Q: Where did the name "Amoeba" come from?
A: We wanted to name our company "something-something" music. The word "amoeba" came up because it sounded good with "music." We just wanted it to be a psychedelic kind of name that students would relate to. As it turns out, it's a great name for who we are and what we do. First of all, amoebas split into two, and we've done that, too, with our most recent stores. And there's an amorphous nature to music, and (the name) just takes a quality of being a great metaphor for music, our growth and who we are.
By "'something-something' music" I'm supposing that Mr. Weinstein meant that the owners (a) wanted "music" in the name and (b) wanted to modify "music" with another word or words. By "psychedelic"-sounding I'm inferring he means neither corporate nor tech-y. And by "split into two" I imagine he means "split in three." Amoeba, which calls itself "The World's Largest Independent Record Store" and which was founded in Berkeley in 1990—many years after the psychedelic heyday—now has stores in Hollywood and San Francisco in addition to the original Telegraph Avenue location.
(If I'd been in charge, I'd have created a more rigorous naming brief.)
Is Amoeba "a great metaphor" for "who we are"? Let's look at the Who We Are page:
Amoeba Music began at a time when the huge chain stores were mercilessly swallowing up independent stores and local chain stores, depriving communities across the country of a personal relationship with their music outlets, and destroying the opportunity to discover a whole world of music beyond what corporate retailers wanted them to see. Amoeba arose out of that community of music lovers that wanted a better place for music than a corporate chain store -- one with the widest possible selection, better service, and more respect for people's ideas and lives.
Personally, I don't get "large," "independent," "personal relationship," "better service," and "more respect" out of "Amoeba." I get "microscopically small," "elemental," "devoid of consciousness," and "shapeless." The name does succeed in suggesting "non-corporate," though. And it's sorta psychedelic in a lava-lamp way.
The business has survived for almost 20 years, so the Amoeba name is evidently not a serious liability. "Amoeba" is fun and easy to say (if not to spell), it's nerdy enough to suit its origins in the heart of academia, and the blobby logo has a freeform, how-Berkeley-can-you-be flavor. Best of all, the owners were lucid enough to snap up the very desirable domain Amoeba.com before anyone beat them to it.