“That would be a great band name” is almost as common of a response as “That’s what she said…” in our current culture. But seriously, we have all paused at one time or another to wondered where musical groups get the inspiration for their band names.
One aspect of the music world that has always interested me is the process of choosing a band name or moniker. Often when you ask musicians how they arrived at their choice, you get some boring, non-committal answers. Every now and then, though, you hear a humorous anecdote or even obtain a rare glimpse into a musician’s psyche.
Do famous music band names happen serendipitously? Or is there really a method to the madness?
This image shows there are definitely categories when it comes to naming heavy metal bands. Whether they were intentional or not is unclear.
In addition to the variety of categories, there are some common words that are used, or overused as the case may be. According to one informal study, the top three overused words in heavy metal band names are death, black, and dark.
Since classification is the process of putting something into a category or group according to particular characteristics, what are the characteristics of a good band name?
Some non-professional researchers put together a scale for determining the quality of a band name. After determining the best and worst band names of all time, they assigned values to band names, on a scale of -5 to 5. The rating is based solely on the name, not the music, i.e. U2 is in the “Astonishingly Bad Band Names” category.
This very non-scientific exercise demonstrates the subjectiveness of this particular topic. It’s like asking someone to recognize good art; like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder.
Many believe that the bands who played at the famous CBGB in New York City are a good representation of quality. That too is subjective. However, if you evaluate the names of the bands who did play at CBGB, you have an entirely new kind of category. It would be less about the name itself, and more about its environment. This does not make it a lesser category, but a different descriptor entirely.
What other types of categories would be less about the name and more about some other trait? Financial success could be one, as well as the number of albums released. It would also be interesting to see a cross-referenced category of bands with a common member, i.e. Paul McCartney and David Grohl.
If you find yourself in the position to be naming a band, maybe the science of naming itself should be your inspiration. With some alliteration, names like Creature Classification or Taxonomy Tacos could be contenders. If all else fails, there is the Band Name Generator to assist.
Melody K. Smith
Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.