Five days after Dave Carroll posted a $150 video for the twangy "United Breaks Guitars" on YouTube, his band Sons of Maxwell were met with "almost militant" requests for the song at their Friday gig at Codstock in Arichat, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The video, which chronicles the country rocker's arduous (and failed) attempt to get compensation from United Airlines after baggage handlers damaged his $3,500 Taylor guitar, has received almost 2.5 million views, as of today (watch it, above).
"Everybody was calling for that song the minute we hit the stage," says Carroll from his home in Halifax, NS. The concert was sold out long before the video was ever released, but it was the first time Sons of Maxwell had performed "United Breaks Guitars" since the insanity began, including international media attention, most notably a clip on CNN's The Situation Room.
"It was unbelievable, 1,500 people raising their hands in the air to the 'united breaks guitars' tag line in the chorus," says Carroll. "The cool thing though was that everyone was smiling and laughing when they were singing it. It's not a working man's angry protest song."
He returned home from tour Sunday night to 4,000 e-mails from people with commiserating stories, offers and praise for his music. Carroll says his personal Website had gone from 40 to 50 hits a week ago to 50,000 by Thursday. Sales of Sons of Maxwell's eight albums and Carroll's solo disc have increased from "one or two a day online to probably hundreds," he estimates, thanks to his viral smash. Other airlines have offered him free trips to experience their customer service and Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars personally telephoned, offering two guitars of his choice and props to use in the second video about the incident.
The second song is a "lighthearted" lyric about Ms. Irlweg, the "unflappable" customer service rep at United who said last December the "matter was closed." The third song in the trilogy will be about the outcome and is not yet written.
On Friday, Carroll spoke with Rob Bradford at customer solutions for United Airlines, who offered $1,200 to cover the repair, which he already paid out, and a matching amount in flight vouchers. "I said it would please me more if they could find somebody that was down on their luck or needed flights or the money and surprise them with a gift to raise their spirits and to try to turn the tide on what was happening here between the two of us," says Carroll.
But above all, he's glad new listeners are getting a listen to his music thanks to the ton of free advertising. "The thing that I like most about this is that this song is quirky and fun, but I'm getting all this attention now from people saying, 'I appreciate what you did with the video but I really like Sons of Maxwell and what you did solo and I'm buying your CDs now.' "