What’s In A Name

Monday, June 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm

The Hot Sauce Aisle

The Hot Sauce Aisle

I’m a lifelong fan of hot and spicy foods, especially hot sauce. Once you get away from the venerable tabasco and into the specialty stuff, it gets pretty wild. The first time you see a proper collection of specialty hot sauces all together, it’s enough to give you vertigo. They have all manners of crazy labels and names. There seems to be a constant arms race to out-do each other — it takes a hell of a lot to stand out in the hot sauce aisle. Some are overwhelmingly colorful, others attempt to stand out simply by having a lack of color. Humor is important, as are certain keywords like “fire.” Weird bottle shapes. One-off batches referencing media events or public figures, that aren’t around for more than a few months. I get the feeling the same hot sauce is still on the shelf somewhere, but with a different label.

If you’re new to the hot sauce aisle, you have two options: Pick the one with the label that appeals to you most, or buy based on someone else’s advice. It takes a lot of time and effort to even begin to know the brands, and it’s virtually impossible to become a connoisseur unless you do it for a living — especially as the selection is constantly changing. Most people buy one or two every year and stop there, as it’s not terribly important to them. Some people collect them. Others become obsessed.

Hot Sauce Collection

Lots of weird hot sauce and obscure electronic equipment -- this guy isn't me, but it could be.

I find the competition in the hot sauce aisle to be a remarkable parallel to the plight of “internet musicians,” and the constant free-for-all to get some attention — any attention! The internet is a world where everyone is ADD and quick to judge. We have to be — there’s such an overwhelming amount of STUFF on the internet that no one could ever get a handle on it. So we fall back to snap-judgements. If something doesn’t send the right signals, we conclude it won’t be worth our time and move on to something else.

People regularly link to my music (and to this site) with absolutely no background information. It’s just one thing on a list of many things they like well enough to link. Look no further than the “blogroll” every wordpress has. Having someone else vouch for you by linking is the first half of the battle… but if the name is boring, chances are the person will click on another link instead, and you still wind up with nothing. There is no halfway.

Consequently, people try all sorts of wacky shit. Some try to be clever or topical, others try to be funny, while still more merely go for an interesting word or three. I thought the “LAKE Râ–²DIO” name floating around on what.cd was a particularly sharp move. The triangle stands out, it’s keyed to their identity, but you can still google for it (a name made entirely of webdings wouldn’t fly).

What’s simultaneously funny and infuriating about this is that it has absolutely nothing to do with music. It’s about promotion. Lots of great music gets missed due to a boring name, while lots of crap takes off because of a clever one. Like hot sauce, most people don’t have the motivation to sift through it all, as it’s only a casual interest. So they buy based on the label.

Categories: promotion

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