To debut her new “Ghosttown” music video, Madonna turned to live mobile streaming app and SXSW breakout Meerkat, informing her Twitter followers that the video would be released to the public live at 10:00 am on Tuesday. 

But those who tuned in were greeted with a ghost town of a different kind: a big 500 error.

Madonna’s live music video debut was rescheduled for Wednesday and while Meerkat is mum on the exact cause of the incident, Meerkat’s CEO Ben Rubin insists that the failed event was not the result of scalability issues.

Whatever the cause, the failed event was a let-down for some Madonna fans who tuned in and, not surprisingly, produced more than a few Twitter jokes at the singer’s expense.

Early adopters as guinea pigs

Growing pains are to be expected with any new service that is rapidly growing in popularity. Needless to say, Madonna will survive any temporary embarrassment and inconvenience this incident caused, and Meerkat probably will too provided this type of failure doesn’t become a regular occurrence.

But the incident does provide an important reminder for high-profile early adopters: even if you’re a VIP, you’re still a guinea pig.

That doesn’t mean that celebrities and brands shouldn’t experiment with new services. They should. But there’s good reason to be careful about how they use them, and how soon they use them for high-visibility, strategic initiatives. 

This is particularly important with services like Meerkat and Periscope, which involve live events.

While mobile live streaming offers exciting new possibilities, live events are inherently less forgiving when technical glitches hit and celebrities and brands must recognize that the ability to pull off these events without a hitch is not fully in their control.