vouchers, but United still refused.

Carroll then told United "that I would be writing three songs about United Airlines and my experience in the whole matter. I would then make videos for these songs and offer them for free download online, inviting viewers to vote on their favourite United song. My goal: to get one million hits in one year."

He's more than halfway there after two days.

"United Breaks Guitars," the first one of the songs, was posted to YouTube two days ago and has more than 640,000 hits.

Moreover, not only did United reportedly post -- on Twitter -- that the video “struck a chord w/ us and we’ve contacted him directly to make it right," but Taylor Guitars in California called Carroll to say they’d be happy to repair the damaged instrument, and they promised a deep discount on his next purchase, according to ABC News.

Ironically, the event has also led to a great deal more publicity for Sons of Maxwell itself; its other YouTube videos have fewer than 20,000 hits each and added up don't match the success of "United Breaks Guitars." "If anything, I should thank United," Carroll said on his blog. "They’ve given me a creative outlet that has brought people together from around the world."

It is not clear whether Sons of Maxwell intends to continue its plan to post two more videos, the next of which is due later this summer.

Can the copycats be far behind?

24 hours later and there has been over 900 000 hits

This is another clear example of how corporations are still failing to realize the influence that social media can have on their business. It's not just that a few thousand people saw it on Youtube, it's that several journalists saw it, wrote about it and drove extra views.

Now over a million people around the world including me will have second thoughts about flying United (Well maybe if I don't have any check in baggage, I might be ok.)

Perhaps a better Social Media Monitoring Program would have saved United some disrepute? And it's not just commercial organisations that need to pay attention, government organizations also need to take heed (MI6.)

To start in a kind of odd way, but musically, I think without a doubt, song No. 2 and No. 3 will happen. For the artist, I think it an interesting situation and worth following because I downloaded his real record ``Perfect Blue,'' and listened to it several times. He's not at all this type of artist. Do you want a career-defining event around social media, that does not sound like your sound and is humor?
Also, I think part of your implication in the report here is United Airlines did respond yet its social-media response was ignored. Traditional thinking is the company can respond, and avert disaster.
I would be interested in following entries on this story as it unfolds. Ultimately, I think David Carroll ends up doing a ``Dell Hell,'' with the conclusion being praise for a company that has changed. In this case, I would question whether it is real change or a convenient change for both artist and airline.
Too, I really think the closing question here about copycats is very well put.

i looked at the video again this morning and its been seen by more than 1.8 million people