There are plenty of options how to choose a DJ name, although the process is kind of like having to choose a T-shirt that you have to wear for the rest of your life; there’s a district possibility that it will go out of fashion and you’ll be stuck with it.
That’s why it’s important to consider a few things when doing your research. Things like whether the name is easily read and understood. Will the title still sound right over time and not just fit in the current moment? Also, what is its contextual meaning for different names in different cultures?
It’s a decision that requires some careful thought; after all, you want to build a name for yourself and possibly some sick branding to go with it!
Let’s jump in and discuss how to chose a DJ name and the best way to go about it.
Assess Your Style
Your style is more than just the clothes you wear or the tunes you play. Perhaps you’re edgy or cool, chilled or hyper, or maybe even quirky with a unique gimmick.
One of my favorite DJ acts, Daft Punk has a unique style where they adopt robotic mannerisms and don matching headgear. The helmets have had several different incarnations over the years, but their look has still remained consistent.
Daft Punk is a great example of an act with a gimmick, while Deadmau5 and the Chainsmokers are good examples of another two aspects of style – sound and fanbase.
Deadmau5 music is big on the syncopated rhythms and slightly unsettling sound. An incredibly talented artist, Deadmau5 manages to get you pumped and fully absorbed into the music – but it’s not music engineered to soothe. This is completely in line with the name Deadmau5 – not one that inspires comfortable imagery.
In contrast, the Chainsmokers are much more of a pop-indie EDM sound. Working with many famous mainstream singers, the Chainsmokers produces more vocal tracks than Deadmau5’s harder style.
What Type of DJ Are You?
Let’s delve further into different types of DJs. Some play mainly the club scene, enjoying the crowd’s adoring response. However, others serve in a less public niche like a mobile DJ performing at weddings or a DJ on a radio station.
But remember, a wedding’s primary focus is never the wedding DJ (the bride would be a bit upset). This means that anyone wanting to get into the public eye is going to need to focus on performance zones like clubs, festivals, etc., while anyone wanting to make a reliable paycheck and not looking for fame is going to focus more on high-paying gigs like performing on someone’s wedding, family celebrations, and other parties.
Your name choice is based on your target audience. For instance, someone focusing on the private event sector is going to need a family-friendly name. This is a bit more complex than it sounds, as it doesn’t boil down to what is currently trendy. Catering to family and/or businesses means that in some cases, your dance floor guests could be spanning three generations.
While cooler adults might be okay with it, parents and grandparents are unlikely to want a name like DJ Dog Dick (EDM.com features 11 of the most bizarre DJ names trending now) or something equally inappropriate playing at a wedding day, bar mitzvah, or any other sort of function, even if what they play is suitable for the occasion.
What Type of Music Do You Play?
Depending on what you play, that will greatly affect the type of audience you’re appealing to, and therefore the name you should be considering as your stage name.
Surprising though it might seem, country music has recently started producing DJs of its own, combining the EDM beats with popular catchy songs like Dee Jay Silver’s “Getaway Driver” featuring Waterloo Revival.
Regardless, as a genre mainly catering to traditional, midwestern families, it is much less likely to understand or connect with a name like Skrillex, which in that context sounds out of place. Conversely, in the major cities with their devout EDM ravers, a name like DJ Hish could be a bad idea, sounding rural and missing the beat, unlike pseudonyms like Afrojack or Kaskade.
Real or Stage Name?
All artists in any medium have to decide what name to put on their works. Whether they want it accredited to their personal life or keep their public and private life separate, this is one of the main decisions artists face before going public.
Some artists intentionally keep their identities secret and so use an alternative name for privacy purposes. Marshmello, before being outed as Chris Comstock, concealed his true identity because he didn’t want fame to mix with his private life and didn’t want his true identity to distract from his productions.
When choosing between your real name or a pseudonym, other considerations are whether the name is easy to pronounce and what name best fits the desired image.
David Guetta uses his real name because it’s not super difficult to remember. Conversely, Anton Zaslavski decided that his given name was too much of a mouthful and not in line with his image, and so chose his much easier stage name, Zedd.
The Chainsmokers and Daft Punk are examples of a fourth reason to have a stage name instead of using real names – multiple people in the group. Everyone can agree that “Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo” doesn’t have the same ring or salability as Daft Punk. On the whole, it seems that most DJs are not unwilling to use their given names.
