Is Your Band/Artist Name Holding You Back?

August 4, 2010{ 32 Comments }

mynameis Is Your Band/Artist Name Holding You Back?When choosing the name that’s going to represent you and your music, don’t take the decision lightly. The moniker is going to follow you wherever you go, and it will be forever associated with any music you release under the name. So choose wisely: picking a good name can not only be a great tool in promoting your band/brand, but it can also help you avoid fan confusion, online hassles, and possibly even lawsuits.

How about a stage name? If you’re a solo artist, the thought of using anything but your real name may not have occurred to you. And honestly, most of the time, using your given name is going to work just fine. After all, what represents you better than the name you’ve been using your whole life? But if you have a really common name, one that might be overly hard to pronounce, or even one that you simply feel doesn’t suit your music – for whatever reason – don’t shy away from the idea of adopting a stage name. You won’t be the first musician to do it. I think we’ve all heard the theories on how Bob Dylan might have fared had he stuck with Robert Zimmerman. And you can’t help but wonder if Iggy Pop would have had the same impact had he gone by James Osterberg.

Does it match your music? Picking a band name is trickier, because unless you choose to go the Van Halen route and use your last name as your band name, you’re probably starting from scratch. (If you have a last name as cool as “Van Halen,” you may want to consider just going with that. Just sayin’.) There are many schools of thought when it comes to picking a band name, and there are no hard and fast rules that universally apply. Some folks would tell you that you should go with a name that directly evokes the feelings you’re trying to get across in your music, but if you’re a fan of irony and/or sarcasm, maybe choosing something completely incongruous with your sound is the way to go. But be wary of picking quirky or jokey names: what may seem funny at the time may seem old and tired down the road.

Use the internet! When picking your name, the internet is going to be your best friend. Think you’ve thought up the best band name ever? Give it a quick Google and see if somebody already beat you to it. You’d be surprised how many artists we see on CD Baby with the same band names. In the pre-internet days, you could claim ignorance when it came to another band having the same name as you’re using, but nowadays, you’ve got no excuse. Make sure you’ve chosen a name that no one is using, or no one has used. The last thing you want is someone badgering you online for taking their name, or even worse, taking legal action against you. So go original. When it comes to online promotions, you’ll be glad you did.

Online advantages of a highly original name:

- Search engine-friendly. Nothing like being the top result in Google when someone types your name in, instead of making people search through stuff to find you.

- Easier access to ideal domain names. If you name your band something no one else has ever thought of using, you’ve got a great chance of slapping a “.com” on the end of it and claiming the domain for yourself.

- Same goes for MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. While there’s nothing wrong with facebook.com/yournamemusicfacebook.com/yourname looks sharper. Choose an original name, and you’ve got better odds that no one’s using the URL you want.

Some common mistakes we’ve seen artists make:

- Using a first name only. If you just call yourself “Steve,” you’re never going to show up when people are searching for you online.

- Using overly common words. You ever wonder if the band Train gets tired of seeing locomotives pop up when they Google themselves?

- Using excessive punctuation and/or symbols, purposeful misspellings, or any other tweak that will constantly have you saying, “It’s spelled…” This one certainly has some exceptions (hey, it worked for !!!) but you might consider doing yourself a favor and leaving out the bells and whistles.

The bottom line: When picking a name, look to the future. Is it going to set you apart from the crowd, or is it going to fill you with regret and assure that you’re lost in the muck of the web? Use Google to do some research, and make an informed decision. You’ll be glad you did.

  • http://www.weracketeer.com Isaac Priestley

    I've thought a lot about this, because the two bands I'm in both have names that are unique but a little unwieldy:

    World Racketeering Squad and You Might Think We're Sharks.

    In WRS, we own the domain for our name but we decided to use an easier-to-remember URL of http://www.weracketeer.com–it's easier to say and hopefully people can remember it later.

    Also remember to be careful when you're creating your Facebook URL. Due to a typo, our now-permanent Facebook address is "http://www.facebook.com/weracketeeer", with three E's at the end! I didn't even realize I'd done that until it was too late.

