Amazon.com came up with a good marketing idea in its battle against Apple's iTunes, but it worked almost too well as execs vastly underestimated the sheer might of Lady Gaga fans.
In an attempt to drum up interest in its new Cloud Drive digital music storage service, Amazon on Monday offered Lady Gaga's new album, Born This Way, for just 99 cents.
As a bonus, the cloud storage limit of anyone who bought the album yesterday was upgraded to 20GB. That upgrade normally requires the purchase of a full-price album or a $20-per-year subscription.
The one-day-only sale proved to be a little too much for Amazon's system.
Lady Gaga fans have taken to Twitter to complain about slow downloads or a completely stalled system.
Someone identified as Bowenventure tweeted, "Monsters don't like technical glitches! Unfortunately, it is affecting her album rating and Amazon's reputation!"
While Amazon was working to get back on its feet in the face of the ordering deluge, it turned to Twitter to explain the situation to customers. "We're currently experiencing very high volume," Amazon tweeted. "If you order today, you will get the full @ladygaga album for $.99. Thanks for your patience."
Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, said Amazon's plan to use Lady Gaga to pull users away from iTunes was a good one, and he said that yesterday's glitch shouldn't hurt the company much at all.
"I'm not saying it doesn't make them look bad. It does," said Kerravala. "But the next time they have an early release or a big discount, people will still flock back to the site. Consumers tend to be pretty forgiving, particularly when they can get stuff cheap."
Kerravala also said it appears that Amazon underestimated the popularity of the pop singer and how faithful and rabid her fans can be.
"But as long as they're prepared next time, I think people will forget this," he added. "Remember the first time Victoria's Secret broadcast their fashion show over the Web? It crushed the network. It still became really popular."
Yesterday's Lady Gaga snafu comes on the heels of Amazon's massive outage last month. In that incident, popular websites like Quora and Reddit were hampered or knocked out for more than a day because of server problems at the Amazon data center that handles Web hosting services.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.