About the author:
Paul Diamond Blow is a musician, spoken word artist, punk rock star, kung fu master, and part time Space Commander living in Seattle, Washington. Blow is a frequent contributor to the Seattle Sinner magazine and performs regularly in the Pacific Northwest rock club circuit. His book Tales From Outer Space is out now.
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How to Start a Rock Band
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BAND NAMES: Choosing a Cool Band Name for Your Super-Cool New Band
Got yourself a cool new rock band and you need a cool name? Here's how to give your new rock band a cool, original name and stand out from the pack, Jack!
by Paul Diamond Blow
Believe it or not, choosing a name for a new rock band can be one of the toughest things about starting a band. You've got to come up with a name that everyone in the band will like and be proud of and that can be easily remembered by the general public. I can't tell you how frustrating it is when I show up to band practice with a list of 150 band names I think are cool, only to have every single one of them shot down by the drummer, who prefers a "silly" name for the band instead. Not being able to agree on a band name has actually broken up many a band before they even started!
When choosing a band name, I personally think the name should reflect upon the style of music you play. For instance, VOODOO TORTURE DOLLS might be a good name for a metal or hard rock band, but not for a pop or country act. The POSIES or PIXIES (real bands) are good names for pop bands, but they sure would be lame names for a hardcore act (unless you are a "silly" hardcore band).
When choosing a band name, use your imagination and try to be original. Stay away from the boring one-word band names: HOLE, HELMET, GUS, etc. etc., you know what I mean. I really cannot tolerate boring one word/one syllable band names, especially because with a one-word band name you can rest assured the name has been used a hundred times before by a hundred other bands who lack imagination. I feel that the best way to come up with an original band name that hasn't been used a hundred times already is to hook up two or three words that sound good together. For instance, the coolest and most original band names I've ever heard are: INCREDIBLE CHAINSAW POLICE, MOTHER LOVE BONE, X-PENSIVE WINOS, SPACE AGE PLAYBOYS, ACE DIAMOND BIMBOS, BIG HIPPIE BELT BUCKLE, ZODIAC MINDWARP ... catch my drift? (These band names have already been taken, sorry!) Plus, if you go with an interesting combination of two or three words you can rest assured when people "google" it, it will come out on top. One word band names never do...
You can always check on the internet to see if there are any other bands with the same name. Google is your best friend here, just "google" the heck out of your band name prospects to see what pops up, you want something that is not generic or has been used by other bands or even by businesses. For instance, I always thought "Velvet Pumpkin" would be a cool name for a psychedelic band, but after googling the name I found that name has been used by countless coffee shops and other various weirdo stores and shops. Or you can do a trademark search -- band names can be registered for a trademark, but CANNOT be copyrighted. It costs a couple hundred dollars to register a trademark for a band name, last time I checked. The last thing you want is to make it big with your band, only to have some small time band come after you telling you you must change your name. Basically, whoever started using the name first (and can prove it in court) will triumph, trademark or no. Trademark laws are very complicated, for instance under the trademark law two bands using the same band name CAN co-exist legally as long as they are "local" bands in different territories. So the best advice I can give you is to use highly original band names and do a thorough search for other bands with similar names. Personally, I have never trademarked a band name due to the expense and would not consider it unless the band was becoming very successful.
Here's another piece of advice when choosing a name for your rock band: I would stick to your own language, that is, if you are an American band stick with the English language for your band name. I don't know how many bands I've heard of using Spanish names because they think it sounds cool: Los Gatos, Los Bastardos, Los Domingos, Los Peligrosis, etc, etc, but to me they ALL sound exactly the same and since I don't have the time or interest to translate those names those bands will never stick in my mind. (Hey, not all of us studied Spanish in High School!)
I would also advise against using commercial brand names that are being used by businesses -- you know, like PEPSI, COCA COLA, MARLBORO, etc. We all know what happened to the band GREEN JELLO right? You can rest assured that company brand names ARE trademarked and they WILL take you to court if they find out you're using their trademarked name, so it's best not to use a company's brand name unless you want trouble when your band starts getting big. It might be good for a little publicity, but I don't think it's worth it. Be ORIGINAL!
There you have it... all my tips for naming your cool new rock band. Now go ROCK!
(True fact: the band name chosen for Paul Diamond Blow's most "successful" punk rock band in the 90's (the BERSERKERS) was chosen since it was the only band name on PDB's list that the drummer approved of, and the name has been used by countless cheesy metal bands since then, most of them misspelling the name out of ignorance (BERZERKER, BEZERKER, etc.) Paul Diamond Blow regrets they didn't go with the name ATOMIC ZOMBIE KILLERS that was his fave pick at the time.)