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?