Submission to Forrester Groundswell Awards: Social Impact category

Dave Carroll Music / Big Break Enterprises have submitted an entry to the Forrester Groundswell Awards, in the Social Impact category. You can find Dave’s entry about how he created a viral music video trilogy (United Breaks Guitars) and website Right Side of Right, empowering frustrated passengers & frustrated consumers around the world, along with the other entries by visiting the Groundswell site. The first United Breaks Guitars music video cost approximately $150 to make. The trilogy has been viewed on YouTube by more than 10 million people and over 100 million people have learned of Dave’s story & creative response via social media & traditional media channels. It was estimated that the first United Breaks Guitars video cost United Airlines over $180 million dollars.

On March 31st, 2008, Dave Carroll & Sons of Maxwell were travelling to Nebraska for a week-long-tour, flying with United Airlines from Halifax to Omaha, by way of Chicago. On that first leg of the flight the band was seated at the rear of the aircraft and upon landing and waiting to deplane in order to make our connection a woman sitting behind Dave, not aware that we were musicians cried out: “My god they’re throwing guitars out there.” Our bass player Mike looked out the window in time to see his bass being heaved without regard by the United baggage handlers. Dave’s $3500 710 Taylor had been thrown before Mike’s and was crushed.

For the full United Breaks Guitars Story click here.

What ensured was a nine month ‘discussion’ with a United Airlines representative, Ms. Irlweg. The conversations ended with her saying United would not be taking any responsibility for what had happened and that that would be the last communication on the matter. At that moment it occurred to Dave that he had been fighting a losing battle all this time and that fighting over this at all was a waste of time. The system is designed to frustrate affected customers into giving up their claims and United is very good at it but Dave realized then that as a songwriter and traveling musician he wasn’t without options. In his final reply to Ms. Irlweg he told her that he would be writing three songs about United Airlines and his experience in the whole matter. He would then make videos for these songs and offer them for free download on YouTube and his own website, inviting viewers to vote on their favourite United song. His goal:  to get one million hits in one year.

Launched in July 2009, the first United Breaks Guitars video became one of YouTube’s greatest hits and caused an instant media frenzy across all major global networks and traditional/social media sources (including the likes of CNN, the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stone Magazine, BBC and ABC’s ‘The View’). The story and the song was powered by a groundswell of grassroots support. What started off as a creative outlet for his frustration as a dismissed customer effectively has become a major agent for change around the World. He demonstrated the power of the individual in this age of social media and is a globally recognized advocate for customer experience improvement, giving others a voice. Consumers, business and industry now look to Dave Carroll and United Breaks Guitars as an example on where they stand on the ‘Right Side of Right.’ The impact of Dave’s music protest video has been so tremendous that it has opened new doors for him as a sought after public speaker (Brite Conference, NewComm Forum, Mesh Conference, Right Now Technologies, etc), as the ‘Musician with a Message’ and has earned him the title of modern day folk hero.

In United Breaks Guitars Song 2, Dave takes a closer look at his dealings with Ms. Irlweg and the flawed policies that she was forced to uphold.  Song 2 is an appeal to United to do the right thing because their policies are putting a real strain on what could be a terrific friendship between Ms. Irlweg and Dave.

The final video (United Breaks Guitars Song 3 – United We Stand on the Right Side of Right) acknowledges that Dave’s unfortunate experience with United has given his career an unexpected lift, and that he wishes United well with the changes that they say are coming, but that many people continue to face their own customer service nightmares. Catchy lyrics are delivered in a high energy, bluegrass tune featuring a premiere Canadian musician on fiddle and mandolin and a surprise dobro solo from a high profile Nashville recording artist, Jerry Douglas.

When Dave first set out to write a song about his broken guitar, he had no idea of how his story would resonate with so many people who have had similar experiences.  In response to their overwhelming feedback he created the Right Side of Right website so that everyone can more effectively share stories and seek out possible solutions.  Including finding ways for us to work with companies that truly want to deliver better experiences for their customers and who are striving to be on the “Right Side of Right.”

One of the key things Dave has learned from his United Breaks Guitars experience  is that the voice of one person is no longer “statistically insignificant” and that collectively we can improve the world one experience at a time.

United Breaks Guitars has become a case study for customer service & social media for organizations and educational institutions around the world, including the Harvard Business Review. Dave Carroll was named ‘Digital Artist of the Year’ (Music Nova Scotia) & United Breaks Guitars won ‘Video of the Year’ (Music Nova Scotia) in 2009. In September of 2009, Dave Carroll sang his testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington at a Congressional Hearing for the Passengers Bill of Rights. Additionally:




• 2012 A. D. Dunton Alumni Award of Distinction from Carleton University
• Consumers’ Choice Award Man of the Year – Halifax (2010)
• TIME Magazine named United Breaks Guitars #12 out of the Top 50 Greatest YouTube Hits ever (2010)
• TIME Magazine named United Breaks Guitars #7 on the Top Viral Videos list of 2009
• United Breaks Guitars reached #1 on the UK Itunes Country song charts in July 2009
• United Breaks Guitars reached the top #14 on the Itunes Canada video charts July 2009
• United Breaks Guitars in real time reached the #1 Most Viewed, Discussed & Top Rated YouTube Music Video (in July 2009)
• United Breaks Guitars widely lauded as one of the most important [videos] in Google’s history

5 replies
  1. Kirk Young says:

    How true!!! United doesn’t care a flip about their customer service.

    I flew with them and Air New Zealand to Wellington, NZ this past summer and am now being denied the frequent flyer miles.

    United says that Air New Zealand has to award the miles because I was on “their” airline, even though all my tickets said “UNITED” on them. Air New Zealand says that United has to award the miles because I’ll be getting United mileage points, not ANZ mileage points.

    Everyone I’ve spoken with at United has been rude and downright combative on the phone. They simply don’t care about doing the right thing. I wish I had thought of a video like this; I just might try something.

    Thank you, Dave, for having the constitution and fortitude to bring United to their knees.

    Tilton, NH

  2. alli says:

    This is called moving “with” the energy of the Universe. When a person is inspired to do something, and follows through on that inspiration, great forces come to bear and it works out to the good for everyone involved…probably even Ms. Irlweg. I also most likely never would’ve heard Dave Carroll’s music without the UBG viral videos, and I would’ve been worse off for missing it. Great stuff. Keep on getting inspired!

  3. Howard Hutchinson says:

    Fantastic! I have just watched all the video’s after following a link from the BBC news web site.

    I am very pleased that your initial loss has been turned around so dramatically. It’s very refreshing to see the “little man” win over against the huge multinational, multi million dollar organisation.

    I will now keep an eye on your “rightsideofright” web site to see how things develop for you.

    Good Luck & Well Done!!

  4. Terrie Seybold says:

    Dave did a great thing when he took his plight to youtube with a song. I think more things would get changed for the better if more people did the same thing. One voice can make a significant change if it can be heard by the masses and it is spoken/sung with earnest intentions and not in anger or with malice.
    I would never have known your music without the UBG video and having learned about you. It may have been an unconventional way to find you, but I am glad to have found you and your music. Keep on singing and writing!

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