    We tried our best to unify our approach to online stuff with the "weracketeer" name, but due to another account-settings issue our twitter is "http://www.twitter.com/worldracketeer".

    On Twitter if you delete an account, that name is forever reserved. Instead of changing "worldracketeer" to "weracketeer", I created a new account, then deleted it–now nobody can ever use "weracketeer", including us! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/White-Grizzly/483909445326 Kris

    I agree that choosing the right band name is key to success. You want something unique, but easy to remember, so that people can tell their friends about your band. My stage name is White Grizzly aka "The Bear of which you should be Aware." It reflects the power of a grizzly bear in the hard hitting rock songs, and the "coolness" of a polar bear in the electronic and techno songs. The name fits and it gets people right to my music. On a google search of White Grizzly there are over 3,000,000 results! I am on the first page about the sixth result. My page on facebook that appears in the results is:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/White-Grizzly/48390

    "Like" the page to hear great songs such as the club cure, "Jersey… Sure…" Trust me the urge to pump your fists in the air and dance will be unBEARable, so become a fan to hear the hottest songs available.

    If you really enjoy the music, you can purchase it right here on cdbaby when you search White Grizzly.

    Goodluck with the band names everyone!

  • http://www.handsfreeusa.com/ Radio Head

    Trust, google is your friend. Sometimes you think it's the perfect name, but then again, even if it is the most suitable name for your band, it would be a disadvantage when there is an existing band, with an almost similar name, on the same music genre.

  • http://www.jpjones.net Andy Jones

    My brother released a self-titled LP on Columbia/Windfall in 1973: http://www.jpjones.net/johnpauljones.htm

    It wasn't long after that his management (just kids at the time) heard from the heavy hitters managing Led Zep and their bassist.

    Indie since 1980, he had to change his ASCAP registration to JP Jones in the mid-seventies. It's been his professional name since. Cut to thirty-some years later. There's a Welsh guy on tour with Chrissie Hynde by the name of…wait for it…JP Jones!!

    We won't be making similar problems for anyone as were inflicted on our JP back in the day, but it's nice to know a Google or Yahoo search brings up our JP's webs before those of the UK newcomer.

  • http://www.ld-50.com terry

    It doesn't stop with just other bands – be on the lookout for any other entity, of any legal type, that might be using your chosen name. They might push the issue just as much as another band.

    Another cool trick I learned is the "Mazer Test":

    imagine a huge marquee (say, Madison Square Garden) with your favorite bands on it, and then imagine your band name right under them; does it fit? Does it make you go "huh?" ? Does it look like it belongs on a marquee at all? Surprisingly, some otherwise cool band names might fail this test.

    All in all, I've found the single biggest issue with band names is actually whether all the band members feel like they can stand behind it. I've been in a few bands where I was happy playing the tunes, but embarrassed to mention the name to people, it just didn't sound right….

  • http://www.cupcakereacharound.com Todd

    My band's name is Cupcake Reacharound. It was inspired by a segment on the Colbert Report. We figured it was quirky and raunchy enough that people would remember it. And we come up 3 times on the first page of a Google search. Not too shabby…

  • http://www.myspace.com/steinbockstani Stani Steinbock

    True! But I chose the name Kra for my band in 1980, and now there's a Japanese band with the same name.

    "My" Kra did a reunion concert in 2006 but other than that I've thought about some collaboration with the Japanese Kra – problem is that their music and ours are very different from each other…

    A few years ago I started collaborating with a celloist who's very fond of crappy cars, so I thought about calling us Trabi.

    Googling "Trabi" I found out there's an Icelandic band Trabi, so I invented Turbotrabi instead.

    My third project on the same MySpace page (good idea or bad? I only have one email address, so i thought I'll have to cram everything under the same address…) is The Runaway Kantele, which may make sense only if you happen to know that Kantele is the Finnish national instrument (or if you care to Google it?).

