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What The Hell Was Megadeth, Arizona?

20 years ago today, the first website for a band debuted in cyberspace

Robin Sloan Bechtel
Oct 1, 2014 · 11 min read

“The music industry’s first runaway hit on the web” — Interactive Age

This is the story of how an unlikely threesome—a girl, a heavy metal band and their fans — pioneered the web at its infancy, bucked the status quo and proved that the Internet wasn’t a fad.

Capitol Records Senior Vice President Lou Mann presents the Frank Sinatra Duets Game “Jeopairdy” to the Los Angeles Sales Branch 1994

The Hollywood Handshake

When I returned to Hollywood, I had to explore this spectacle further, but actually getting on the World Wide Web was a technical bitch. If you understood computers back then, you were described as “computer-literate.” But it was even difficult for us “literates” to understand the new world of TCP/IP, PPP, Gopher and Telnet. Since I had real job responsibilities during the day, I would spend my nights alone in the Capitol Tower, just trying to get that damn computer to dial up a modem, in hopes of being rewarded with that glorious sound of the modem connecting. Back then, we tech geeks called it “the handshake.”

In the proposal, I describe the Internet as consisting of “intelligent, upwardly mobile people” amongst other verbal atrocities. The proposal went on for two pages, where I also explained “while other bands are stuffing envelopes, mailing labels and licking stamps, we’ll send electronic messages, tour dates and updates.” Oh, man.
Yahoo’s homepage— originally called Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.
To promote the website, we made postcards and stickers, because that’s how traditional marketing was done — using people to pass out pieces of paper.

The Flying Roasters

‘Til Deth Do We (Didn’t) Part

At the height of Megadeth, Arizona’s popularity, Capitol wanted to close down the site because the band’s album cycle was ending—still living in a world of limited promotional flights and expiring campaigns. Can you imagine shutting down a popular site today?

Interactive Age 1995. I pitched this story about the fans “rebelling,” in hopes that Capitol would let me keep the site up.

Things We Never Could Have Predicted About Megadeth, Arizona

1. The site drove interest in computers

We got emails from people telling us that the site inspired them to buy computers, modems or get Internet connections.

2. The site helped put the Internet on the mainstream media’s radar

3. Megadeth, Arizona opened the door for bands to market on the Internet

“This groundbreaking site set the tone for artist sites to come.” — Music Connection

4. This Internet thing—it’s global!

I still have no idea what this says.

5. This would be the birth of social media

“One of the first online communities” LA Times

6. Unprecedented access to celebrities

“Dave Mustaine used the web to reach out to his fans—but that brought its own complications. When he first ventured into his site’s chatroom, none of the fans believed he was who he said he was. Once they realized it was him, they wouldn’t leave him alone.” —Rolling Stone

The Megadiner chatroom transcript. Fans grilling Dave Mustaine (megaman) to verify his identity.
Electronic Entertainment / July 1995

7. The beginning of “going viral”

I didn’t realize while creating the digital postcard, that when people would send one to a friend — their friend would also learn about the website. You could create one digital master of a concept, and people could spread the word for you— as if it was their idea. Goodbye print marketing, hello digital.

8. The band were pioneers too

“It’s the Wild, Wild West but we think we should go for it.”— Megadeth

“What is the Internet? What do you do? What is the goal? How does it work?” — Megadeth

Robin Sloan Bechtel

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A pioneer of the digital revolution starting at the birth of the World Wide Web. Investor in Uber, Everlane & Philz Coffee.