So your band is flying between gigs, and during one of the legs, you happen to see your equipment getting tossed around as it’s loaded into the plane. When you finally become reunited with your luggage, you discover that your guitar has been terribly damaged, despite its robust packaging.

Then you face a brick wall when you complain to the airline, who refuses to pay. Then what are you supposed to do? Call a lawyer? Call the Better Business Bureau? Call the media? Organize a boycott to draw attention to the cause?

One creative musician suffered that experience, but he chose a different way to get results. And, it appears that it’s worked, and perhaps in more ways than one.

Dave Carroll, a Halifax songwriter and member of the band Sons of Maxwell, spent months negotiating with United Airlines. After repeatedly getting absolutely nowhere, Carroll wrote a song, produced a (quite admirable) video, and uploaded it to Youtube, where it has been seen almost a million and a half times in the past four or so days since its upload on July 6, 2009.

The video is reproduced here:

The day after the video appeared, United appeared to come around. After the video had gone viral and been viewed about 150,000 times. It appears that the matter is actually settled, with Carroll no longer seeking compensation but suggesting that a charity be named to receive any funds in this follow-up video posted today, July 10, 2009:

Now, this still has to all play out. The song “United Breaks Guitars” is the first of three that Carroll vowed to write; he indicates on the follow-up video that he is continuing to write the avowed songs. At first glance, this story appeared to be about getting satisfaction in an ongoing dispute. Now, though, the story seems to split into different directions.

On the surface, this appears to be another example of the use of Social Media to get the attention of a major company to address some wrong. As the story continues to unfold, though, it looks as if Carroll has embraced the opportunity for artistic inspiration and has written a very catchy tune with some very poignant lyrics. (Let’s not forget the absolutely amazing use of airline stewardesses as representing the airline – this is brilliant in and of itself! And so beautifully acted!)

So now we must ask the question of ourselves – did this work because it was a complaint, or did it work because it was an opportunity to get a damned good song AND video out there for a whole new audience to find? The response has been quite amazing, and the song and video are very, very good. This seems like it’s turned into an incredible opportunity for the band, and I look forward to the next installments!

If you’d like more background, check out the cbc story here.