    Very best wishes from Aland, Scandinavia

  • http://www.grassrootsy.wordpress.com Joy

    Also, decide if you want your "band" to be a constant…b/c if it is, people will likely want to book you as a band instead of solo…and it gives you less flexibility. Whereas, if you are a solo artist, you have the option of performing as a solo, duo, trio, band…etc. You have more flexibility as a solo artist with the option of still playing with accompaniment. More on this here: http://grassrootsy.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/what-

  • http://www.midwayfair.org Jon Patton

    All solid advice. I would add that picking easily remembered syllables or phrases (they don't have to make sense . . . "Counting Crows" certainly doesn't) is also important. Esoteric sounding names can be helpful because they're more likely to be original.

    Avoiding words that *can be* misspelled — not just ones that are purposely misspelled — might also be helpful. Occasionally I have to tell people that it's spelled "F-A-I-R" in my band's name (Midway Fair) when they ask, and this wouldn't have happened if I wasn't going for a pun on "Fair" = carnival and "fare" = something served at a carnival. I still think it was a good choice, but making things as easy as possible for people is important.

    One last thing that might be worth a mention in the Google age is . . . use a domain purchasing website to check for the existence of yourbandname.com. Don't just type it in or google for it. My band lost out on a .com this way! I made the best of it — I tell people that we're an organism, not a company — but having both would have been ideal.

  • http://thewallarecovery.com The Walla Recovery

    Our name fits a good amount of uniqueness criteria, but we find that it's easier seen written than heard spoken:

    The Walla Recovery – http://thewallarecovery.com

    We find ourselves repeating it a lot after people give us a puzzled look, but then getting to answer questions from interested listeners about what the name means and how we came upon it.

    Best of luck to all…

  • Lucky Jean

    I have the unfortunate coincidence of having a name the same as a clothes company!!!

    Ok, I gave myself this name when I lived in a commune in the Ozarks. Not until years later did I hear of a jeans company called "Lucky Jeans". Dadgummit!

    I've considered going back to my original name but everyone knows me by Lucky now. Sigh.

  • http://www.TheRedsMusic.com Theresa Marchione

    I felt it was time to address the ongoing problem of bands not giving themselves a unique name on our web site, after hearing from two fans of The Reds from Philadelphia, PA.

    One fan wrote to ask for a refund from Tarock Music because she purchased an album from a Texas band who call themselves The Reds.

    Another fan wrote to say he bought The Reds new album and was VERY distressed at the new "direction of their music." This fan bought an album from a Christian band who also call themselves The Reds.

    This prompted me to finally add a GAGGLE OF REDS tab to our web site. Take a minute to read my thoughts on the subject . . . http://www.theredsmusic.com/gaggleofreds.html

    Theresa Marchione

    Tarock Music

  • http://www.cebe.tk Cebe

    Ok . You choose a good name . And now ?

    To find about domain names go to Checkdomain.com ( http://www.checkdomain.com/ ) an type yournamedotcom , dotnet , etc ( without 'www' ) to check if is free to register .

    To secure your brand on Social Media go to KnowEm ( http://knowem.com/ ) and input your name there to see where you can register it .

    Is also interesting to register 'yournamemusic' ( if you are solo ) or 'yournameband' ( to a band ) over the web .

    Other suggestion is to register 'YourNameTV' ( TV on capital letters ) on Youtube even you have a channel running there .

    What you think about a internet name like 'www.yourname.official.ws' ? 'WS' means 'website' on the web . So go to Active.ws ( http://www.active.ws ) setup your name and redirect it to your page . They also give a email name like 'yourname@official.ws' .

    More : is a good way to use CamelCase when creating an account , to easy reading .

    PEACE AND LOVE

  • Rob

    I understand that too, but I will say that band names for example like "Pearl Jam" are only cool because the band became cool. Your brand is your product.

    I do like the Bob Dylan analogy, makes sense.

  • http://www.missleslie.com Miss Leslie

    I'm with Rob. Choose a name that you dig. THAT's the one you'll be carrying around for awhile. In reality, the name I chose ended up being more suited for a rockabilly band than a honky tonk band. But I like the fact that, like my voice and my music, the name is unique. I chose it for a reason and that's still true for me.

    OK so you need to be a marketing nerd and get your band out there – the reality is that if you do what you do and you do it well, people will come. No matter what the name, website, whatever –

    Music (regardless of what anyone says nowadays) is what matters.

