The Null Device
All the good ones are taken
The Wall Street Journal has a piece on the ever-worsening shortage of band names
; all the good names are invariably taken, and in this globalised age of MySpace, SoundCloud and MP3 blogs, it is no longer considered acceptable for every other city to have its own The Bumpin' Uglies. That and the increasing power of intellectual-property-owning corporations, keen on smacking down anybody so much as hinting at their trademarks without a licence, goes some way towards explaining the current fashion for impressionistically meaningless word-salad in band names:
Between takes in a recording studio, Mr. Jones brainstormed about names with his new band mates, including former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, then checked them online. Their first choice, Caligula, turned up at least seven acts named after the decadent Roman emperor, including a defunct techno outfit from Australia. Eventually the rockers decided on Them Crooked Vultures. The words held no special meaning. "Every other name is taken," Mr. Jones explains. "Think of a great band name and Google it, and you'll find a French-Canadian jam band with a MySpace page."
("Techno"? I thought Caligula were a Curve/Stone Roses knockoff.)
By 2006, they had come up with what they thought was the perfect country-music moniker: Jane Deere. It was simple, blue-collar and a little jokey. But after their lawyer registered the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the company behind John Deere tractors took exception. Moline, Ill.-based Deere & Co. asserted in filings that the Jane Deere trademark would cause "a likelihood of confusion" among consumers. The musicians backed down and the government officially canceled the Jane Deere trademark in January 2009.
Of course, in the US legal system, might often makes right, and you can nab someone else's band name if you're confident that you can afford better lawyers, as Kathleen Cholewka of another Brooklyn band named Discovery found out when the Vampire Weekend side project refused to relinquish her band name:
With the help of a lawyer friend, Ms. Cholewka sent a cease-and-desist letter to her rivals. After some initial communication from the band's lawyer, Ms. Chowleka says, she's gotten no further response. She doesn't have the money to hire a trademark lawyer, but she says she's willing to compromise: "If you want to buy the name from me, great."
The other Discovery have refused, saying magnanimously that there is enough room in the world for two bands of the same name. Of course, the fact that, should Ms. Cholewka attempt to exercise her right to ths name, she would find it impossible to promote her own project (even if she keeps the name, the amount of explaining she has to do would be tantamount to a de facto
renaming to "Discovery—no, not that
Discovery"), is not their problem, and winners are grinners.
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