What’s in a Name?: Choosing a Band Name That Works

In a DVD for the New Jersey-based metal band God Forbid, lead guitarist and back-up vocalist Doc Coyle made an interesting point about choosing a band name—that is, choose something that the fans can chant back at you when you’re playing live. What can be more exciting than hearing your band’s name being screamed back at you by hundreds or thousands of adoring fans? He points out one example with the chant-worthy band name Pantera. Pan-ter-a! Pan-ter-a! Pan-ter-a! It’s three perfect syllables that any non-rhythmic crowd can chant in unison. The same is true for Doc’s band God Forbid. God For-bid! God For-bid! I know I’ve personally started a God Forbid chant back in my day (okay, I probably still would if the vibe was right). Doc says three syllables works best, but anything in the short and easy pronounceable vicinity of Pan-ter-a and God For-bid and you’re probably good to go.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are bands like Fear Before the March of Flames, I Wrestled A Bear Once, and Between The Buried And Me that go for the longer and arguably more interesting band names. I haven’t been to a couple of those bands’ concerts, but I know Between The Buried and Me are lucky to have a memorable acronym—BTBAM, which is chanted as B-T-BAM in concert. I’m not sure if BTBAM thought that one out in advance or not, but it definitely helps in a live setting when the crowd is getting riled up.

You want your band (or artist) name to be something catchy, memorable, and maybe even fun if it’s suit’s your band’s style. I’m sure The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza get as much press because of their name as they do on account of their actual music. In fact, Tony Danza actually brought up the extreme metal band in a quick segment on his now defunct morning TV show (watch the clip here). If you’re going to go wild with your name, you have to be prepared for the fact you might not be taken seriously. Don’t take picking a name lightly! A party band can have a tongue-in-cheek name that borders on childish, but a serious band should have a serious name.  Who knows, you might become famous one day and you’ll be stuck with that name forever.

Is “The Beatles” that impressive a name? The band is pretty much the biggest band ever, but the play on words with the bug that shares the same name is probably only great because they were the biggest act in town. Many of the most famous rock acts also have the coolest names: Queen, Def Leppard, Rolling Stones, Motley Crue, and AC/DC to name a few. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that the best bands have the best names. Somehow I doubt it, but it’s still important nonetheless. It might seem as if all the good names are taken, but that doesn’t mean you should have seven symbols and four consonants in a row in your name just because you can. No one will even think twice to remember that. Let it flow.

With online music streaming and distribution, your name is also important in a digital context. Not only do you want your name to look good on a t-shirt, but you also want your band’s website and social network URLs to be easy to remember and spell. Unfortunately with social networks, it is usually first-come-first-serve for URLs. If your band name is a very common term, there is a good chance your desired URL is already taken on the larger networks. Once you come up with a name for yourself or your band, try to join the land grab and scoop up all the usernames you can get on sites that you might use (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.). Go to some of the lesser-known sites and register for those just in case those become more important for you or your band later on down the road. If you haven’t selected your band name yet, it might even be in your best interest to do a quick domain search to see if the band names that you’re thinking about are available on GoDaddy or another domain registrar.

Choosing a band name that is both memorable and that fits your style is a big piece of the puzzle towards gaining marketability. The music shouldn’t be secondary, but no one says you can’t always get everything you want. Well actually somebody did.