Ditch the Dictionary: Primer on Naming Your Project

The Rabbit Hole

Ditch the Dictionary: Primer on Naming Your Project

Posted by on Aug 1, 2016

Disclaimer: All names appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real bands, thriving or burned out, is purely coincidental.

The single’s written. You’ve already picked out your rock star clothes for the first gig. But wait…you need a stage name. Even if you already have a catalogue of songs under your belt (or sweatpants, depending on the type of musician) you just know your talent won’t be validated until you have an eye-and-ear-popping handle to release them under. Whether you’ve already got a name in mind or you’re facing creative hurdles, KUTX is here to help resolve your musical identity crisis. For your convenience, we’ve arranged the list in the most scientific and quantifiable way possible – by creativity.


0% Creativity

Full Name – You can only get away with this one if you list every gig as “Your Name Performs Live at The Venue”. Don’t have a cool sounding name? Either embrace it or keep on blaming your parents for your lack of success.  Bonus points for superfluous possibly, real middle names. [EXAMPLE: Your name, duh.]

10% Creativity

First Name & Title – You don’t want your full name – you’re more creative than that (plus you don’t want to give away too much personal info…pesky NSA always harassing musicians). But you also want your listeners to feel like they know you on a personal level. Why not try reverting back to a Middle Earth-style method of nomenclature with your name and title? Your title can range from your job description to your speculative American Gladiators handle. Whether it’s actually what you do or not is beside the point – it sounds like you have a position of authority – at the least in the dank atmosphere of a dive bar. [EXAMPLES: Janice the Tinker, Stephen the Out-of-Tune]

Nobility Title – It’s been a few decades since Jazz Royalty was the thing but you want to command your sonic territory! Let your subjects know that when you hit the stage, you’re the only king of the castle (inevitably leading to a hierarchy in the case of a band, and a Machiavellian Complex for a solo performer). [EXAMPLES: Queen Puff, Baron Von Mitchum]

First Name & The Plurals – Essentially the same as First Name & Title but this time you have a group behind you! Designate which member of the band will get all the action (some of you just mouthed the word “me” while reading that) and let the rest simply back that rock star up. There will never be any drama about who steals the spotlight amongst the band members, right?   [EXAMPLES: Steven & The Drapes, Ricky & The Squirrels]

20% Creativity

(The) Plurals – There are two ways to go about this. 1) Take “The” for granted and roll with it. 2) “The” is such a played out word! Who really needs definite articles anyways? Make listeners feel like they’re part of a group effort. [EXAMPLES: 1) No examples available. All band names have been taken. 2) Jogs, Picnics]

Alliterative/Rhyming Words – Tried but true, there’ll be a mildly satisfying experience every time your name is uttered. Near rhymes count as true rhymes. Nuff said. [EXAMPLES Mild Style, Clingy Stink, Shaking Shimmers, Action Apples]

Adjective – Were you flipping through the thesaurus trying to define your sound in terms other than…I don’t know, man… “indie rock”? Find a word. Memorize it’s definition (if only to have a consistent answer for the inevitable “How’d you come up with the name?” question you’ll get every single interview.) As a bonus you’ll also appear educated – hell – even scholarly (but certainly not pretentious). [EXAMPLES: Apoplectic, Louche, Kenopsia]

30% Creativity

Variation on a Famous Title, Phrase, or Person (Intentional Malapropism) – Your bar buddy drunkenly misspoke one time and now it must be memorialized through you! That’s how the world was introduced to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and that song never gets old, right? Make first time listeners do a double take when they see your name on a show listing. Once the name has caught on, never make any reference to the original person/work again. [EXAMPLES: Spilt Chamberlain, Smiley Virus, Haiti Kolmes, Chekov’s Gum, Hell’s Smells, Flirty Harry, Wrists of Curry, The Fridge on the River Kwai, Tokémon]

Prefix Word/Name –  Your ready to launch your hip-hop career. However, your full name just doesn’t have the gusto you’re looking for. You have a multitude of name-enhancers including but not limited to: Lil, Young, MC, Big, 2. Get creative. At least 30% creative. [EXAMPLES: Lil Big, Young Lad, 2 Jobs]

Letter/Number Swap – Why use “S” when you can use “Z” or “$”? Who needs a “C” when you’ve got “K” and “Q” at your disposal? Fans will have a blast trying to find your band online when you use double letters in place of single letters (“NN” instead of “M”, “UU” or “VV” in place of “W”)! In addition, any opportunity to replace letters with numbers should be seized immediately [EXAMPLES: $3Qu1n Kr3w, Th3 Q00l-A1dz, VVhat’s Up, Flint VVestUUood]

40% Creativity

The New, The Young, or The Old –  Mask your true age and appeal to different demographics to some degree of success! Avoid photos at all costs or the charade is up! [EXAMPLES: The New Retirees, Old Kindergarteners, Young Receding Hairlines]

Word Repeated – If you want to sound like you have a stutter or you want your fans to think their CD is skipping, you’re in luck. This option is also great because you can convince your audience to chant one word over and over (and, if done correctly, brainwash them into becoming your mindless concert zombies). [EXAMPLES: Drip Drip, So So, Chew Chew Chew]

