Coming up with an unclaimed band name in the Internet age proves extrememly difficult. Almost every single-word noun has been taken at this point and most Google searches will yield a list of MySpace pages of a band from 5 years ago with your the name that you wanted.
Should they make up a word, at the price of having to explain their name every time they tell someone about their band? Should they use an existing name and risk receiving a cease and decist in the mail from the orginal trademark holders? These questions and other similar ones leave new bands in a tough spot.
Our band has spent the past few years trying to come up with a new name, so I thought that I would share some tips that helped us ultimately arrive at a name that we all could agree upon.
1. Decide what "counts" as an existing band
If possible, try to pick a name that has not been used by a band already. Check Google, Facebook, MySpace, Bandcamp, Reverbnation, etc. If you do find a band with your desired name, see if they are active, and if they have a discography available online. Within your own band you will want to come to a consensus on what are the dealbreakers that make a name unusable, because of a previous band's use.
In addition to Google, do a Trademark seach to see if anyone has a registered trademark for your band name. As long as the businesses using the trademark are in a different industry, you should be in the clear. Trademarks are not like patents, in that they are only good if they are enforced. So it is possible to have the same name as another band, but if that band decides to enforce their trademark and take legal action, you may end up having to change your name. Unfortunately, this enforcement usually happens once your band starts to show up on the radar.
Also, if you don't already have a band domain name registered, you should. For more on registering a domain for your website, check out step 2 of this post.
2. Look to shared sources of inspiration
Find some sources of inspiration shared by your members. Do members or your band read books by the same authors? Or find inspiration from the same movies or visual art? Do you listen to the same obscure records? Look through books, comics, poems, and lyrics for passages that jump out at you. Is their an interesting sentence that resonates with your group. Can that phrase be shortenned into a band name?
3. Don't choose a band name that will limit your growth
If you choose a band name that is offensive or alienating to some group of people, you create a ceiling to your band's potential. For example, bands like Fucked Up could create the pop smash of the decade, but their name would still hold them back to some extent. No matter how great your band is, it will be difficult to cross a certain threshold of popularity. This might not be immediately concerning to you, but it may be 10 years from now, when you have reached a palteau in your success.
4. Own the search results
Test out variouse search keyword combinitations in Google to see what sites you will be competing with. Use long-tail keywords like your "undersea boston, ma" or "undersea band," to see what you will be up against. Organic search will most likely be one of the leading sources of traffic to your site, so make sure that there aren't hundreds of authoritative websites using your name for their businesses.
5. Make sure it passes the elevator pitch test
If you had the length of an elevator ride to pitch your band or tell someone about it, it is important to be able to get past the name. For example, with our prvious band Eolune, we spent more time talking about how to pronounce it or how it was spelled than we did our music. I am always impressed when a successful band has a name that no one pronounces correctly (ie Sigur Ros). If you are willing to overcome this initial handicap and stand behind a difficult to pronounce/explain name, then more power to you, but there are enough other obstacles to overcome as it is.
6. Avoid strong connotations
Avoid band names that carry too strong of connotations. If your a metal band and your name connotes heaviness or darkness that is fine. But the same name applied to a pop act, might people overlook your band becuase of the incorrect assumption that you make dark heavy music. There have been several bands that I have initially overlooked, because their name carried a connotation that lead me to believe they sounded very different than they actually did. Try to come up with a name that is enhanced by your music, rather than a name that tells people how you will sound.
7. Sleep on it
Once you have a band name that you agree upon, take a few days and sleep on it. If a week later, everyone in your band is still excited about the idea, then go for it.