FEATURE: Zero Hours Contract Killers: Making the Name and Images Stand Out



Zero Hours Contract Killers


 ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash 

Making the Name and Images Stand Out


ONE thing I notice…


when looking out at the music world is a lack of real spark and distinction. That is not a reflection of the music and level of talent out there. What I mean is there is a slight greyness regarding artist names and images – including album covers and the way bands project themselves. I have grown a bit weary, as explained in other posts, when it comes to artists and what they call themselves. An artist’s name, like a child, is one you are stuck with and have to love. I will not mention specific artists – it would take too long to muster the energy to type their names – but I get the impression few are doing their research before going out into the market. I raised this point last year and, when exploring the way musicians plan their first attack; it seems like little originality is expended into naming conventions. You, obviously, want to make sure there are no similar-named artists people could confuse you with. Accidentally, I have received interview responses from artists – where they name new acts to watch and seek out. I have typed that name into Facebook/Google and, as I thought, found the act they were referring to. Before I know it, when the interview is out there, I have selected the wrong act! The thing is this: there are, worryingly, a lot of acts with the same name.


It can be unavoidable when it comes to similar-named acts: why would any artist/band choose a name exactly the same as another one out there?! One of the fundamental things any artist needs t ensure – before they get into music – is they are unique. Being original is so important underrated. Whilst that might be hard from a musical perspective; it is a lot easier when it comes to names. You only need type into a search engine some options until you find out whether your choice is fresh. Inevitably, it can be hard avoiding artists who are confined to a few sites – they might not be readily available on a search engine. More and more artists I feature, either share their name with someone else or are recommending artists with doppelgangers and duplicates. In some cases, the name I see is very ordinary and uninspiring. I am not suggesting bands name themselves Unknown Mortal Orchestra or King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – something that out-there – but that sort of distinction would be appreciated. Even if you are a one-worded band/act; it is not that tricky selecting a name that will stand out from everything else – and draw people in with its sense of allure. That is not the only thing worrying in the ‘name game’.


Artists – bands, mostly – get it into their head something stupid or abstract is the way to get people into the tent! If you have a name that has symbols, odd accents and lettering in; how easy is it for people to find you?! I wonder whether artists are deliberately trying to alienate themselves with their choices. Some bands, not naming again, do some capitals or all; maybe they will all be capitals with some numbers thrown in! It reminds me of someone working in on office changing their password – struggling to think of something they haven’t already used! They will do a mix of numbers and letters; some upper-case and strange characters. Some might say a name is an insignificant and irrelevant point – if the music is great, people will come, right?! The trouble is; if you name your child ‘Spacmaninoff’ the other kids aren’t going to crowd around in the hope he/she will be able to blow ping-pong balls out their arse! I have been put off from approaching some bands because they have a forgettable/lamentable name; lost others because they are Google-proof and isolated. If you have to spend hours finding a group because their name is so familiar - bringing up hundreds of other results before you get to them – then you’ll get annoyed and move along.


Maybe my gripe is more at the inconvenience of having to wade through the Internet in order to locate an artist. If I have to do that, then other people are; they will bypass that band and go to someone else. I can rattle off a dozen names, if I were in a band, I’d be happy to sport and boast – and, I feel, would be hard to compare with anything else. Visuals, again, are aspects every artist needs to get right. I won’t bore you with my fascinating rant regarding photos and the lack of them on many artists’ pages. I am thinking more about covers and design. I will look, today, at music videos and how they have petered away and lost their exceptional allure. Although there are fewer physical albums being unleashed to the world; every artist needs to put an image out that covers, well…the cover. Music is about covering all angles and ensuring all aspects are considered. One might feel the modern consumer cares less about names and images than they did decades ago. An album/E.P. cover does not need to be intricate, packed and mind-blowing. Think about the best covers ever – Nirvana’s Nevermind and The Beatles’ Abbey Road – and they are sheer simplicity. They have gained iconic status because of the music they were attached to; a sense of mystery and oddity; a striking image that makes you think and wonder.


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Whether it is an image-heavy shot or something sparse and simple: getting that right can bring people and show you are serious about music. A lot of the covers I am seeing now, in new music and existing, are insipid and barren. I can apply this point to mainstream acts and those well-established. Why would you spend all that time recording music and putting your heart in it, only to release it with such a poor and average image?! Even if we hear singles on the radio – before we see the record itself – then we will, at some point, see the cover. That is what stares out at us from the shop shelves. At a time when more and people are turning onto vinyl; having shoddy covers is not going to entice people to pick up the L.P. and take it home. A lot of bands, I find, are doing mindless portraits and photos – where they are stood around looking moody/fun/sexually aroused. Solo artists either provide something plain or unimaginative. Again, like a band’s name, I am not looking for something that takes months to decode and has you gawking – although, that would be nice! Go back to the example of Nirvana and Nevermind. I know people would play the album if the cover art was something as formulaic as the three band members standing around looking moody.


One of the reasons people pick up the vinyl and get into the record is that iconic and stunning image. We might not be able to replicate a photo like that in these times – a nude baby, despite good intentions, would ruffle the feathers of many-a Daily Mail reader! – but there is ample scope to create a timeless image. When was the last time you saw an album/E.P./single cover and thought it had the same genius as Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon or another Beatles classic, The Beatles (‘The White Album’)? The fact there were better covers decades ago does not make a lot of sense. We have access to cameras and are taking more images now than ever. Technology means we can create anything that comes into our mind. Is the luxury of access and options stifling creative juices and making us lazier?! If an artist had to work on a tight budget with little technology and options at their fingertips; that would force them to think more carefully and push boundaries. There are, naturally, great album covers produced every year. Maybe the sheer volume of new artists means it is harder to single the great from the average. From St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCATION to Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy – we are still seeing some world-class art come through!


IN THIS PHOTO: The cover of Tyler, the Creator's album, Flower Boy/IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

I am getting a bit riled but, when entering a packed, busy and, at times, cold industry; having all the bases covered and worked out before launching is essential. I am interested in artists with great names that stick in the mind. I love cover-art and something that stimulate my brain. If you can stand aside and do something different to everything out there; that is half the battle won already. Repeating what has come before and blending too aimlessly into the pack is, at best, lazy: at worst, it could spell a rather short and unspectacular career. Maybe they do not add a huge amount of value against all the other considerations of music – the sounds, marketing and endless promotion – but I am just as likely to bypass an artist if they do not expend thought and originality needed regarding their name and artwork. I will, as said, look at music videos later – why, I feel, we have seen the best of all-time. For all those out there who feel having a good, original name is nothing big; so long as you put out music – who cares what your art and covers look like?! To them, I would retort: having that sort of attitude will drive many people away. Before you get into the game – or, if you are mainstream or established; as you prepare your next release – consider something that gets into the mind and sets you apart. If fans struggle to locate you, or get bored the moment they see you on the page; that is likely to have a negative impact on your career that is…


SO needless and avoidable.