A decent chunk of my job when setting up tours is determining other bands to go out with and bands to act as local openers. This usually involves a lot of time being spent navigating various forums and databases in order to figure out which bands might be worth asking and which bands are just going to give me a hard time or not reply at all. Now there are two ways that I can immediately discount a band, these two keys are the bands name and their logo. While this certainly isn’t a foolproof model it’s surprisingly effective and it can really impact the future of your band. It’s going to hold you back if you can’t get this figured out and if you can then you are going to find yourself able to access opportunities that you might never have had before just because this initial taste of your band lets people become aware of your professionalism.
So what makes a band name good? As a general rule I like it to be something that fans can chant, or at least have a chunk a band can chant. A band name like “Red Jumpsuit Apparatus” isn’t exactly something people can scream. However a band name like “Toxik” is perfect because it’s two syllables and lets people really latch on to it as something they can easily remember, especially because of the unique spelling of the word “Toxic”. Using the chant rule means that your band name remains fairly short and memorable which is always key. Remember, you want your name to be the sort of thing that your fans can talk about in a loud bar, since odds are, if you’re an independent band, then that’s where your fans congregate. If you have to explain stupid spelling, long words and what have you do you think that people are really going to remain interested? If you must have a long name then go for an acronym to preserve your legitimacy.
Simultaneously I think it’s important that your band name isn’t a reference to a major band. While it’s cool to make it a reference to an obscure track from your favorite artist (Like Lady Gaga referencing Queen with her name) naming yourself after an album from a key band in your genre is probably a poor decision. There’s a lot of bands who try to fuse other band names in order to show their influences and instead just seem like a lame pastiche rather than an innovative new act. It’s simply because the first impression is so bad. I know countless bands who will say of their band “I know the name is shitty but I think we’re pretty good” and that attitude is totally fucked. Why? Because again – it’s that first impression that matters and having a dumb name is not going to encourage people to check you out and find out that your band is in fact good. I don’t understand why this is so hard to grasp, but it’s a massive issue within independent music. Not all the good names are taken, you’re just not creative enough.
Now we break on to the contentious topic of logos. This seems to be the really hard one for a lot of people since they think that they can draw their own logo or that they shouldn’t have to pay someone to make a logo for a band who is going to be ‘so huge bro!’. I know that a lot of bands argue a lot over the contents of their logo and seem to have a hard time figuring out how to present themselves. Now I get it, your logo is one of the most important aspects of marketing your band and you don’t just want an obscure windows font as your logo text. You need to find something that makes sense for you and which is simultaneously legible and iconic. This brings up a lot of artistic questions and dealing with this can drive bands insane. So let’s talk about what really defines some of the great logos out there for a minute.
I think the key to logos is making sure that the logo simultaneously is legible and also suggests a key detail about the band. For example my clients in Echo Sparks have a great logo, it’s the band name in a handwritten looking font over top of a heart made out of barbed wire, hinting at both the Americana inspired delicacy of the groups sound with their darker lyrics. For a bigger band, look at a group like Metallica. Their logo is full of jagged edges but also remains impressively sleek. If that isn’t a metaphor for the bands sound then I don’t know what is! Obviously it’s not always easy to translate your bands sound into visual concepts but I find that if you take some of the broad strokes and then try and brainstorm what visuals fit the key adjectives describing your band then you are going to find yourself getting surprisingly close to an effective solution going forward. I know this isn’t easy, but having a good, legible and not corny logo is only going to help people take your band seriously.
I guess the thing that really fucks with me with band names and logos is that there are so many groups out there who are great at presenting themselves in every other way. That is to say that they have good album art, great social media presence and professional band shots, but their band name is too complicated and they fail to have a logo that looks good at all. So many bands have this huge blind spot holding them back time and time again. I think this is probably because usually what a band decides on first is their name and logo. It has a sentimental value and a band name change is never a good choice. So instead you need to figure out early on what makes sense so that the next steps can be as profitable as possible.
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