Stuck for a band name? You might just need a stroke of inspiration, like combining quantums with gazelles. (Don’t try at home, or holes in space-time could result at your local zoo.) Gazelle photo: Andrew N. Solid-state quantum-bit computing: NASA Ames Research Center, and fully awesome.

You can be making incredible music, but if no one knows about it you probably won’t be making it for very long. Having a good project name is the first step to getting publicity and having your music heard by a large amount of people.

Don’t be difficult. It has to be easy to pronounce and say over the phone. Try to avoid using numbers for letters (leet speak) since it will confuse people. Yes, there are exceptions like “!!!,” μ-siq, and whatnot, but the object is to make it easy for the press to write about you and for people to talk about you. While you’re welcome to choose a difficult name, it’s only going to make the rest of your publicity efforts that much harder.

Steer clear of profanity. While James Fucking Friedman has a somewhat high profile, whenever he gets listed in local papers that don’t allow profanity they star out either the entire middle word or just use stars after the F. People will get confused–”Did they star out ‘Faggot,’ ‘Fucking,’ or ‘Fellatio’? Should I Google for James Star Star Star?” Also profanity limits the types of publications that will feature you. While XLR8R and URB are magazines that are pretty laid back about their language, you might one day discover that your music has an interesting crossover audience (be it mountain climbers or acoustic engineers) and you want to make it easy for those types of journalists to approach you and write about you and your music.

It sounds good. Pick three of your favorite names. Say them out loud. Ask some friends what they think and notice how they respond. Do they laugh out loud when you’re aiming for a super serious image (“Abfahrt Hinwil” might cause some giggling)? It may sound obvious, but electronic musicians who tend to work alone and communicate through their computers could use some IRL human feedback once in a while.

We’d probably go hear Liz play if she called herself Liz McLean Knight, but now she has an easy-to-remember alterego that obeys the rules here. (Well, until she starts a new band called Galacticide.)

No one else has it. While I wouldn’t say you should register for a trademark just yet, you should research as best you can if anyone else is using your name. You don’t want to shell out money for a domain name and spend years growing your project and fan base just to be hit with a cease and desist or worse, a lawsuit (look at Dan Snaith’s Caribou (formerly Manitoba) debacle.) Do some web searches to see if you can determine if anyone’s using your name. The US Patent office has an online search engine called TESS where you can search for trademarks in use. Search for all the words in your desired name, and then search for each one alone and see if they return anything similar. If you’re considering trademarking your name, it’s a very good idea but it will cost you a few hundred bucks. You can file online and read more here:

It can be you, as long as you’re not already in use. You can use your own name as long as it’s not in use already and you won’t be confused for someone else. Can you imagine being the second Derrick May in Detroit? You might get a huge turnout for your first gig but the promoter and venue will hate you after the riot of pissed off people who thought they bought tickets to see one of the godfathers of Detroit techno. This second Derrick May in question used his middle name instead to avoid confusion, resulting in Derrick Michael.

Webify it. Get a domain name when you’ve settled on your choice. Although you might just want to use Myspace as your website, Myspace is not press-friendly, and if you adopt that early-90s bad-website look with repeating graphic as the background or garish colors it’s going to be unreadable (and incredibly annoying). Plus, with your own website you have total control over your image and don’t have to worry about deleting comments and photos posted by jerks. Then check to see if your choice is a domain in use already. I got lucky because mine is a completely made up word (Quantazelle) so the domain was available. If it’s not, see if you can add “music” “sounds,” or something else to the end of it and then grab it. If not, you might consider finding a different name, but it’s not a deal killer. While you might want to opt for something clever as your domain name, you want to make it easy for people to find information about you. A web search for your project name should return your site as one of the first results because your name is in the domain itself.

Some ideas for generating project names:

Take a passage from a favorite work of literature or a poem,. For example, “Joy Division” is from The House of Dolls by Karol Cetinsky.

