Good band names, good song titles: how to make them

In the 21st century, good band names and good song titles help move your music online. Here are five points to keep in mind when you want to make good band names and song titles.

  • Make sure it doesn’t already exist online

When you want to make a good band name or song title, the least you can do is check to see if someone’s already got it.

You should do it every time.

Even though they started in the 1960s, Mott the Hoople picked a great band name. Who the heck is Mott? What the crap is a hoople? They might not be making much of a statement with a name like that, but forty years later the intertubes will shoot you straight to their music.

The point is, don’t pick a name that sounds similar to anything else. Not even a little.

This rule is even truer for song titles. If you want people to be able to find your music easily, then don’t be the 50,000,000th person to upload a song called “For You,” or “Freedom,” or “Let’s Party.” Make your lyrics anything you like (of course!) but call your songs something unique so people can look them up.

  • Band names and stage names should attract listeners

The second consideration for good band names and good song titles is your intended audience.

When people who would like your music hear your name, it should make them smile.

If you can make your listener smile before they even hear your music, then you’ve probably got a new fan. They want to like you.

Think about the audience you want. Who are they? What are they like? What kind of attitudes do they have? What sorts of names do their favorite music artists have?

The Irish-American rock band from Los Angeles, Flogging Molly, did a great job picking a name their audience would like. ‘Molly’ is a traditional Irish first name. ‘Flogging’ is a nautical term, and boats are intrinsic to the Irish-American experience. They’re a punk-rock band with an aggressive sound, so the S&M motif makes sense, too. Chances are good that people who like punk rock with Irish overtones smile (and maybe even laugh) when they hear the name ‘Flogging Molly’ for the first time.

That’s how you hook a new fan. Pick a name to make them smile.

  • Don’t use obscure punctuation

Having an online presence means you need to have names the Web understands.

If you title an album “Black / White,” you may successfully make a social point, but you’ve failed to make it online because Google doesn’t treat special characters like slashes the way it does regular characters.

According to the official Google Help Page, any song, album or artist name with any of these: @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) = + [ ] \ is going to run into trouble.

“The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” illustrates this point because he changed his legal name to an unpronounceable symbol in 1992 to escape his music contract. He didn’t get out of the record deal, but he definitely made it uber hard for the media to report on him. Don’t be that guy.

Prince changed his name back around 2000 when his contract ended, and it’s a good thing he did for his online presence. That symbol he made up isn’t even on a keyboard. Talk about unsearchable.

And what of the band called ‘?!‘ Have you ever Googled them? Good luck with that.

  • Use unusual and memorable words

“Mary Poppins” is a remarkable musical in many ways, but when the songwriters decided to invent a ridiculously long word and use it for their title, they were especially brilliant. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” can’t be anything but itself. Fans don’t even have to know how to spell it because just seven letters should be enough.

What about the ’60s rock group called The Band, though?

Google will ignore ‘the,’ so all you’re really searching is, ‘band.’ It’s so unsearchable it’s like they did it on purpose.

  • Don’t be afraid to use several words

Go ahead and use whole strings of words for your song titles and artist names, if you like.

More words means more room to communicate, and longer phrases are far easier to look up online, too.

People aren’t turned off by longer phrases so long as they’re meaningful or entertaining. In fact, Wired Magazine did an article on this two years ago.

Nobody has a hard time finding “Tiptoe Through the Inferno” by MC 900 Ft. Jesus, and that track is a quarter-century old.


Those’re enough rules to follow without squishing your artistic liberty. I promise that the more you follow them, the less trouble you’ll have making good band names and good song titles. After all, it doesn’t matter how great your music is if nobody can find it. Be sure also to see our short guides on getting fans without playing live  and how to get signed to a label.

More next week!


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