What is a stage name, and how do you create one?

Did you ever grow up wondering how people became cool enough to have their own stage names? No? Just me then… I used to often wonder how they thought of it. What made it stick? What would mine be if I needed one? I also used to question why they needed one. So, I’m here to give you all these answers.

Dark area with spotlight on one actress

Many artists, actors, and people in the spotlight use stage names as opposed to their true identity. There are many reasons as to the how’s and the why’s. But, typically, by the time they have started to be known by the public, their stage name has already become a part of them. There are many you’d never realise because their stage name sounds like a normal first and surname. However, this isn’t the case.

Why do people use stage names?

It turns out there are many reasons as to why someone may choose to use a stage name. Perhaps it isn’t always their decision too. Their management might decide the person should adapt their birth name or to change things up completely. Often though, the decision is down to the creative. Here’s a few reasons they may choose to have a stage name:

To make things less complicated

Often many creatives will change their name and give themselves a stage name to avoid any confusion. There’s always situations where people pronounce one name one way while others say something completely different. By having a stage name that’s a lot simpler, you’ll eliminate the confusion. Also, really long names often aren’t super catchy. So, why not shorten yours? Aaron Paul, well known actor’s real name is Aaron Paul Sturtevant. But casting directors weren’t able to pronounce his surname, hence him going by his first and middle names. Lady Gaga is really Stefani Germanotta. This isn’t as catchy as the name she chose. Therefore, her inspiration came from the Queen song “Radio Ga Ga”. Now, it just works for her for all the reasons already discussed throughout this article.

Inspired by their idols

You’ll find many with stage names have chosen them based off inspiration from their idols. Whether it be taking a name from each inspiration. Or, perhaps taking parts of their songs/films/artwork titles and making something creative with it. If they’re looking for a stage name that’s going to stick with them forever, they want to make sure it has a good meaning right? Unless it’s as simple as they changed it because their name was too generic, why not make something that honours your favourite individuals? Actress Olivia Wilde’s real name is Olivia Cockburn. However, she chose to adopt Wilde after her favourite author Oscar Wilde. Elton John is actually Reginald Kenneth Dwight. However, he wanted his name to be inspired by saxophonist Elton Dean and vocalist Long John Baldry.

To give themselves a different persona

Perhaps those with a stage name feel they’re a different person when they’re in the zone. Joe Bloggs isn’t a bad name by any means, but it’s become known for being a mundane and overshadowed name. If that was your real name, it’s unlikely you’d want to go by something that’s known for blending into the background. Instead, you’d probably want to come up with something that sounds more like how you feel when you perform. What type of creative are you? How does acting/singing/dancing/writing etc make you feel? Lana Del Rey was born as Elizabeth Woolridge Grant but felt her stage name matched how she wanted to come across.

Avoiding being stereotyped

Unfortunately people stereotype. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or how you hold yourself. As a society people really do put people into categories. This isn’t something anyone wants. But, especially when you’re trying to make a name for yourself. Being pigeonholed isn’t going to make you stand out. Especially if you’re completely opposite to the stereotype people are placing on you. Once something sticks, it sticks right. Bruno Mars is actually Peter Gene Hernandez but didn’t want to be placed into the Latin singer stereotype because his music style is that of Pop.

Their name already exists in the industry

Having a unique name could serve you well within the creative arts. However, if your name is something like John Smith you possibly will find there are several others with this name in your field alone. This is where people decide to create stage names, so they’re the only one in the industry going by that name. After all, if your name is completely made up, it’s unlikely there will be two of you, right? The much loved, well known David Bowie chose his name because there was already a Davy Jones within the industry. His real name is David Jones. However, again, it’s quite the common name. Would he still have been as popular without a stand-out stage name like Bowie?

How to create your own stage name

It’s not really just a case of picking a name and hoping it works. That may work for some, but remember you’re going to be stuck with this name. Once you’ve decided on a name there’s no changing it. People will know you as your stage name, and therefore you can’t just decide to be someone else. It’s important to get it right. We’ve got some tips below on how best to choose your own stage name.

Mix up your name

Try creating a variation of your real name. Perhaps switch the letters around, or take some away. You could maybe add in extra words in between. Or, take your full name and make a word out of the letters within it. It will remain unique to you this way, while also not being completely far away from your actual name. This way it stays special to you and becomes memorable. Halsey a well-known artist found her name through rearranging her first name. Her real name is Ashley Frangipane.

Use your nickname

Many people will have a nickname that’s been with them since childhood. For a lot of people, they’ll be known by this to many around them. Whether it’s friends, family or colleagues, you’re likely to be called your nickname on a regular basis. Therefore, it’s already part of your identity. It won’t be a far leap to turn this into your stage name. You’re used to answering to it and have been for quite some time. Moving into your nickname or a variation of your nickname being your stage name won’t be too difficult.

Choose a word that speaks for you

You might have a certain word that describes you perfectly. Go around and ask those you’re close to what one word is that sums you up. Take inspiration from what they have to say. You might end up with something really cool. Especially if you want a short and sweet stage name that isn’t too complex. Do you want your audience to think a certain way or have a certain feeling when hearing your name? Consider how the words make you feel. For example, having someone with the stage name Fluffy has a very different image to someone with the name Dagger. Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash picked their name to describe them.

Who inspires you?

In the nicest way possible, when asking this question I’m not looking for the answer “my Mum”. While this is lovely, it’s unlikely the name Mum would stick or perform well for you as a stage name. Consider your favourite artists, poets, creators and what their names are. Or perhaps names of their popular songs, books, movies etc. Why did you want to go into this career? Why this industry? Think about these things when trying to find your stage name. Try mixing various names together, or taking bits from each of your idols.

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