It's The Name Of The Game

An article from our archives on Naming Your Band by Geoff Nicholson.

I don't know about you, but naming a band has never been much of a problem. We came up with Drunken Alsatian, Stinkfinger, Blotter and Pig Force in quick succession. If it brought a smile to our faces and seemed memorable enough, we were thrilled. But we were pretty clueless, to tell you the truth.

There's far more to having the right name than simply sounding cool and being funny. In some instances, having the wrong name can cost you money via lawsuit. In other circumstances, you may end up battling for the right to use the name of your band even if you are only original member left and wrote the bulk of the songs.

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I don't know about you, but naming a band has never been much of a problem. We came up with Drunken Alsatian, Stinkfinger, Blotter and Pig Force in quick succession. If it brought a smile to our faces and seemed memorable enough, we were thrilled. But we were pretty clueless, to tell you the truth.

There's far more to having the right name than simply sounding cool and being funny. In some instances, having the wrong name can cost you money via lawsuit. In other circumstances, you may end up battling for the right to use the name of your band even if you are only original member left and wrote the bulk of the songs.

Both Nirvana and Westlife have had problems. Nirvana had to settle a lawsuit with the 1960s English band Nirvana, while Westlife changed their name from Westside after they discovered another band was using the name.

Fleetwood Mac, the name of which came from a hybrid of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, ran into trouble when the band abandoned an American tour in 1973. Band manager Clifford Davis put together a new Fleetwood Mac, with no original members involved, to finish the tour. The original Fleetwood Mac went to court to prevent Davis and the new Fleetwood incarnation from using the band's name. It was argued that fans were being misled and the value of the band's name was being damaged. The original Fleetwood Mac prevailed and the 'new' Mac stopped touring after two weeks.

What these brief accounts illustrate is the importance and value that a band name has.

Obviously, you can't assume your newly named act's moniker is worth a truckload simply because it's *so* original. But if you're releasing music, playing shows and producing merchandise, your name will have a value based on the reputation of the artists identified by it.

So what should determine what you call your act? Be memorable, easy to pronounce, applicable to your music and distinctive enough to avoid confusion. I guess there must be a band called Puke, but you wouldn't expect them to play acoustic folk. Think about names that really stand out, such as Kiss, Metallica or Devo.

Unless you're headed in a certain direction, using an offensive or shocking title might backfire. Conservative DJs, booking agents and retail outlets might refuse to give you a go for fear of insulting audiences and sponsors.

Right, so you've come up with a name. Great. But now you've got a new series of tasks at hand. Firstly, you're going to have to make sure no one else is using it. If you're considering world domination, this will involve time and money. While doing a web search is a start, it is highly advisable to get legal advice from a music attorney, perform a trademark search and then register your trademark. This is a simplistic piece of advice and no substitute for talking with a legal expert about these matters.

If, on the other hand, your ambitions are confined to the odd gig, there is less need for the red tape. An original name is still a must, but in the event of legal action, changing it won't be as problematical or financially draining as trying to win a court case.

Finally, make sure you come to an agreement regarding the use of the band name within the band before you take any big steps. It sounds trite, but a great deal of trouble can occur when members leave a band and try to capitalize on the reputation they've built up with Band X. Sometimes they try to take the band's name with them or the ex-members try to prevent Band X continuing under the same name because the line-up has changed.

So, once again, if you're planning to take over the world, work out what will happen to your name if members leave or you try to continue the act with totally new musicians. Talking to an attorney and sorting out these issues before you get the ball rolling can save you an enormous amount of time and money in the future. It might feel unnecessary and perhaps dirty to get so clinical but if your act ultimately operates as a profitable business, it will be in everybody's best interests to get their rights sorted out as soon as possible.

This article is merely a brief summary of a few issues to consider. There is no substitute for professional legal advice from an experienced music attorney.

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THE BEST NAME WOULD BE " WHATS THE NAME OF THE BAND"

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