‘United Breaks Guitars’ – a lesson in public relations disasters

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Dave Carroll, a riled Canadian musician accused United Airlines of breaking his prized guitar and decided to take his revenge via youtube. The talented musician wrote a song that has become an internet hit and a public relations disaster for the airline.

The title of the song is a marketing nightmare for a start.

“United Breaks Guitars” was penned after he said the airline damaged his treasured Taylor acoustic at Chicago’s O’Hare airport last year.

He said

We were sitting at the back of the plane with the band, and a woman who didn’t know we were musicians yells out, ‘Oh, my God they’re throwing guitars outside

After months of trying to get the airline to pay compensation and help repair the 3,500-dollar- instrument Carroll changed tack.

In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company he relates

I had this sort of epiphany, I’m going to write… songs about your airlines and I’m going to put them on YouTube and talk about my experience.

“United Breaks Guitars” has received more than nine million views on YouTube and had been covered by major news networks in Canada and the United States.

The video features the folk-rockers looking on in horror as United ground staff play clumsy catch with the guitar case and pound it with mallets. He has released two more songs regarding United Airways, such was the success of the first one. Each song telling a story, and naming names.

Robin Urbanski, spokeswoman for Chicago-based United, told the Chicago Tribune

This struck a chord with us, we are in conversation with one another to make what happened right.


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