We broke down the most important steps to choosing an artist name that will stick for the longevity of your career.
Written by Evie Bloom, amuse
Are you preparing to release your first song and struggling to decide on your artist name? Maybe you’re a seasoned musician looking to rebrand. Whatever stage you’re at in your career, choosing the best artist name to suit your brand can feel challenging, to say the least.
Taking the time to brainstorm the right name can help you avoid a lot of potential headaches down the road, so we broke down the most important steps when choosing the best artist name that will stick for the longevity of your career.
Before starting the creative brainstorming process, it’s important to think about your brand and how you want to be seen as an artist among the industry and your fans. How do you look, talk and sound on social media? What’s your visual identity? Finding your own voice, building your own brand identity, and matching this with your artist name, is a great way to help music fans distinguish you from other artists and understand your unique story.
Need more inspiration? Check out our guide on "How to Brand Yourself as an Artist".
An artist name, also commonly referred to as a stage name, or pseudonym is a professional name that an entertainer embraces to be known by publicly. An artist's name can be a version of a person’s legal name or an entirely different name together. The purpose of artists adopting a stage name can range from honoring someone that inspires them to differentiate themselves from other artists.
There are many different reasons artists adopt a stage name, such as:
Now to the fun part, finding your stage name. Use a pen and a piece of paper to write down some potential name ideas as we go through some different forms of inspiration.
If you have a first, middle, or last name that is catchy you can play around with keeping it as is or rearranging the lettering to make it more unique.
For example, Madonna, born Madonna Louise Ciccone, dropped her middle and last name but uses her unique first name Madonna as her professional stage name.
If your friends or family called you by a nickname when you were younger (that you liked), you could use that or try a variation of it.
For example, Lizzo was born Melissa Viviane Jefferson but when she was 14 years old formed a rap group with her friends and was supposed to be called Lissa. But since Jay-Z’s song “Izzo” was trending at the time, she felt inspired to adopt the name Lizzo and hasn’t changed it since.
Your stage name is meant to be a representation of your particular image and there might be a word that embodies that.
Take guitarist Buckethead from Guns’N’Roses, whose birth name is Brian Patrick Carroll, known for wearing a bucket on his head when on stage. Talk about embodying your image!
Turn to movie characters, artists, or important figures in your life that you feel inspired by. Do they have a unique name that you could take as your stage name to pay homage to?
Did you know David Bowie was inspired by Jim Bowie, a character in the 1960 film 'The Alamo'? His birth name was David Jones, with another artist Davy Jones was in the spotlight at the time — David Jones became David Bowie.
To get your ideas flowing you can try to use an online name generator.
Some require keywords while others like this one, list a variety of options that you can use as inspiration to come up with something unique that suits you.
Now that you have an idea of where to get inspiration from, write some options down! Make a list of your favorite potential names and make sure to let yourself brainstorm for a while since this is a name that you will want to keep for the longevity of your music career. The more options you have, the better.
When you’ve brainstormed a couple of names that you feel would stick as your stage name, ask yourself the following questions to narrow down your list to one that suits you best.
How will your audience interpret your name?
As with any culture, music has certain words, symbols, and connotations that represent different genres of music. Be aware of what your artist name may represent, and what it may not.
Choosing words that culturally align with your brand, and resonate with your values as an artist, will give potential fans a hint of what they can expect from you. Also, take into account how your name is interpreted in other countries — even if you’re not a world-touring artist just yet, we guarantee you have listeners from outside your home country, so it’s important to consider this.
Is your name unique?
Using a name that’s too common puts you at risk of being confused for another artist, or getting your music mixed in with other artists’ catalogs on music stores and streaming platforms.
If your artist's name is too similar to another artist's, it will also make it hard for your fans to find you on platforms like Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Music. Going by your given name can work, but we recommend changing it up to make it more unique.
Is your name spelt the way it’s pronounced?
When a new fan hears your music on a podcast or radio show for the first time, they’re going to type your artist name into Spotify or Google to listen to your music — so it’s important that these platforms know how to find you.
Take rapper 6lack as an example, his name is pronounced ‘black’, so that’s what listeners will type into their search engines or music catalogs. It’s going to be a lot harder to find him, and you — if you’re not careful!
So, you’ve gone through all the steps and found your artist's name. Nice! Now it’s time to test the name with your friends, family, label, and industry peers. Put the name into search engines and social media. What do you find? Is the website domain name available? Is Google confusing your name with another artist?
Next, ask for people’s feedback and their first impressions. How do they interpret your name? If you’ve already built up a fan base as an established artist, and are considering a rebrand, DM some of your biggest fans and ask for their feedback. They’ll love that you’ve included them in your journey.
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