Performers often adopt a stage name – something that is memorable and conveys a particular image, their public persona. This seems to be particularly noticeable with music artists. Actors can hide behind the characters they portray, but a music artist is much more exposed. They are their music, and their public persona can help sell their music and sell tickets to concerts and gigs. And the name they choose to go by can be an important tool to build this persona.
But how do music artists choose a stage name? Here are five examples of current music artists who have used different methods to choose their stage names.
1. Use an international version and/or respelling of your given name
Gotye hails from Melbourne Australia and had a huge hit with ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’. A Belgian-Australian, he was born Wouter De Backer and went by the English version of his name – Walter – when at school in Australia. To his friends he’s known as Wally, but he chose to go by Gotye when creating his first solo tracks. Pronounced GAW-tee-ay, it’s a pronunciation re-spelling of Gauthier, the French equivalent of Wouter (which is Flemish) that his mother used to call him as a pet name.
2. Embrace your childhood nickname
Miley Cyrus started life as Destiny Hope Cyrus, so named because her parents thought she would achieve great things. She was given the nickname Smiley as an infant because she smiled so much, and this was later shortened to Miley. When cast in dual roles Hannah Montana and Miley Stewart on the Disney Channel show Hannah Montana, the Miley character was originally meant to be Chloe Stewart, but was changed when Miley was given the job. In 2008 she officially changed her name to Miley Ray Cyrus. Miley‘s clean-cut Disney image inspired thousands of parents to use her name, and Miley leapt from position #5056 in 2005 before Hannah Montana started to #128 in 2008. Miley‘s questionable behaviours in 2013 may have some people regretting that choice now, although the sentiment and meaning behind the name is quite sweet.
3. Or embrace your middle name
One cool customer is rapper Drake. Drake is actually his middle name, his full name being Aubrey Drake Graham. When acting on TV teen drama ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ he went by Aubrey Graham, but records under the mononym Drake. Already ranked at #231 on the SSA lists in 2012, this is a name to watch. Drake was one of the most Googled people of 2013, and his 2014 is off to a big start with a role in ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’. He’s also a great example of why a funky unexpected middle can be an asset – it’s like an inbuilt stage name.
4. Take inspiration from your interests
Have you heard of Lorde? She’s 17-year-old New Zealand musician Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor, whose debut album ‘Pure Heroine‘ has garnered her four Grammy nominations. Her stage name is exactly that – a character that she considers to be separate from her own persona. She has confessed that ever since she was young(er) she was fascinated by royals and aristocracy (hence the song ‘Royals‘), and wanted a stage name that reflected that. She was particularly drawn to the look and sound of the title Lord, but felt it was too masculine so added the “e” to make it more feminine.
5. Look to your family tree for something that makes you stand out
Katy Perry‘s story is a little more straightforward. Born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, she was always known as Katy, and recorded her first album under the name Katy Hudson. It was a self-titled gospel rock album, released in 2001, but wasn’t very successful. Hence she looked to move into pop music. While working on her song writing in 2003, Katy dropped Hudson in favor of her mother’s maiden name – Perry – to avoid being confused with popular actress Kate Hudson. Her first pop album ‘One of the Boys‘ was released in 2008 under her new stage name and made Katy Perry a household name.
Whichever method you use, there is something that these stage names have in common. They are all recognizable as theirs. The important thing to remember is that whatever you choose, wear it with confidence and make it yours. (Note: That’s Katy Perry when she was Katy Hudson in the illustration.)
Brooke Cussans – better known on the Nameberry forums as bluejuniper – is based in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of name blog Baby Name Pondering. She especially loves rare and unusual names.