According to the Los Angeles Times, Carroll’s story began in the spring of 2008, when his $3,500 Taylor guitar was damaged during a flight from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Omaha, Neb.

“We were touring last year, over a year ago, going to Nebraska and we had to fly United Airlines landing in Chicago for a quick turnaround,” the singer told CBC News.
“Somebody who didn’t know we were musicians cried out from behind me that ‘they’re throwing guitars outside.'”

A member of Carroll’s backing band looked out the window of the plane and was horrified to see that his bass was among the instruments being abused.

Despite the fact that Carroll’s custom-made acoustic guitar was packed in a specially made foam case, it suffered severe damage.

“I tried to alert three employees who showed no interest at all and it began a nine-month saga of me trying to get compensation for a guitar that ended up being broken, badly broken,” he explained.

What followed was months of emails and letters and hours of phone calls with uncaring United reps, culminating with an employee in Chicago telling Carroll to quit emailing because the company wasn’t responsible and he wasn’t going to be compensated.

Tired of banging his head against a wall, Carroll thought to himself, “WWMMD?,” or “What would Michael Moore do?”

Since he’s a songwriter and not a filmmaker, he set to work composing three songs about the experience. “United: Song 1” (or “United Breaks Guitars”), which Carroll recorded and made a zero-budget video for with help from his friends, went up on YouTube on July 6.

In just three days, the clip has been viewed by more than half a million people, attracted the attention of mainstream media (including CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who featured it on his show “The Situation Room”) and – of course – finally elicited an appropriate response from United Airlines, which issued this statement:

“This has struck has a chord with us. We are in conversations with one another to make what happened right, and while we mutually agree that this should have been fixed much sooner, Dave Carroll’s excellent video provides United with a unique learning opportunity that we would like to use for training purposes to ensure all customers receive better service from us.”

For his part, Carroll says he doesn’t want anything from the airline anymore, and told the LA Times he even had a friend take United’s call and tell them, “No hard feelings.”

However, he’s not done with telling his story yet and has two more songs to go. And remember the United employee who told Carroll to buzz off? Well her name is Ms. Irlweg and it turns out she’s been immortalized in song. The singer says “United: Song 2” (or “Ms. Irlweg”) has been written and recorded and a video is now in production for release next month.

And in case anyone with a gripe out there wants to follow Carroll’s example, he offered a few songwriting tips to the Times: write in the key of D, use three-part harmonies, keep the tempo between 120 and 125 beats per minute and most importantly, “make it light-hearted. If your music comes across as angry – if you come across as negative – you probably won’t have much success. People don’t want to hear whining.”

Read the Los Angeles Times’ complete coverage of Dave Carroll’s story here.