With Whom Did The Swedish Band ABBA Have To Negotiate With For Rights To Their Name?
Answer: A Fish Cannery
The history of international superstar pop group ABBA’s name is a curious one that involved not one but three incarnations along with negotiations with a Swedish fish cannery.
When the band formed, they played around with name conventions that were combinations of the band members’ names such as Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid and Björn & Benny (with Svenska Flicka). While the names weren’t an issue in their native Sweden (and were essentially equivalent in terms of band names to something like US-based act Peter, Paul, & Mary), the length and distinctly Scandinavian slant of their names didn’t lend themselves well to tackling a broad international market.
In 1973, their manager Stig Anderson retooled their name to both ditch the unwieldy length and make it more compact and palatable to foreign markets (an important move given the rise in their popularity outside of the Swedish market in 1972 with their first international hit “People Need Love”). He took the first letter of each band member’s name and arranged them into the now instantly recognizable band name ABBA.
Inside of Sweden the name was a bit of tongue-in-cheek playfulness as Abba was (and remains) a very well-known fish canning company in Sweden on par in brand recognition levels with US brands like Kraft. Anderson thought the name change would illicit a light-hearted reaction from local listeners and would be easy to take across borders into new music markets without a problem. Anderson was able to successfully negotiate with the cannery for rights to the name and the name has been in use ever since with a very small tweak.
In 1976 during a promotional photoshoot where the band members held up large versions of their initials, a band member was goofing around and reversed his B such that the band name ABBA appeared in the photo as ᗅᗺᗷᗅ. The band loved the look, registered it as their trademark, and kept the stylized logo for the duration of the band.