Rock Star Names: How to create a superstar stage name

posted by: bluejuniper View all posts by this author

By Brooke Cussans at Baby Name Pondering

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.


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About the author


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.
View all of bluejuniper's articles View all Berry Juice Bloggers


4 Responses to “Rock Star Names: How to create a superstar stage name”

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RainbowBright908 Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 12:24 am

Bob Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman). Jon Bon Jovi (John Bongiovi). Steven Tyler (Steven Tallarico). Ella Yelich-O’Connor would not be given the time of day on the radio. Stage names are not always just to take on a different persona. Thomas Cruise Mapother doesn’t sound like a headlining act, but Tom Cruise does. There has been a movement in the US since the dawn of recorded film and music to wash the ethnic sound from a person’s name in order to achieve stardom.

handsallover Says:

January 13th, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Wondeful blog, thank you, @bluejuniper.
Drake is really cool for a rapper and I have always loved Katy Perry’s stage name, so playful and spunky, it really fits her. I like the illustration too, she has always been beautiful. (I am not her huge fan but still).
I think that the first and third options are the most popular among celebrities. They tend to shorten their names a lot, too. Robbie Williams was born Robert Peter Maximilian (I have always thought he has such a handsome full name); Katie Melua was born Ketevan (a beautiful Georgian name).
Rihanna’s real name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, Woody Allen was born Allen Konigsberg
Beyonce, though, uses her real first name(Beyonce Knowles-Carter) as well as Ashanti (Ashanti Douglas); Mila Kunis is Milena (such a lovely Russian name) by documents. By the way, I know a Milena and also a few Milanas.
Well, that’s just from a top of my head, it’s an interesting topic with a lot of examples.

hermioneameliastyles Says:

January 14th, 2014 at 11:58 am

Many people change their names in order to get noticed. Sometimes people change their names so people will read their book or they change their name in order to not get confused with another artist, actor, or someone else who is famous. Each name should be unique so when you hear it, it would remind you all the things they have done, that you have heard of. Some people however are just lucky to be born with a name that fits for a celebrity like Harry Styles or Josh Hutcherson, or even Kellin Quinn. I don’t think my name would pass as a celebrity name. However I would have one of the most unique last names I still don’t think it would work.

indiefendi Says:

January 14th, 2014 at 11:43 pm

One of my favorite bands is Bon Iver (bone eevair). It has 10 members but the name is mainly associated with the lead singer Justin Vernon, like when they’re featured and stuff: “Kanye West ft. Bon Iver” but it’s really only the lead singer on it. So Bon Iver is kinda his stage name in a way. It’s kinda like Blondie (it’s a full band but everyone thinks it’s Debbie Harry’s stage name).
Bon Iver came from “bon hiver” which means good winter in French but he took the h off.

Another one of my favorite stage names is Rick Ross. He’s William Roberts in real life but Rick Ross is cool yet realistic (besides that druglord reference haha)

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