TORONTO — When Halifax’s Dave Carroll got off his United Airlines flight last spring and discovered his $3,500 custom-made guitar was severely damaged — allegedly by overzealous luggage handlers — at first he was mad.
When the airline’s customer service team gave him the runaround and refused to address his complaints to his satisfaction, he was incensed.
But in typically Canadian fashion, the songwriter decided to be the nice guy, shrug off his anger, and instead wrote a song about his experience.
As of thursday morning, that song, United Breaks Guitars, was the most popular music video on YouTube with about 500,000 views, and to his shock, his phone rang and rang and rang all day, with calls from across the continent.
One minute it was CBS asking him to play the network’s morning show, the next it was CNN, asking for details about his story so he could be featured on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.
What started off as a lark has turned into far more exposure than Carroll has ever had with his band Sons of Maxwell, the kind of publicity he could never afford to buy, he said in an interview.
“I’ve been at this for well over 15 years, slugging away at it and . . . this has been an incredible lift to our career and my career as a solo artist,” he said.
After months of badgering with United for some sort of compensation he gave up, and told the last company representative that he spoke with that he planned to write a trilogy of songs about his disappointing experience.
“The whole thing has been a challenge artistically and that’s what makes this so fun,” he said, and added that he’s no longer bitter or seeking any kind of compensation from United.
“I think not only does it resonate with people because it’s an airline song, which all people can relate to, but I think the fact it’s a light-hearted song and fun is something that everyone can appreciate, because not everyone — including myself — likes to hear angry, hateful songs all the time.”
“It’s nice to have a light-hearted chuckle at things.”
He posted the video late Monday night and went to bed with the view count at about half a dozen. The next day he emailed a few hundred fans, friends and family and within 24 hours, the hits started to grow exponentially, by about 20,000 per hour.
Carroll said United has attempted to call him a couple times since the song went viral online, but he never got to the phone. But someone who spoke with United on his behalf said the company was gracious in accepting the criticism.
“They seem encouraged, by all the bad publicity I guess, to change the way they do things and change the culture of customer complaints,” he said.
“I think they’re actually having a great attitude about the whole thing, they’re not coming across as angry or threatening or anything like that.
And maybe this will be a love story at the end of the day,” he said, noting that while song two of his trilogy is already written, song three could be about a happy ending.