Why we’re starting to run out of band names.

[Just like area codes and cool domains, we’re running out of names for bands. This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

After searching high and low, you’ve finally fallen in with the right bunch of fellows (or women) and you believe that your new band has a shot. But before you can get any gigs, you need to find a name.

This is where it gets ugly.

In the past, things were relatively straightforward. Your new band name needed to adhere to the following criteria:

  1. It has to exemplify your band’s music, attitude, and image.
  2. No one can have used it before.
  3. It has to lend itself to good graphic design for logos and all manner of merchandise.
  4. Everyone in the group has to be at least okay with the final choice.

The whole process of naming a band has fascinated me for decades. I have on my shelf a number of books that go into great details of how musical groups came up with their names. But this fascination grew to the point that in fact, about 15 years ago, I felt things needed to be taken a step further.

I engaged some linguists and branding experts and challenged them to come up with a word to describe the origins of band names, something that had not existed to that point. Etymology, the study of word origins, was too broad. Toponymy, the study of the names of places, missed the mark. And while onomastics, the study of proper names was close, it wasn’t specific enough. But this group of boffins returned with a fine word: bandomynology.

Although I’ve been encouraging the use of this new term through radio broadcasts, writing, and speaking engagements, it still gets underlined in red whenever I type it. And sadly, it has yet to be accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary. It has, however, made the Urban Dictionary with all the appropriate credit given. So that’s something.

Since the birth of bandomynology (the word, I mean), I’ve continued to study how groups come up with their names and the various trends band-naming has taken over the years.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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