Creating the ultimate band name (or indeed album or song title) can be a right headache. You might have a great concept for your band, project or artistic direction. The songs might be demoed and ready to go. But there's a stumbling block. You can't quite figure out (or agree) how to articulate what your band or artist name should be.
You just need a name. It can't be too hard to pinpoint, can it? You start by writing down a list. Nothing really leaps out. The more you work on it, the more desperate and uncool the names seem to get. So, you ask the rest of the band, friends and family, for suggestions. How hard can it be?
Two long weeks and several heated arguments later, you end up accumulating an even longer list of lame band names than before. You're teetering on the brink of madness, picking the least rubbish one to get the whole sorry business over and done with.
Just stop for a moment. This is your chance to make a fundamental difference to the potential of your band or project. There's so many bands and artists out there. You have a massive opportunity here to construct a name so unique that people just have to check you out.
Here are some processes and exercises to make your search for a truly epic name that bit easier:
Do you want to be specific and tell the world who you are? For example, generate acceptance in one specific genre at the expense of the wider public, like American heavy metal band Metallica. Or do you want a band name is more generic, that won't offend or put people off? Therefore, allowing your music to be judged on its own merits like pop rock band, Maroon 5.
There's no right or wrong here. This first hurdle gets to the heart of where you see yourself as an artist. And also how well you understand your target audience.
Tip: Try writing two separate lists of potential names, looking at both approaches and seeing what works for you and your music.
The answer to your problem could be staring you in your face. Dig out your band's lyrics. Pore over every line. You wrote this stuff. It came from your subconscious and there is a purity about that. This may inspire a band name that's truly authentic. Have a look through your work and see if a phrase or a set of words leap out at you.
Don't forget to think about your location too. Where does the band live? Where are the special places that mean something to you on a personal or professional level? You might just get a band name out of it (see Cypress Hill and Boston). You might get a few song or album titles from this exercise, like The Beatles 'Strawberry Fields' and Paul Weller's 'Stanley Road'. Take the band Blossoms, for example. They named themselves after their local pub in Stockport. If you think about it logically, there is a goldmine of ideas here. Plus, it makes you look back and consider where you came from as an artist or band.
Go through your bookshelf and pick out ten books which mean the most to you. I would, however, caution against using the actual book title (unless it's super obscure and out of print). Otherwise, you run the risk of playing second fiddle to a more famous book. Once you've picked your book, try googling quotes from it or looking through the pages to see what comes up. As I write this blog, I am doing this using Ian Banks' 'The Wasp Factory' for inspiration. In 30 seconds, I've found a line that really stands out and has some resonance to me.
It's a rather dark and menacing line which comes from the main character - “My enemy is twice dead, and I still have him”. It just sounds cool as you roll it around the tongue. I am wondering if the words "Twice Dead" have potential as a band name. It's strong enough to add to the list of contenders perhaps. It might even evolve as there is room to add another word or two. Anyway. You get the idea.
This process forces result and beats sitting creatively constipated. Like song writing, when inspiration fails, process and work can bridge the gap. Keep everything moving until inspiration strikes.
While we are on the introspective tip, go through any letters you have written. It could be important emails, school reports, press and social media posts. Look for stand-out phrases that could be recycled. There is a sense of authenticity in band name that you may have already created in an unknowing way.
Contrast and clever juxtaposition can produce band names with gravitas and timeless quality. The greatest example of all is 'Led Zeppelin'. I don't think they would have made this blog if they had continued to call themselves 'The New Yardbirds'. My old band 'Little Angels' always struggled to be taken seriously in the rock press. Much of this might have been because the name was a double light construction. It lacked contrast or weight implied in a light/ heavy combination such as 'Flaming Lips' or 'Iron Butterfly'.
Try a few variations yourself. It's an approach that is overused (but still great). It certainly lends itself to rock genres very well (ref. Steel Panther, Def Leppard etc.). My challenge to you is to try and use that idea outside the rock genre. Does it work? You tell me. Got to be worth a shot.
The theory for this is: one abandons the element of control and we simply trust the universe to give. I've tried this a lot and I think it's a bit like doing scratch cards. You'll get a win eventually. Unlike the scratch card, when you do win, you'll need to recognise greatness when you see it. It's easy to become jaded and miss a good band name in a mood of despair. Don't be too judgemental. Come back to a name a few days later if it calls you back. Perhaps, the name will find you rather than the other way around.
If you look online there are several random band name generators. I've done this a lot. It has never worked for me and I've never seen it do the job for anyone else either. But it is fun. I'll try it right now and give you the first four to see what happens. You know how it works. Type in some responses to questions and let the algorithm do the rest. Here goes nothing...
The results are in and the top four are:
You can have those if you like. You're welcome.
Why doesn't it work for me? I think it's down to the transactional online process. It makes me feel unconnected to the suggestions. There's not enough soul in the process. I'd feel differently if I randomly opened a dictionary or scatter clippings from a newspaper to see what lands. I would feel more of a physical and creative connection to the band name suggestions. Daft maybe, but that's how it works for me.
So, try the online band name generator by all means, but consider more organic ways of random word and phrase creation. See what turns up. And trust the universe. It might just provide the goods.
In recent times, there has been a growing trend for longer and more abstract band names such as 'Cellar Door Moon Crow', 'And So I Watch You From Afar' and 'Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band'.
These names are really fun and require a certain level of confidence on the part of the artist to pull off. When I see names like that, I think they show creative courage and I always have to check out the band. Very often the music is similarly risky and ground-breaking, so your project and the name really have to match up creatively.
This concept helps with one of the most annoying aspects when coming up with a band name. The fact that all the obvious ones are taken, and most of the not so obvious ones too. These days all it takes to form a band is think of a name and set up an Instagram account. It's monumentally annoying when you have a great concept/name and some pub band in Australia has already claimed it. You could take the view it doesn't matter, and for the most part it doesn't, but even small artists get mighty territorial and even litigious over this. It's hassle – and confusion you don't need around the project.
Here are some useful templates to try:
And here are some conceptual approaches to keep the band names coming. How about:
I could go on and on. My main point is that the creative process can be stimulated by process. You can, of course, come up with your own. However, what it boils down to is putting the work in. As always in music, most people don't do this and they settle for something average far too quickly.
Your band name matters so make it count.
Here's a few useful links to online name generators:
If you're serious about a career in music and want to know about our courses at WaterBear, the college of music, click on the link here.