Animal Incorporation – What better way to tie in your audience’s love of wolf & tiger shirts? With this option, you’ll never have to worry about coming up with a logo because you can always rely on the savage nature of your musical spirit animal. [EXAMPLES: Father Hawk, The Cephalopod Experiment, Majestic Grackles]

50% Creativity

(Obscure) Local/Regional Location Name – People need to know where you’re from. It’s not like filling out basic biographical information on your band’s fan page is easy or one of the first things to do. Let your location do the talking – then do your sound check. [EXAMPLES: Waller Creek, The Triangle, Daniel’s Apartment]

Disgusting Phrase (With Heavy Metal Umlauts) – Your stuff is hardcore and you want fans to know that before hearing note one. Of course, you can’t discuss it with your fellow metalheads; they’ll find your choices tame at best. Branch out! If it makes your Grandmother shake her head, it’s a keeper. [EXAMPLES: Blöwing Chunks, Stägnant Pöres, Tepïd Yoüth, Löogie Hockër]

60% Creativity

Material (& Material) – Appear overly analytical, like you take everyday life for more than just face value and really dig into what this world is made of. Sure, you dropped Geology faster than you dropped Chemistry and Biology (“I want to be a musician, not an engineer, DAD!”) but you retained enough info to make a sweet-sounding band name. Bonus points for material combos. [EXAMPLES: Cobalt, Einsteinium, Grass & Mulch, Concrete & Bird Droppings]

ALL CAPS – YOU’RE DIFFERENT THAN OTHER ACTS ON THE LINEUP BECAUSE YOUR NAME IS (slightly) BIGGER ON THE WEBSITE LISTING HOWEVER IT WON’T ACTUALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE ON A PHYSICAL MARQUEE. BUT YOU ALREADY KNEW THAT SINCE YOU ALWAYS THINK AT FULL VOLUME. [EXAMPLES: TRAMPOLINE TRAUMA, VISUAL MIGRAINE, X-AMPLE]

lowercase – You’ve mastered the illusion of modesty. Bonus points for periods instead of spaces. Ridicule those pesky venues that think they’re “fixing” your name by adding a capital letter or two, but they don’t get it. Do you get it? Exactly…you don’t need to. [EXAMPLES: smoky light city, i.need.a.date, no recorded material]

70% Creativity

No Vowels – Is it an acronym? Is it an an abbreviation? Whatever it is – it’s cool. Band monikers like these are so hip that only true fans know how to pronounce their names (You don’t want to be that guy who calls the GZA “Jee Zee Ay”) [EXAMPLES: VWLS SCK, Lndn Brdgs, Dslxc, IBCNU]

Made Up Word – Need we say more? The more syllables, the better. Bonus points if it ends in a vowel. [EXAMPLES: Danga, Borachee, Skoomatoo]

Two Words Combined Into One – Did you accidentally hit the delete or backspace button when typing up your handle? It’s not a typo – It’s trendy! [EXAMPLES: SilkStroll, BleakShrub, RevisionError]

80% Creativity

Ailment – Want prospective listeners to feel bummed out the moment they read your name? It may not motivate them to listen to your music…but it’s so edgy. Let’s be honest, you want the record labels to think you’re bitter and, at times, morose with your perception of life. [EXAMPLES: Blind Man With A Telescope, Widow In A CT Scan, Leper On The Merry-Go-Round, Paraplegics Playing Twister, Epileptic On The Dance Floor]

Oddly Specific Phrase – Sure, you never made it through the whole book, and maybe a dictator’s speech isn’t the most PC source for your band name, but that one phrase sounded really friggin’ cool. [EXAMPLES: Swimming Quickly Despite Viscous Liquid, Strutting Proudly In Light Of Pit Stains, Using Your Outside Voice On the Inside]

90% Creativity

Lowercase/Uppercase – Pick vowels or consonants or just free form it. Just be sure to insist on how it’s written every single time after you’ve established the name. [EXAMPLES: jAmjOInts, dYslExIA, ReaDiNG THiS HuRTS]

Symbols – Want to confuse your fans (and divide them amongst themselves according to who can pronounce the name correctly). Do you need an explanation? Not necessarily. Do you need to figure out how to say your name? Since we now live in a Prince-less world, then yes you do. [EXAMPLES: # & *, )<)^(>(, %%%. \@^^@/]

Normal Phrase with Innocuous Number/Normal Number with Innocuous Word – There’s no need to explain this one because, well, you won’t either once you’ve settled on your name. You might want to make up a historical anecdote just to appease your closest friends, just to be safe. And safe is all this name is. [EXAMPLES: Circuit Breaker ‘16, 401 Kilimanjaro]

100% Creativity

Combo: Combine any of the preceding rules. Excellence will ensue. [EXAMPLES: H0d0R D0ST0Y3V$KY, Eric & The “They Pet Horses, Don’t Theys”, SlamWell jamhell, The iPhone Reset Psswrdz]


Now that you’ve got your slick new name, get out there, play some shows, get tired of your name, and change it after a few months!

Jack Anderson