Amazon's Gaga Response Infuriates Little Monsters, Cloud-Music Lovers

For Amazon, the deep discount wasn't a random bout of charity—it represented a huge opportunity to present consumers with an alternative to iTunes, and to introduce its cloud-based music service. How'd that go?

Lady Gaga

Behold, the power of Lady Gaga. The pop superstar's new album, "Born This Way," managed to crash's servers soon after the retailer offered it on sale for only 99 cents. Consumers, initially wowed by the discount, quickly became peeved by the dragging download speeds, and took to the album review section to complain not of Gaga's music but of their ridiculous experience using Amazon—one fan I know said it took upwards of six hours to download the CD.

For outsiders, it might be easy to chalk up complaints to spoiled Gaga fans (aka her "Little Monsters"), who arguably should be happy that they're even getting "Born This Way" for under a buck. But for Amazon, the deep discount wasn't a random bout of charity—it represented a huge opportunity to present consumers with an alternative to iTunes, and to introduce its cloud-based music service, which was recently overshadowed by Google's entry to the digital locker space. Yet with such an opportunity on the line—Lady Gaga's last release, "The Fame Monster," was the best-selling album of 2010—Amazon crumbled under the pressure of its own marketing.

Indeed, several hours after the servers went down, Amazon refused to elaborate beyond a brief and unapologetic statement. "We have been experiencing high volume on today's Deal of the Day and downloaded have been delayed," Amazon said. "All customers who order today will get the full [album] for $0.99."

But many questions remain. Were high volumes not expected for today's best-selling artist? Is Amazon not designed to handle high volumes? Does this say anything about the strength of Amazon's cloud service, if servers crashed from one release alone?

Requests to Amazon for answers were not returned. An Amazon spokesperson had earlier declined to give the number of downloads for Gaga's album, and did not return subsequent requests for comment. In other words, Amazon's strategy appears to be: Stay quiet and this will all go away.

But that strategy seems at odds with the high bar of customer experience expected by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Only several weeks ago, Bezos appeared at a Consumer Reports event, where a moderator described how a recent CR study revealed that "people are livid over their inability to connect with a live person" at Amazon for customer service. In response, Bezos talked at length about the importance of customer experience and support at Amazon. According to Bezos, Amazon prides itself on eliminating the causes of most calls to customer service. "The best customer service is when the customer doesn't need to call you," he said. "The number one [reason for] contact has been, 'Where's my stuff?' We have driven that contact down so far, and the way we've done that is by delivering everybody's stuff."

Here, Bezos is referring to physical delivery, but the same holds true in the current context—Amazon has failed to deliver Gaga's album digitally, and has left numbers and numbers of fans wondering, "Where's my stuff?"

[Image: Flickr user ama_lia]

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Read More: Amazon's $0.99 Gaga Album Is Opening Salvo In Cloud War With Apple

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  • hemidude

    Well Jobs has to be happy, and Amazon now has even more reason to get their act together. Their brand is solid with grown ups. If you are a regular user of Amazon, I don't see how you couldn't have already downloaded their music download app, as their music deals are routinely great.

    Everyone understands a new launch or special deal can go wrong, especially when it involves a download. What is puzzling is this is Amazon, and they have already been embarrassed by their little cloud puffery fiasco. Although this is a mess for them, they have enough money and sense (I think) to come up with a good new story and offer.

  • David Lozovsky

    it took me much longer than 6 hours, I stopped checking until the following day figuring let the "Little Monsters" hash it out.  I was certainly surprised, but more so disappointed, and I can say that the whole process was less than streamlined, it required downloading an application(or two, cant remember) that resembled web 1.1 more than our 2.0 going on 3.0 world.

    I can say that if Amazon thinks they can compete with items with that UI(user interface) they have another thing coming.

    Now, just for perspective, I am a big Amazon fan, love the company, their products, and even their customer service suits my needs, but Amazon Cloud music Epic Fail. 

    PS you would think that after their AWS Cloud service crashed taking down several of my companies servers as well as that of Foursquare, Quora , Reddit, etc less than a month ago, they would have been overly cautious, you'd be WRONG. 

  • QTweeter1

    Super disappointed with Amazon.  Two let downs recently with their cloud services.  Need to do something, including communication, differently.  As for Lady Gaga, very interesting insights from Tweet X-Ray:   I wish Job and Bezos Tweet so we can see how they would compare.