What’s in a (band) name?

Picking the name for your original band should be an exhilarating process – not something to be taken lightly.  Naming the band is part of the whole creative act and it’s your calling card going forward.  This is not the time to be lazy or casual.  Be deliberate.

“Band Name Makers”

Please stay away from random band name generators!  You know they are out there.  You know, deep down, that they are silly.  You’d be better off creating a stripper name – you know, first name of childhood pet and last name of street you grew up on (mine is Scruffy Osterman) for the group than squash creativity with the random name.  You’re an original band – please vow to be original in this endeavor.

Don’t be in a hurry

There’s no need to rush the process.  Think of your band as a book or a composition.  Many authors never worry about the title of the book, or the song until later.  The title usually arises, naturally, out of the act of creation.  Instead, try this recipe:

Write the tunes.  Assemble the band.  (Practice!!!)  Replace players as needed.  Write more tunes.  Now…close your eyes and get a sense of your sound.  This is your sound.  No other band on the planet has this sound.  No other band on the planet has your group configuration.  What do you sound like?  What do you want to sound like?  These are clues.

Mission – the main clue

Did your band start with a mission?  If so, the band name will probably jump out at you like a brilliant flame.  Your mission is your torch to guide the way.  What do you stand for?  What do you want people to take away from your performance, or a listening session of your tunes?  What kind of impression do you want to make on the world?

Simple is good

Yes, simple is good and sometimes even great.  A band name that is clean and open to many interpretations is a very nice way to go.  Cite:  The Police, The Cars, The Who, The Cure, The Fray, Tool, Korn, Genesis, Rush, Kansas.  There is a beauty to simplicity and, like a well-written book, you allow the reader (the audience) to incorporate their own imagination into your little project.

Name as SEO

Have you ever been in a band whose name has been used a thousand times before?  Silly, huh?  Especially when it comes to finding you on the good old internet.  Create a unique band name and you will own it for search engine optimization.  If the band name ties closely with your mission, you will even own a conceptual niche.  Why not dream big?

The way to own a niche is first to be unique and then also be specific.  The more specific you become the more you will enhance the “long tail.”  The long tail is when your band name comes up extremely high on Google or Yahoo as a search of name alone but also in conjunction with specific public appearances (gigs) and themes (gigs turned into events).  All of this effort trails back to strengthen your band’s visibility and identity.

Name as band merch facilitator

Some bands may opt for maximum merchandising opportunities.  If the band name lends itself to obvious symbols (logos) or other design suggestions (or those elements lead to a band name), you stand a pretty good chance of making some cash off of eye-catching merch.  Let’s face it – selling tunes is a little tricky these days.  You might just want to give the music away and live off the merch and other high-concept opportunities.  Or better yet, embed the music in the merch (a whole other topic…).  But let the band name lead the way.

Named by the fan

If you’re really stumped for a band name, if all of your creative juices dried up with the last song you wrote, another productive method would be to let your fans name you.  Hold a contest.  Chances are very good that you’ll find some doozies.  And you’ll be deeply engaging your fans at the same time.  How cool is that?

So what’s in a band name?  In short, everything: your mission, your approach to life as an artist, your reputation, your web presence – maybe even your livelihood.  You’ve spent so many hours learning your craft.  You’ve poured your soul into the tunes.  Maybe you’ve spent every last dime on the recordings.  So why settle for a crappy moniker?  Why be random?

4 Comments on “What’s in a (band) name?

  1. In my years of working in the Colorado music scene, I’ve seen more bands lose bookings because of their name. Some were so gross that there was no way the venue wanted that name on a poster or flier. Silly names only make the public think that you’re a silly band and they really don’t want to waste their time coming out to watch you. Some are so weird that the thought leaves the audience wondering, “What was the band thinking when they picked that name?” I agree with Marc: spend some time and find a name that represents you. Nothing more annoying than to go see a band that has a really good “heavy metal name” and finding out that they are a jazz band!! Or vice-versa! Also, try to pick a name that has no implied meaning. That way, if you want to play metal originals but pick up some spare change doing country covers out of town, you can. Think “The Fray” or “One Republic”. Good names that don’t box them in.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. If the best name you can come up with came from a band name generator, you probably should find a hobby other than musician. The more common problem is having too many good names to choose from. Even if nothing comes up in the beginning, it WILL hit you like Ike Turner when you least suspect it.

    • You could sell a good band name, but you’d need to think about a couple things first…

      To have it be worthwhile, you’d need to grab the url(s) associated with the band name as well. Often enough, the url is more important than anything else these days, and if a band already has that, they may not need to deal with you whatsoever.

      I would also suggest that you check your motives – life is hard enough for bands these days, especially original bands. Why possess a band name unless you plan on using it for yourself? Just my two cents…

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