United Breaks Guitars, A Lesson in Social Media For Artists

Is Social Media Important to Businesses in the Arts?

Today I had to take my junk PC to the doctor.  I re-booted it so I could get a tad quicker response time while working on a painting.  When I tried to re-start it the overgrown lummox decided to rebel…it would not re-start and thought it funny to throw a FATAL ERROR message up.  No biggie, I was looking for a new doorstop for the studio anyway.  Ok, so I decided to let it live and took it to my good friend Brian who is a PC doc.  When I dropped it off his mom was there and was watching a video on Youtube.  The musicgeek in me liked the video but the business geek in me freaked when I saw it had almost 8 million views.  So I decided I would follow up and write about it.  Here ya go.


Most of you know I live in the great plains, Nebraska to be exact.  Last year I heard some hoopla about a band that was coming here to play.  Seems that they choose to fly United and the ground crew had a blast heaving guitars around.  In the melee they broke a very expensive guitar.  As I heard the story I thought of that awesome scene in Ace Ventura where Jim Carrey is playing soccer with a UPS package.  Anyway, Dave Carroll is the artist that had the unfortunate issues with United.

Dave decided he would keep his viewing audience in the loop of how the whole thing played out in terms of having to deal with a major company and encouraging them to take some responsibility.

Below is the first video.  Check it out and then lets look at some things.

I love this story for a variety of reasons.  First, most of us can relate to it because we all have had something happen with a big company at one time or another.  We all have experienced the arrogance of a company that refuses to hear our issue.  The other thing I love is that there is a underdog component to the whole thing.  I always cheer for the underdog.  Big company vs one person, U.S. Govt. vs. private citizen, all of that is intriguing to us and we tend to root for the little guy.

What I want to point out with this video though is the volume of traffic it has produced.  It went viral.  Between this first vidoe, the other two produced by David Carroll and all of the spin offs it is over 10 MILLION views.  Wow.  That is 10 million votes FOR David and a gaggle of people who empathize with him that most likely wont be traveling United, not to mention they (United) totally look like schmucks.

One of my mentors in marketing is Dan Kennedy.  He calls large corporate structures “big dumb companies”.  I wish I had thought of that because it is true in so many cases.  How hard would it have been to have systems in place that would allow the management on the ground in the location of the incident to make a decision…the right decision?  How much less money would it have cost United?

The point is this, if you are a business owner social media can be your friend or it can really work against you.  What is cool is that social media is the embodiment of capitalism and free enterprise.  As clients we vote with our dollars.  The more we like a companies products or services the more we vote….and talk.  No longer is communication from companies one way.  It is a very distinctive two-way conversation with a client base.  We as clients have a say in the process.  If customer service is an issue and we first try the most amenable and judicious route without success, we now have options that are stronger that a mild passing complaint at a soccer game or bridge party.  Be careful here though because if you don’t personally do the right thing in trying to work out an issue with a company it can make you look like a ding-a-ling.  In other words be fair in your approach and try to get it worked out before you slam someone.  Once it is out there in cyberspace you can’t take it back.

As business owners we have the opportunity to see what people say, unbiased and stripped of sugar coating.  Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it heals because people are people.  Overall though, it gives us the opportunity to discover challenges we might not have known to exist.  Then, we have a chance to fix those issues and move on to the next level.

As a small business owner if you are not involved with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. you should seriously get on board.  The conversation about you is out there, you might as well hear what is being said.

You can hit YouTube and see the other two vids in the series.  David’s career has been positively affected by his brilliant videos and dealing smartly with a big dumb company in the public’s view.


  1. Hey Tim, I have actually seen this video, so I am one of the 8 million viewers! And yes social media is where it is at for sure! I remember when I used to buy a $50 inch of space in the newspaper and not get one reply ..and what about buying a $150 inch in the yellow pages which I did a few years ago and had people calling me asking how they could restore a painting they found in their attic or did I know where to buy affordable frames.. not one person hired me for the services I was advertising. I live in the boonies , so social media is a absolute MUST for me. I am still learning about it while I am embracing it and hope to get more efficient and more entertaining 🙂 Thanks for the great blog!!

    • Hey Susi-thanks for your comment. Next month in the mag I am will have a column that is art marketing buzz, there we will look at the myriad of social media marketing as well as some articles here, lots of videos and the blogging course at DAA. -Tim

  2. do you mind if i borrow some content from your site?offcourse i will link back?

    • Hi Shaunna-

      Any content can be used from here as long as it is re-used in its entirety and not changed as well as having a source link back to us. best -Tim

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