The topic of the Marshall Street Blog today is simple: artist names. Love them or hate them, there’s some crazy musicians out there and they have the names to prove it. I’ve been mulling over this a fair bit recently, as I have been considering changing my artist name, from Alex Carpi, to something with a bit more…. well, a bit more.
My problem is that I’m too indecisive and after changing my artist name, I’d probably just change it right back. So for now I’m keeping Alex Carpi, and reassuring myself that the only reason why I think it isn’t “good” or “eye-catching” enough is because it’s my name. Y’know?
There are four kinds of artist names out there. The Birth Names, the Name Variants, the One-Name-Wonders and the Random Artist Name Generators. In this article, I’m going to delve into each, and have a look at what I think works, what doesn’t, and why. Not all names are made equal. So let’s dive in.
The Birth Names:
Many of the biggest artists keep their birth name and use this as their artist name, too. Of course, it helps when your name is Harry Styles, or Selena Gomez, or anything simple and phonetic. Of Italian background, I was lucky to get Carpi and nothing more complex. Madonna, on the other hand, got Ciccone for a surname, which would have caused confusion had she not dropped it. I couldn’t tell how this is meant to be pronounced if I tried, so I guess we’ll never know.
These artists, for lack of a better term, have balls. They have no fancy moniker to hide behind, their name is who they are, and they have to own that. I feel that when using a birth name as your artist name, it might be harder to brand who you are as an artist. How do you put your entire personality, hopes, fears and memories, into a marketable box for the masses? You don’t. It also might be harder to step into your ‘artist persona’. A name can carry a lot of weight, and these artists don’t have the luxury of stepping into someone else’s shoes for their performance.
These guys want to stay true to themselves, but also create a bit of flair. I like this, I respect this. It’s expressive, but they also know their roots. They can have a performance persona, but they aren’t straying too far from what they know. This one in my opinion is the best of both worlds. I’m talking about people like Tones and I (real name Toni), Halsey (an anagram of her name, Ashley), Eminem (based off his initials), Billie Eilish (Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell – I’m not making this up), and even Jason Derulo (his birth surname is pronounced the same, but spelt Desrouleaux – something that would not fly in Hollywood). This is such a creative way to go about it, as they have to think outside the box of a name they’ve had since birth, and create something brand new for the stage. Lots of actors have gone down this route as well. This is something I have been strongly considering doing, as I don’t want to completely say goodbye to good ol’ Alex Carpi, but a bit of change for a stage persona would be nice.
Hello Cher, Madonna, Rihanna, Adele. Mostly women, the One-Name-Wonders are icons in their own right. They have the nerve to trademark an entire name as their own, and are responsible for changing baby name patterns around the world every time they drop an album. This takes a lot of guts. I view all of the aforementioned artists as strong, powerful women. I don’t know if that’s anything to do with only taking one name, or just how they’ve embodied their own individual acts. Of course, we also have artists like Drake and FINNEAS, who are icons in their own right. These artists usually use their first given name or their middle name, but a small group also use one random word as their artist name, like BANKS or GRAACE (these artists can also be found under name variants, or random artist name generators, which we’ll get to in a sec.)
I did consider doing a one-name moment, using either Alex, or Xandra, the second half of my first name. But Alex was too simple and Xandra had been done. Also, my friend thought I said Sandra the first time I ran it by her. Big no.
Random Artist Name Generators:
I now present to you my fourth and final category. Arguably the most annoying one of them all. The random artist name generators. Some artists out there have the coolest, wackiest names, but we have to remember, they’re only cool because they made it to the big time. Lots of rappers fall into this category. Lil Nas X, Xxxtentacion, Lil Yachty, Snoop Dogg/ Lion. The Weeknd. Many rappers also come from crews who all share similar names, like the A$AP Mob, which makes choosing a name a little easier.
You also have some mainstream pop artists that fall into this category too. Grimes, King Princess, FKA twigs, Lorde, the list goes on. At the time of writing this I have just discovered a new act, called Perfume Genius.
This is so annoying because I know if I came up with some random name like this, it would just be the lamest thing on Earth. I would be too scared to run it by anyone for fear of laughter, and I would spend my days constantly questioning my choice. Oh, to be so self assured. These artist names really stand out from the crowd, especially when the artists themselves exemplify talent and have a good business strategy to go along with it. Without these two components, you’re just going to be another nobody with a stupid name. And that’s a hard reality to face.
Whatever your artist name, one thing is more important. And that’s being true to you (*vomit noise*). But seriously. Come up with a name that shows who you are, and what your personal flair is, because there’s no point naming yourself something that you don’t relate to in any way. It’s never gonna work.
Drop your artist name – or your favourite artist’s names – in the comments, I’m keen to see who you’re listening to! And always feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now and forever,