  • http://www.benefitstreetband.com Paul Payton

    Via CD Baby, we're marketing an album that should have been released 40 years ago when our band, Benefit Street, was new. (BTW, "benefitstreet.com" was taken by a failed benefits payment company; the street is arguably the hippest/coolest street in Providence, RI.) We're trying to appeal to our old fans and to fans of '60s music in general; everything is original (save for a couple of cover songs that were the group's only 45 – #8 in Providence in 1967). In the process, our lead singer/chief songwriter and I re-connected and formed a road band to support his latest solo CD. Because it's a cool name, we have continued to use the original, but now we're Rob Carlson & Benefit Street.

    The conundrum: it both gives continuity between the groups (the two of us were a significant part of the old band) and creates confusion, with both bands called Benefit Street. Ultimately, I think we can spin it in our favor. The new band is playing three songs from the original band's album, as well as songs on Rob's CD and a bunch ofnew stuff we're writing. We're NOT an old-guy cover band; ther music is still fresh, and we're "in it to win it."

    FYI, more on his album is at http://www.robcarlsonmusic.com. Please enjoy both albums!

    Best of luck to all,

    Paul

  • http://www.jellimusic.com J.E.L.L.i.

    That's good advice.. My band name "J.E.L.l.i." has MANY bells and whistles lol.. a misspelled "i" and periods in between each letter… Fortunately google doesn't care about the periods, and searching for "jelli" will show my webpage.. but now, if i were "jelly", I have to compete with Smuckers for google rankings.. I'd loose.. lol

    check out my cover of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"! It made the "What's Poppin'" list that was re-tweeted by Ashton Kutcher today..

    Click: http://tinyurl.com/SOTRainbow

  • http://www.complimentsofgus Jared

    Our band is called Compliments of Gus, and it took us 10 seconds to name. Had we known that we'd still be together 13 years later, we might have put more thought into it, but I'm kinda glad we didn't or we may never have come to a decision!

  • http://www.flowmoneyrecords.com Mr. Dominican

    Getting your name on the internet is very important. This also protect your name when somebody else is searching for the same name that you already have. There is a great website where you can register your domain name, and is really cheap. you can also get blogs, hostings, template for websites, etc. The website is http://www.moxydomain.com

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-36822-LA-Rock-Music-Examiner Diana Diaz

    Echo & the Bunnymen back in the '80s made more than one industry exec laugh. Ultimately you should stick with something you really like. They likeed it. It worked in the '80s when they became international stars. And no one would laugh at that name today really.

  • http://www.royalbensonmusic.com Fern

    Good stuff here, all around…Check this out:

    We still went ahead with our band name, Royal Benson, even though it's the actual name of an OB/GYN in Texas. Figured we might get a little cross marketing going on!

    Blessing or a curse?

    We had to go with royalbensonmusic.com, but 'Royal Benson' is still search-friendly to us, we've had no problems, the guy is totally cool, and the fans love to hear that little anecdote…especially a couple beers in :)

    Check out the tunes…they're highly diggable… royalbensonmusic.com

  • http://www.roserobbinsonline.com Rose Robbins

    Sometimes, you have to thank an ex for your name! My pre-terrible-marriage name was "Rose Simer" which is hard to say and impossible to spell. My ex's last name is Robbins, and though I am deliciously re-married now to someone else, "Rose Robbins" can hardly be improved upon. Aliterative, simple and classy, it suits my musical style right down to the ground.

    Thanks, mean old ex.

  • http://www.jazzyspoon.com Jazzyspoon

    I feel I picked a fairly easy name. Jazzyspoon is just a play off of my first name "Jason" i.e. JA(zzy)S(po)ON. Does it fit within a genre/style I might or do work/produce in (and I work in a lot of them)? Who cares, it's a musical eating utensil – it represents a little bit of everything and nothing. Google friendly names are rule number one for viral marketing and viral marketing is big part of the sad state of affairs for individuals trying to get their music heard on the net. Best of luck to everyone.

