It’s hard to find a way to stick out in the current musical landscape. There are thousands of bands in each genre that pine for the attention of potential fans in ways beyond the music itself.
In the heyday of record stores, this could be achieved through intense imagery contained in the album artwork, but this feat is harder to achieve in the digital marketplace. Acts have begun trying to grab attention based around the eccentricity of the band name alone. In doing so, they may have fallen victim to the unintended consequence of alienating listeners before they even hear a note of music.
There’s a commonly held belief that consumers have no desire to exert any unneeded effort to get what they want. This is true of your average music fan as well.
When a band names itself something that isn’t easy to search for online or in a record store, they already have one strike against them. Bands like 1994! and fun. have proven that adding extraneous punctuation to a general term does little to aid in optimizing hits on a search engine.
While the aforementioned are not overwhelmingly bad (In fact, they are both quite good.) they are doing themselves no favors. Both acts exemplify some of the increasingly common and incredibly annoying practices in which bands choose to partake.
One of the most common decisions is for bands to put an unnecessary focus on punctuation. Against Me! may not have been the first band to incorporate such a thing into a name, but it made many in the punk scene take notice (Ahem, O Pioneers!!! and Defiance, Ohio). While it may seem like a great way to help draw attention to a band, all it does is make it hard to type sentences without any word processor losing its mind.
Much like the bands that use unnecessary punctuation, the style of everythingisoneword is intensely grating. By making it seem that your name is perpetually spelled wrong, it becomes hard to absorb and difficult to remember. It isn’t exactly user friendly. Tell me how many times one has to read Imadethismistake or Iwrestledabearonce before they could comprehend the jumbled meaning. It could be argued that by pushing all the words together it would make a potential fan fixate on the band name until it is burnt into their psyche.
However, not every person enjoys being confronted by a huge block of meaningless text. Print a book like that and see how the technique works out.
In what could be seen as a reaction to aforementioned artists, some have begun to just cut out letters entirely. Thanks RVIVR and CSTVT, you have made yourselves impossible to discuss without people feeling alienated. In the case of RVIVR, I literally referred to them as R-V-I-V-R during conversations to avoid confusion. It wasn’t until months later when they rolled through town that I discovered the name was actually pronounced “reviver.”
That would have been great to know from the onset of your career. Perhaps it was an attempt to distance itself from the other band known as Reviver, but it may have been a better option to just choose a different name entirely. This proved to be the case for above-mentioned CSTVT who just changed its name from Castevet due to another band claiming ownership of it. If you are that concerned with coming up with a unique name, why not do just that instead of shortening one that is already being used by another act?
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum are bands that are out to make sure that you will never be able to remember all the articles in the declarative statement they found so witty and self indulgent. The World Is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die is one of the worst offenders. The motivation could potentially be to completely defy convention, but instead of a band name, you’re making a tagline. It is effective in the same way that Imadethismistake is effective, in that it makes it a chore for the potential fan to remember and even harder to care.
What this all boils down to is that artists have found a new way to reach the mountaintop of pretension. Is it wrong for someone to be turned off by a band name before even giving the music a chance? Not necessarily. I’m sure everyone has ignored a band and overlooked the music because of a first impression based on name alone. I had an internal dialogue with myself as to whether or not Algernon Cadwallader was worth checking out because the name was so ridiculous.
If a band wants their music to be taken seriously, and more importantly stand on its own merit, they shouldn’t resort to callous gimmicks. The act of creating a name based solely around absurdity makes the substance – the music – absolutely irrelevant. If you’re going to go out of your way to present yourself as a marketing ploy then you should be prepared to be dismissed as one just as easily.