Use an anagram. Aphex Twin relied heavily on this to name many of his songs. “Acrid Avid Jam Shred” on I Care Because You Do is an anagram of “Richard D. James”. Here’s an online anagram generator to experiment with:

Try playing with this emo-band name generator:

Check out this tool for generating band names: On my first try I got “Galacticide” which is actually really cool.

Here’s another one: I put in “bandpass’ and got such gems as “Bandpass Disorder” and “Half-Ass Bandpass.”

Create an alias by generating combinations of male or female names with last names: An example of this in action is “Malcom Kipe” who is actually Nautilis aka Skyler McGlothlin.

Take a hint from the Dada-ist poetry methods of William S. Burrows and do a “cut-up.” Grab a newspaper or any other sliceable piece of literature and cut out a bunch of words from it. Then toss them on a flat surface and see what interesting combinations happen.

Make a portmanteau. “Devo” is a concatenation of “de-evolution.” “Quantazelle” is a combination of “Quantum and Gazelle.”

Create a phrase that congers up imagery of what your music sounds like, such as “Explosions in the Sky.” It’s a little difficult if you’re not a poetic or literary type, but you can ask other people for help. Just say “If you could think of an image that sounds like my music, what would it be?” Gathering a group of people in a room together along with some alcohol or other relaxing substance is a very conducive environment for name generating.

So now that you’re better equipped for the first part of your publicity efforts, why don’t you get started on that brainstorming? Good luck!

  • very funny and also could be useful. but i can not say anyword for name-generators. wow, there is kind of industry (!) about that.

    i think it would be useful to give tips about creating amateur events or first-parties. like preapring flyers, stickers, calling or sending text messages to all nice & awful friends, school mates that you don't really like.. huh..

    or some tips on how to not spoiled myspace page.

  • Angstrom

    thing 1: small typo in the url for 'greatnameforaband' (an extra trailing dot)

    thing 2: My naming technique is that of plumbers everywhere – be alphabetically first in the list! πŸ˜‰

    thing 3: I am changing my name to either "Bence-Jones Protein Atlantic Standard Time" ! (according to greatnameforaband) . Or "123 Aardvark" (see thing 2)

  • Huh. And I always thought your name came from "quantization" and "elle"

  • @J.Schnable–bonus points for multiple levels of meaning. πŸ™‚

  • Some kinds of spam where they put together random phrases, names or subjects just happen to have really great combinations. I plan to write at a song, if not an album, called "Embitter Glittering." πŸ™‚

  • i think this article could be very useful from some people, but at the end, is a very stupid thing to follow.

  • A couple of other tips that follow Liz's thinking on this – (or, you know, those offline paper-based versions) is a great way to explore relationships between different words. If your project is concept based, it can help to break out of traditional naming conventions for things.

    Another site is googlism. Type in a word or name, and it pulls text from the web to come up with a list of phrases that, for better or worse, define or describe your input. Though, if you name your band "liz is stalking me," I think she'll come after you.

  • Jason Duerr

    Hi, Zella! 'sup !

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  • Are you following me on the internets? Just kidding. Good to see you Liz.

  • mine came from the dictionary

    after trying all of the above

    to no avail


    yay for human language

  • I had the band 'Deathray' years before the Cake people became 'Deathray' and I sent their lawyer a letter, which he ignored.


  • typodaemon

    I like the link to googlism, my personal favourite is the results for 'george bush'.

  • Adrian Anders


    Huh. I've been wondering where your name came from after listening to that Negativ album of yours (which I fucking love).

    As for me, I got my main music moniker (The Human Instrumentality Project or HIP for short) from the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion.

    I find it best to go for a name with personal meaning that's obscure enough that people are only going to get it if they have the same sort of reference points as you. Random name generators can't exactly come up with a name that has the same sort of punch as one with a personal significance in that artist/band's life. That's my advice more than anything. Find a name that screams you as an individual (or collective when it comes to a band).


