The Name Game

The Name Game

It’s a name game, picking the name for your band.

Alright, again, I have to tell you, we’re here to talk marketing, not music. This is numbers, not notes. Put your feelings on the doorstep.

The Name Game

Table of Contents

The Name Game And Image

Let’s talk band image. But let’s concede a major stumbling block: The internet is text based (Not quite so limited any more! – Ed.). No image. Sure, you have a Flash site for your band and it shows full motion video of your last gig as its loading, but so what? How does a ‘net surfer get there and why? Text. A search engine or a genre chart or some link somewhere.

As for the name game, to be a memorable band, you have to start with a memorable name so people can listen to your memorable music. Remember that.

The text of the ‘net is your fancy packaging. How do you get someone to pick YOUR name, YOUR song from the list? By being memorable.

Am I saying you should reconsider the name of your band after 4 indie CDs and 9 years on the road. Well, yeah. Real fans will know its you, just use the little “(formerly known as)” tagline. It worked for that guy who used to be Prince. OK, maybe that’s a bad example. But let’s face it, you’re no star at this phase of the game, you have very little to lose. Humor me.

OK, so if you’re really attached to your band name (for instance, if its, oh, actually your name), just apply all the same ideas to song titles.

Keeping With The Audience

As in my last marketing piece, we must remember the target audience. The target audience has a bearing on the name game too. Over the top violent names are great for death metal bands, but there’s little chance of a country hit being called “I Eat Pus Filled Entrails”. For a great listing of absurdly over the top names, go check out the track listing on any album by Cannibal Corpse.

Some words cling in memory, some do not. Here’s a cute test, for those of you with no real job except sitting at a desk and surfing the internet: List 20 names on a page. First names not of co-workers. Make Jesus one of the names. Read the list to someone and then ask them to repeat back the list. Everyone will remember some, and no one forgets to mention Jesus. Obviously, God knew his marketing when he came up with that one.

Actually, what we have here is an example of celebrity naming. People remember Jesus for what the name represents, not the sound of the name. Your band has too little a following to bring up the memory flags that a name with history behind it has. You can definitely choose your own name (or a persona name) for the band, such as Avril Whatever did. Now, there’s an interesting case. She’s obviously a package unto herself, and the product is her as much as her music, so that works well. It also, luckily, is a unique name. Who knows anybody named Avril? It’s a unique sticking point. On the other hand, some names won’t be well remembered, and also don’t represent the style of the band, and may be lost. I saw a heavy metal band called “The Mike Schmidt Band”. Not the best name. But, well, if they ever hit it big, it would be remembered. Again, we have to look at gaining recognition, before the recognition factor. But some egos insist on their name fronting the band, and nothing will ever change that. I just think it works better if your name got recognition in a prior band, and you want to continue to be known. Like Clapton or Sting.

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What Works (Sometimes) And What Doesn’t (Usually)

“Metallica”. Somewhat descriptive. Little doubt as to what the music is. They played the name game well. Some bands have greatly evocative names. Other bands, in an attempt to sound unique, are deceptively not unique. For example, how many bands have “Monkey” in their name. That should be fun, right? Memorable? MP3.COM hosts 464 artists with “monkey” in the title. Bye bye, originality. Oh, and Jesus is in 209 band names.

7962 bands at are DJ somethingorother, but that works as a tag – it identifies what the listener should expect to hear, so that might be an exception.

If we’re talking about a song title, just get descriptive. Internet is text, but that doesn’t mean you can’t evoke images. Single word titles can be powerful. If used correctly. Numbering pieces, like movements in a symphony, is a testament to lack of creativity. If you insist on numbers, add subtitles. You are exempt from this rule if born prior to 1900 – mainly because if people are still listening to you, its due to celebrity factor (see above), and also, lets face it, if your that damn old, I’m not going to tell you what to do.


When it come to the name game, humor is a double edged sword. The problem is people have very different senses of humor. If you’re a parody band, go ahead. If not? Be careful.

Do not feel restricted to the contents of a song to find a title. Again, double edged sword – if the chorus if your song is “Rock Me Like Granite”, repeated 8 times, then people will assume that’s the song name anyway, so make life easy for them. On the other hand, you might decide to use an unrelated term, like “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

It’s a bad idea to have a name that’s initials, unless they stand for some familiar term. SKB is not great, even if it is the names of the last three people you dated, but TLC works, since it is a common term anyway.

Names are personal, but should be remembered easily. Lets think internet search engine now. Long names are not good. Names easy to spell in bizarre ways are not good. Unique words are good. Intentionally mispeling words is not good. Symbols are bad. You get the idea. Common words that have a great rhythm, feel good to say, and don?t often appear together in the same sentence make nice catchy and easily searched for names. I say this proudly a founding member of Rubber Barbarian.

Discuss this article in our Music Forum.

About Paul DeStefano

GeospherePaul DeStefano (aka Geosphere)

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