By designating Lady Gaga's hotly anticipated album "Born This Way" as Monday's "MP3 Daily Deal," Amazon appears to be have gambled that the cost of selling the album at far below wholesale price will be worth the value of drawing additional customer traffic to promote its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player.
The promotion is sparking plenty of attention all right -- but much of it for the wrong reasons, as customers vent their anger over difficulties in downloading the album.
As is the case with every purchase at its MP3 store, buyers of "Born This Way" were given the option of downloading the album to their Cloud Drive or to their computer.
And on its music home page, Amazon reminded customers that their purchase of the "Born This Way" album download would qualify them for a free upgrade to 20 mb of Cloud Drive storage, which normally costs $20 a year. The same offer applies to a customer's first purchase of any Amazon MP3 album from March 28 to Dec. 31, 2011.
But heavy demand for "Born This Way" created congestion at the MP3 store, greatly slowing the downloading process for some customers. One Billboard staffer required about 80 minutes to download the entire album to his computer Monday morning Eastern time. However, another staffer who purchased the album in the early afternoon via the Amazon MP3 app on his Android handset experienced no delays downloading all the tracks to his Cloud Drive account and to his handset; several customers commented on Amazon.com that they'd had no problems downloading the album, and others were expressed more patience with the process.
"We're experiencing high volume and downloads are delayed," Amazon acknowledged in a statement Monday. "If customers order today, they will get the full Lady Gaga, Born This Way album for $0.99. Thanks for your patience."
But even worse than the delays was the customer confusion that resulted from the faulty download process, which required customers to hit "retry" when some tracks failed to download the first time around. That led to a flurry of frustrated - and occasionally ill-informed -- customer comments on Amazon.
"This experience is horrible and is why people are stealing music instead of buying," wrote one commenter.
"I'm entirely disappointed in Amazon lying to its customers about this deal and I'm sure Lady Gaga and her record label will also be upset at Amazon for ripping off the fans," wrote another commenter who claimed he/she couldn't download a single track from the album.
That commenter also wrote: "Won't be using Amazon anymore for music downloads. I'll stick with iTunes where I know that when I fork out money for something, I actually get what I pay for."
In offering the most-anticipated album of the year for a dollar, that's probably not the kind of reaction that Amazon had counted on.