Bandstorming: How to Name a Band


A few weeks ago, some music buddies and I decided to take the plunge and start a band. Needless to say, there have been expectations that the rhythm-guitar-player-slash-singer who also happens to be a professional namer would come up with a snazzy name for the group.

Funnily enough, I’m not sure it will come from me. Band naming has got to be the ultimate in subjectivity, with personal, idiosyncratic associations and inside jokes actually providing great creative fodder. There’s no clear right or wrong. So I’ve decided my primary role will be to structure the brainstorming. I share my initial thoughts here, as a service to the 1800 new bands that seem to form every day.

Let’s get the basics out of the way. A band name should:

  • Suit your style of music, and expectations for whether you’ll play covers, original material, or some combination
  • Reflect your band personality, be it funny, serious, cool, self- mocking, youthful, older, etc.
  • Be fairly short, easy to spell, and memorable
  • Be available, meaning it needs to be checked against The Band Name Registry and other resources

The next step is to understand the conventions of band naming, and then use that info to start brainstorming. I found that existing band names seem to fall fairly consistently into one of eight (overlapping) categories. Here they are.

Band Name Categories (with examples)

1. Pop Culture References: Songs/Movies/Books

  • Collective Soul (from Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”)
  • Radiohead (from Talking Heads song “Radio Head”)
  • The All-American Rejects (taken from Green Day song “Reject”)
  • The Black Crowes (originally Mr. Crowe’s Garden, a fave kids book)
  • Thompson Twins (from bumbling detectives in Tintin comic series)

2. Personal/Common Interests, Inside Jokes

  • Ace of Base (they were masters of the basement studio)
  • Garbage (from comment, “you sound like garbage”)
  • Green Day (slang for day spent smoking weed)

3. Places

  • Cypress Hill
  • Linkin Park
  • Soundgarden

4. Foods

  • The Black Eyed Peas
  • The Cranberries
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers

5. Names/Surnames

  • ABBA (acronym of first names)
  • Blue Jane (attribute plus name)
  • Fleetwood Mac (drawn from two names)
  • Kings of Leon (grandfather’s name is Leon)
  • Madonna (single name)
  • Norah Jones (name of the lead talent)
  • Phish (play on drummer Jon Fishman’s last name)

6. One-Word Names (interesting words)

  • Albino
  • Outkast
  • Ride
  • The Pixies

7. Multiple-Word Names (with meaning)

  • AC/DC
  • New Found Glory
  • Stockholm Syndrome

8. Multiple-Word Names (random quality)

  • Blink-182
  • My Morning Jacket
  • The Arctic Monkeys
  • The Juliana Theory

Hope this gets the creative wheels turning. Happy band naming!


Do your favorite pet names date from 10, 100, or 1000 years ago?
Who could resist the opportunity to weigh in on a new pasta shape name?