How to Choose a Stage Name

Three Methods:Modifying Your Given NameTailoring Your Name To An ImageCreating a Name from Scratch

There are many reasons why you might need to make a stage name. Perhaps your given name has about ten too many syllables or has an unfortunate connotation. Either way, you need a name that is memorable and can help establish your personal brand.

Method 1
Modifying Your Given Name

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    Simplify your name. In many cases, stage names are just simplified versions of a given name. If your full name is particularly long or hard to pronounce, simplifying it might help you out.[1] Some real life examples of this include:
    • Yves Saint Laurent (born Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent)[2]
    • Rudolph Valentino (born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D'Antonguolla)[3]
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    Anglicize your name. While controversial, some may choose to modify their name to cater to a Western audience. Similar to simplifying, this often involves editing an ethnic or difficult to pronounce name into something short and easy to remember. Some examples include:
    • Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara)[4]
    • Kal Penn (born Kalpen Suresh Modi)[5]
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    Use your mother's maiden name. Use your mother's maiden name as your first or last name. This applies when your mother's maiden name is catchier or easier to pronounce or remember than your given surname. As with most of these methods, the best way to test a name's catchiness is to ask people you know what their reaction to it is. Some examples include:
    • Katy Perry (born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson)[6] chose to use her mother's maiden name when she switched from gospel to pop music.
    • Catherine Deneuve (born Catherine Fabienne Dorléac)[7] chose to use her mother’s maiden name to differentiate herself from her then-more famous sister Françoise.[8]
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    Use your middle name. Take your middle name and make it your first or last name. Times when this might be applicable are when your last name is harder to pronounce, or much to common, like "Smith." One famous example of this is Angelina Jolie (born Angelina Jolie Voight).[9]
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    Use only a single name. If your first, middle or last name sounds unique you may choose to go by this alone. Choose the name that has the best middle ground between pronounceable, memorable, and catchy. Some examples of this include:
    • Beyoncé (born Beyonce Giselle Knowles)[10]
    • Madonna (born Madonna Louise Ciccone)[11]
    • Rihanna (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty)[12]
    • Zendaya (born Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman)[13]

Method 2
Tailoring Your Name To An Image

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    Choose a provocative word to include in your stage name. Create a name that is related to the genre or culture you wish to be identified with. For certain genres, such as heavy metal or punk rock, you may wish to cultivate an intimidating or wild persona. Adding a word like “Zombie” or “Rotten” to your name may help with this. Some examples include:
    • Sid Vicious (born John Simon Ritchie)[14]
    • Slash (born Saul Hudson)[15]
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    Stylize your name with numbers, hyphens, or special characters. A popular tradition within hip-hop, stylizing your name in this fashion can imply an urban, streetwise persona. Participating in this trend can be beneficial if you are working in a genre associated with hip-hop and pop music. Some examples include:
    • 2pac (born Tupac Amaru Shakur)[16]
    • E-40 (born Earl Stevens)[17]
    • Ke$ha (born Kesha Rose Sebert)[18]
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    Think about who and what your influences are. Many people choose stage names that reference the people and things that have inspired them. What better way to pay homage as well as lay claim to a particular tradition? Some examples include:
    • Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls was inspired to adopt her surname by The Ramones.
    • Lady Gaga’s name was inspired by the song “Radio Ga Ga” by Queen.[19]

Method 3
Creating a Name from Scratch

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    Think about the connotations of the words you use. All words have connotations, and you want the ones you use in your stage name to relate to the style, culture, and genre you're trying to fit in. People are more likely to be drawn to a name that relates to the genre they are interested in. Cliche or not, there's a reason so many surf rock bands use the word "beach."[20]
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    Make sure it's searchable and pronounceable. If you want people to be able to find you online, having a stage name like "Pencil" is going to hinder you. Your stage name should be something that can be put into google just as it is, and comes up with your online presence. And if people can't hear what you're saying when you tell them your name, or they can't spell it after hearing it, that's one more roadblock to being remembered.[21]
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    Choose something that you can at least pretend you have a story for. If you've picked a good stage name that's memorable and stands out, people are going to ask you about it. You want to have more to say other than it sounded good. The best way to do this is to think about choosing a stage name that actually means something to you, at least in some small way.[22]
    • Bono got his stage name from a childhood nickname, "bono vox," which is Latin for "good voice."[23]
    • Slash claims he was called his stage name as a kid because he was always running all around.[24]
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    Test your name out. Try to get as much feedback as you can from friends and people you know about your new stage name. Maybe your name makes a reference that is too obscure, or it isn't as easy to hear when spoken in a crowded bar as you thought. Getting second and third opinions is essential, because your stage name is all about how you want people to see you.[25]


  • Be sure that you are comfortable with your stage name. If you are an aspiring entertainer and have begun to grow an audience, changing your stage name may hinder your progress.
  • There are rules within actor guilds and associations that restrict the use of a stage name to only one person. If you have chosen a stage name, make sure that it is not already in use.[26]Search online databases to check if your stage name is truly one of a kind.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Performing Arts