  • http://www.noizytoyzband.com Frank R

    While it makes sense for bands making original music, cover bands don't have to be as careful about having the same name as someone in a faraway city. So you can actually search like that for ideas (Chicago classic rock band, for ex.)

    Getting 5 guys to agree on a band name can be very difficult. We had to put it to a vote even though one guy wasn't crazy about ANY of the choices. We ended up with my suggestion: Noizy Toyz It's got some alliteration (fun to say) and also reflects our music – raucus but fun.

    While a great band can make most any name work, it makes sense to try and pick something very memorable. I never saw this band, don't even know what they sounded like, but will always remember ads I saw 20 years ago for Sleazy Jesus and the Splatter Pigs!

  • http://www.ceilimoss.be Laurent Leemans

    On MySpace, be careful with unusual caracters: my band Ceilí Moss has the second I accentuated to make it closer to the original Celtic spelling… MySpace seems to have no Celtic roots as they just deleted this letter and now our MS goes http://www.myspace.com/ceilmoss … Far from tragic, of course but one of those tiny annoyances you could have done without. So, stick to the normal usual boring letters of the alphabet, and don't do the wise guy…

  • Amgad Makarem

    Hello there, thanks a lot for such useful infos, but i'm experiencing a bit of a problem, i'm a musician and a dj, my name is Amgad Makarem, and now my problem is that i wanna make a website and a blog in the same time n combine them both together under one domain, but i'm so confused of what to do, some people are telling me to go by my name amgadmakarem.com others ar suggesting that it's not easy to remember or good enough so i came up with something like amgadism.com

    the problem is that i don't just want an artist page with my bio and music but i want it to be active where i will post about other things and to share my writing skills and life experience with others about general topics, so i was wondering what's the best choice i should go for?! or what direction should i take in my research for a domain, most of artists goes by their full name.. and i guess i also need to promote my name in the same time n have my domain professional enough to represent me and my contents. so i wanna know if i should separate both, my domain from my page or if their is a way to find a domain to combine them both.

    your help will be much appreciated, thanks

  • http://www.donkeybox.co.uk Atul Rana

    The band makes the name, not the other way round….

  • Alex

    @ Atul Rana: Tell that to the guys from Fuck. Ever wonder why they've never seen much publicity?

  • Mark

    Maybe a band name is best when it makes sense but is not too obvious. I just saw a band called The Spanish Channel a few weeks ago. I thought they were going to be a salsa kind of thing but they were actually a pretty sweet alt-rock band in English. I was confused by the name until the lead singer said how it was his favorite station growing up because of the lovely ladies.

  • http://twitter.com/gowildchild Freaking Wildchild

    Another problem is nicknames and (long) artist names.

    I can recommend for artists/bands with long names to search for a good short fitting nick/username to keep consistency towards different platforms; else fans will be puzzled to find you on their favorite spot-to-be. Your "short nick" can be used as URL too for your website.

    The more original, the faster your site will hit the top in search indexes and the faster it'll be noticed by visitors.

    My artist name is "Freaking Wildchild" and have been using "wildchild" as username.

    Since the movie "Wildchild" came out; I've changed to only use GoWildchild, because it looks better in an URL (11 letters instead of 18 letters) and it's easier to remember. Also it looks esthetically better in search queries and I'm glad to have finally lost the reference to several videosites carrying the movie ;)

    The mistake I've made, was to loose consistency. Now I'm available with three names at several sites; although have developed a tool to keep all the information together at one place ….

  • http://members.cdbaby.com CD Baby Admin

    Well, like most things, it depends. The upside would be that you'd be getting a fresh start as far as clubs, bookers, journalists, and the uninitiated public is concerned. If you've played for 12 years, a fresh start might be a good thing. However, 12 years is also a long time to build up a reputation and fan base, and you could be spending a lot of energy getting back to the place where you're at now. Sorry. I know that doesn't really answer your question, but without knowing all the details about your band, your fans, your reputation, etc., it's hard to tell.

  • Johnathan Hoffman

    Something else to consider is choosing a name that can be shortened into an abbreivation that is original as well. It can sometimes take a longer name and make it more distinct.