The Top Ten Rules for Making a New Band Name
Updated: Mar 2, 2019
Every musician has experienced the pain and glory of this harrowing rite of passage. Coming up with a band name is serious stuff because you care about the results. Aye, you have to live with it! And so, being fresh off of playing the name game I thought it wise to chart a guideline for mastering the challenge. One never knows when the future will call for you to take that detour once again. Whoever you are, and whatever instrument you play, I wish you the best of luck in finding your identity and making your mark.
RULE # 1 Cast a wide net for name consideration
Brainstorm many choices for a good start. You don't want to be hemmed in by a small fistful of hopefuls and then leave feeling like the 'big one' may have gotten away. It may be tempting to go with a first utterance as though that carries some kind of divine provocation. Resist this move. It is simply not the case. If it was, we'd all be called The Band.
RULE # 2 Get input from all the players
Unless you are one of those out-sized ego performers (which I hope you are not), don't forget that band member buy-in is critically important to the ultimate success of any name. I must warn you, however, this step comes with potential pitfalls. The piccolo player may insist that 'Pete" be somehow incorporated into the name letter set. And as the old adage goes: truck drivers never die they just get a new Peter Built.
RULE # 3 Avoid wasting time on non-starter names
Sure, we all want this to be an endeavor of light heart and humor. But spending hours throwing out ridiculous titles will get you nowhere fast, trust me. Sexually explicit name ideas are often fodder for this sideshow. But if your band is not the stage band for a topless dancing act, it's smart to walk away from names like The Lucky Stiffs.
RULE # 4 Track your ideas with the internet
I didn't believe that every band name that might come to mind is in use somewhere until I did some actual ground-truthing on the net. And the discouraging word is that you will find your coveted name playing in Seattle or St. Louis, or the U.K. or New Zealand. Don't let that destroy you. Avoid nationally known monikers, yes, but think locally. If you like The Falcons and they don't appear within a 500 mile radius...go for it!
RULE # 5 Smoking a big fat one for best inspiration is a myth
Back to the Sixties, man! Remember when all those great names were born of wispy smoke and dreams? Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Phish? If your mainstay is jamming for ten minutes on any given song then you can ignore this rule. But be advised that Doobie Brothers was taken a long time ago.
RULE # 6 The well is pretty dry on names from the animal kingdom
Though Colbert's Late Show touts a good exception with Jon Batiste and Stay Human (yes, humans are animals), most of this territory has already been thoroughly exhausted. From Turtles to Eagles and many permutations of Monkeys (Monkees) the remaining habitat is marginal at best. If you're really stuck on this category I think Nudibranchs may still be available (and they're colorful little suckers!). But otherwise, I would pass.
RULE # 7 Trying unusual word combinations can be useful
Nobody wants a cliche name, right? Sometimes you can stumble on an odd pairing that may give you extra mileage. Here's a few example possibilities and you can take it from there if it fits your need. How about Electric Yeti or Hydrogen Jukebox. Amoebic Flambe borders on insane, but nobody said it wasn't interesting.
RULE # 8 Names should be memorable and spellable
There's nothing more insulting than hearing your name mispronounced on the radio or having to physically change the marquee lettering at the last minute. I learned this the hard way. I thought it ingenious to call a band The String Rays. The sting is in the string, you see? Well, turns out most people's brains (and the web as well) just stride right over the "R." Mississippi Mud.
RULE # 9 Integrating verbs, nouns and adjectives might suffice
They may be Stones, but they're Rolling. They may be Crows, but they're Counting. Hey, and how about Smashing Pumpkins? If you're really hurting there's an internet site that will build a name for you (yikes!). While brevity is often a good thing, a few bands opt for a phrase approach: Toad the Wet Sprocket; Death Cab for Cutie. What could go wrong?
RULE # 10 Trust your gut
No absolute right or wrong exists with this band-naming business. What's really important is that you allow yourself to arrive at a place that feels good. You'll know it when you get there. Embrace it and move forward. And don't forget - it's the band that makes the name not the other way around.
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Keep on writing and creating,