  • PaulC

    Its interesting and quite synchronous that this was posted because im currenty struggling to find a name for my new project. All the ones i think of are taken, or dont really fit the project, and i cant think of any alias' that fits. Its hard trying to find a name thats serious, but not too serious, which is how the music is. Largely string quartet pieces with some acoustic and electronic percussion, piano and synths. Its great stuff but the name is KILLING ME. Thanks for posting, I will try some of your ideas, and hopefully will find something.

  • I am lost my dear no

    Over 7 years, I've changed my name twice. Still hunting.

    Name Change 1) After two years I found a band with same name.

    Name Change 2) Was a bit depressing and had the f word in it.

    So hopefully third time around, I'll nail it.

  • That brings up another issue: when to change names and when to stick with one. I guess there really aren't any rules about this one though.

  • @diskötek

    That was the plan–to offer more tips along those lines… thanks for your suggestions.


    You're right–there are some gems in spam, especially ones that sound like track names!

    @Adrian Anders

    Another good point. Picking a reference from a film, graphic novel or the like would also be good. I'd group it under the "literary" suggestion.

    @J. Schnable


    @Paul C

    Hope it helps you. Also, I like "Digitonal" as a name for those guys–they have both classical (a lot of strings) and electronic elements.

    @I am lost my dear no name I fear

    Here's another tip to find if a band / music project exists: Do a search for the word plus "review" / "reviews" &|| "music" or "album" / "albums." It will almost certainly result in links to album reviews by them if they exist.

    PS: You've clearly got some rhyme skillz so I have faith in you.


    I'd recommend sticking with the one you've got unless you completely decide to change direction or you've done something hideous and don't want to be associated with that name anymore. The longer your name has been around the more "mindspace" (to cop the branding analogy) you have.

    Most musicians who produce for DJs have a ton of side projects because they need to fit the peculiar sound of a bunch of different niche labels simultaneously. Check out Matthew Dear / Audion / Jabberjaw / False. If that's what you're doing, then go ahead and splinter yourself. Otherwise just stick with one name or you'll unnecessarily dilute the effect.

  • The two more electric projects i'm involved in right now are digital emotion (my solo project i've had since like 8th grade) and the midwest hackers, a project i became involved in this past summer. The digital emotion thing is pretty inactive. The midwest hackers plays roughly one show a month, and has been on one tour since my membership. Anyway, I just thought I'd share those names simply because i think they're pretty good (especially the midwest hackers)

  • + Drop your name in a CDM article, invite your friends, profit?

  • Angstrom

    I guess now is a safe time to mention … my 'initial save' song titler

    when you are working on a song and the first time you need to save it you have to come up with the title. So it gets stuck with the name "new moody song 2b" or something similar.

    Well, a long time ago I wrote a flash widget that solved that (for me at least) by giving weirdly horrendous random song titles for that initial save.

    It gives a randomised pseudo-potentious title based on the words you see.

  • @angstrom

    interesting idea.

    I usually just pull personal data/experience into the mix compounded by a little spin and maybe cross referenced with the running list of track titles i keep in my moleskine


  • @ Angstrom

    That is neat. Thanks!

  • never massive cock!

    great title

  • @ Angstrom

    That's awesome. I have the same problem. That initial save name can be tough to overcome later on because it paints your idea of the song. Randomly generating something to fill in that space is genius.

  • Dri

    Ive worked on both side of the music press game and i think the advice to make it able to be read, spoken and shouted in a noisy club is priceless. If you have to write it down and use characters outside of the common dumbed down qwerty alphabet, its probably a little too high brow. If youre into that, fine, but erm… maybe save the cyrilic band names for your side project?

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  • Quinton

    I've changed my name probably 7 times now. I think it all boils down to experience – your first year of name-thinking-up you're probably not going to come up with anythnig good. stick with it, it gets easier.

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  • I like the names I come up with from forming anagrams out of my real name.

    Of course it helps to have a longer name to get more interesting possibilities.

    Cookie for anyone who guesses/knows what band-name Adam Pierce forged into..

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