New singer, old name
March 29, 2013 3:24 PM   Subscribe

The singer of my band (let's call him Justin) left the band about a year ago, just after we'd started a project with a theatre group, with whom we were going to perform a series of pieces. We really wanted to continue working on it, so we went looking for a replacement, and ultimately Justin himself hooked us up with somebody. The name of our band features quite prominently in this project, so we asked him if he would agree if we would keep using it. He said that was fine.

The new line up decided that we should practice and even perform somewhat regularly, since it would help us become the new incarnation of the band. We booked some shows in some small local venues. Most people who will show up will probably be acquaintances of ours.

Today Justin sent me an email, saying he had a problem with us using the name outside of the project. He didn't give many reasons, besides the fact that he'd only given permission for us to use the name as part of the project, and not for the new band.

I don't know what to do. We were somewhat known in some circles and it would really help to keep using the old name, but on the other hand, this guy has a history of being difficult, and since the three of us decided on it back in the day, perhaps he has a point. Has he?


Perhaps relevant: we currently haven't got any contract with anyone except the theatre group.
posted by mahershalal to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does he own the name of the band? Is there a copywrite?

Justin bailed, it's the band's name now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:25 PM on March 29, 2013 [8 favorites]

The name isn't "Justin and the rockstarz", right? Bands routinely have members cycle in and out. If two of the original people still want to use it, feel free. He comes off as really immature complaining about ownership of the name of a band he left. Stop asking him for permission or giving him the idea he should be entitled to an opinion. Write back a very short (like, one line) email that you will continue to use the name of the band you have worked on for the past year and wish him well in his future endeavors. Keep it professional and don't address his arguments/reasoning.
posted by saucysault at 3:32 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd just ignore him. Also, unless by some odd circumstance, there's a really good chance there's another band or two out there with the same name already.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:16 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

As a musician I'm sure you know this, but there's a long history of well known bands that have only one remaining original member and yet continue tour with an undiluted version of their famous name. One such example is The Temptations; "as of 2013, the Temptations continue to perform and record for Universal Music Group with its one living original member, Otis Williams, still in its lineup." Another is the Beach Boys, which has also cycled former members and sidemen in and out without formally acknowledging that they were several Wilsons short of full set.

Be polite and professional, but really, when Justin left you guys he also relinquished his control over your name. As long as you aren't defaming him he can go piss up a rope.
posted by mosk at 4:44 PM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Use the old Mefite fave "sorry, that won't be possible. We've already moved forward with this name and now we're stuck with it."
posted by raisingsand at 5:56 PM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh good grief, no. The singer does not have special ownership of the name or identify of the band just because he's the singer.

But okay, let's indulge a little band-dynamics logic for a moment. Whose band is it, really? Is it HIS band, or is it the three of yours's band? Who decided to form the band originally? Who came up with the name? Who writes the songs? Who handles the bookings? Who's the decider? If the answer to all of these questions is really solely Justin, if it's really his vision, then eh, maybe it's weird to not change your name. But that doesn't sound like the situation at hand. If it was the three of you who made the band happen, if it feels honest to still be BANDNAME, then go with that.

Maybe he's being a little emotional about it, but will agree to disagree if you reply with a calm, confident, rational response. You don't need his permission, so don't ask for it. Just say "sorry, too late, we all decided (including you) that it was cool for the band to move on and keep the name." An arbitrary technical distinction between the theater project and regular gigs is a pretty fuzzy gray line. It's not swaying me.

And if he is all difficult, well, who cares? What are the consequences of him being all crankypants and put out? He has no legal claim, obviously. If he runs around town bitching about you all, he looks like a sour-grapes dork and he gives your band plenty of free publicity. Let him figure out on his own that his old band can be win-win for him, if he's not too pigheaded to see it. Because whether the band gets more successful, or goes out like a lamb instead of a lion, he can claim Important Influence and share in the pride, and will still get people to nod along (to his face) with a claim that he was integral...regardless of whether that's true by the time the band ends its run. Meanwhile, if he's got some music to make, he should just go ahead and make it, form a new band, keep moving.

You don't even need to go to the sunset years of nostalgia acts for examples of bands that maintained the band identity despite changes of lead singer. Has Justin ever heard of Black Sabbath? Van Halen? Black Flag, for pete's sake!?
posted by desuetude at 10:26 PM on March 29, 2013

to be fair, all the big acts being mentioned here aren't really relevant as those agreements have been hammered out between lawyers. there are also a lot of examples going badly or weirdly - jefferson airplane, jefferson starship, starship or the split of natalie merchant and the rest of the 10,000 maniacs.

chances are you can just politely disagree and he can be as upset or not as he wants to be, but it might do you well to see if any of you have early scrawlings with the band name to show it's not something he's been dreaming up since he was 12 or whatever if he decides he wants to get his lawyer uncle to draw up a letter.
posted by nadawi at 10:46 PM on March 29, 2013

I just got out of a band that had a lot of drama and believe me, it is not worth it to try to please the crazy people.

He should know that, being the one who quit, he no longer has any power over what you are doing. He shouldn't expect you to do this, since he quit of his own volition.

However, are you trying to use the old name in order to stick it to Justin in some way? Are you still friends with him, or do you have no interest in maintaining amicable relations? The only good reason I would see to heed his request would be if you are in close contact with him, and have to deal with him regularly. these things do not go down easy and he might hold a grudge about this for years to come.
posted by winterportage at 8:30 AM on March 30, 2013

Is your band name so great that you can't imagine coming up with a name as good as it? Personally, I would come up with a name that the current members are happy with, and switch to it so as not to burn down any bridges. Sure, you can keep your name, but there's a gulf between can do and should do. If you're a '90s punk ska band, I suggest The Princess Diarrheas. You're welcome.
posted by ferdinandcc at 12:22 AM on March 31, 2013

Thanks everyone! A professional email seems to be the way, will act accordingly.

ferdinandcc, I hear you, but we can't change the name of the theatre project and that won't change for the next couple of years, so we'll be using the name either way. And we're quite the opposite of a punk ska band, thank you very much.
posted by mahershalal at 5:13 PM on April 1, 2013

« Older Ex-Pothead Starts Smoking A Little Pot Again   |   What is this mental health term that I'm trying to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.