While some have stage names with no connection to their given names for the reasons stated above, many go by their given name or abbreviated versions for more straightforward pronunciation.
Is The Name Taken?
Two important places to check are on the Patent Office website and any search engine. If someone is using the name, it will show up on your internet search, and if someone has trademarked the term, your application will be denied. Don’t waste any time trademarking, as you don’t want to face a problem with someone co-opting your name and forcing you to pay trademark infringement fees.
The DJ Dilemma – Title or No Title?
Every DJ has a fundamental question to answer when choosing his name – to DJ or not to DJ?
DJ Khaled, DJ Tiesto, and DJ Snake all have one thing in common (in addition to career choice) – they all chose to include DJ as part of their performance handle. Other DJs like Calvin Harris, Afrojack, and Skrillex went for a less conventional, less formal formatting, dropping the DJ title and inventing a unique name for the stage.
This, more than any other consideration, has the least to do with the public impression and is almost exclusively based on individual preference. Some DJs like the formal title; others prefer to individualize and let their aliases speak for themselves.
Can Your Fans Find You?
Young entrepreneurs promote themselves on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, and the guys who grew up before the Internet play catch-up, learning how to make websites, keep them current, as well as reduce their bounce rate.
While you might not think you need to include this in your decision-making process (mainly because it has nothing to do with your art), it’s important to consider how easy it is for people to find you on the internet. If your name is too difficult to remember or search – like Elon Musk’s latest baby’s original name, X Æ A-12, pronounced “Ash,” it will discourage potential followers from finding you.
Needless to say, X Æ A-12 would be a terrible name for an aspiring DJ to adopt, as it is tricky to remember and to know the correct pronunciation, therefore decreasing the number of people likely to search it up on the Internet.
Registering a Name on Socials
You want to make sure that the name you chose is as consistent as possible across all platforms and that the syntax doesn’t change. If you’re Ibechilling.com, you want to preserve that on your socials instead of switching to @ibchillin or @ibechill, which, while they both sound similar, add a touch of confusion to your brand.
Getting a domain name is as simple as jumping on NameCheap or GoDaddy and registering the domain you want. Aim for a dot-com if possible; failing that, a dot-co or dot-net could be good options.
Make sure to open up accounts on all social media platforms, not just the ones you use. This is to protect the name and save the option for yourself in the future, which stops other people from masquerading as you over social media.
Some DJs want to use their real names but unfortunately had parents who didn’t consider that their new baby might want to be a DJ one day and didn’t prioritize any of the above considerations.
These DJs have a few options – subtle adjustments, abbreviations, or nicknames. Martin Garrix does this well. His chosen name closely matches his birth name Martijn Garritsen, but with a more painless spelling and more searchability. Alesso abbreviated his full name to optimize the sound and search ratings, opting for his stage name over Alessandro Lindblad. Kygo took the approach of using an old-school nickname when deejaying.
The Artist Formerly Known As
It makes sense to choose a name with significance; after all, this name will represent you. For better or worse, this is a decision that will be difficult to change once you’ve hit the mainstage – a point that Prince made back in 1993 when he changed his name to a symbol and became known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”
Want to Change an Existing Stage Name?
Artists that have successfully changed their stage names are few and far between. David Bowie is a success story, starting his career as Davy Jones and successfully transitioning to David Bowie, a name everyone remembers.
Another success story is Maroon 5, which, if you blinked, you might have missed it, but they started as Kara’s Flowers until they realized that many people confused them with Cars and Flowers, which wasn’t the look they were after!
Other than that, the pickings are slim in successful name change stories mid-career. There are plenty of artists and celebrities that have made official name changes, but those that actually manage to transfer their fanbase over to the new label are rare.
My best advice to you is to choose the right name and stick with it. If the name change happens organically, like Jeniffer Lopez switching to J.Lo, or Snoop Dogg becoming known as Snoop, then more power to you. In both cases, the success happened because fans re-christened them with affectionate nicknames, not because the two celebrities decided they wanted a name change.
For those of you who are determined, the name change process can be relatively straightforward. MusicIndustryHowTo.com has a good article on this, but in a nutshell, the advice is to switch your email first and change the name on all social media accounts, as well as make sure you have an account with your name on it for any social media platforms that you don’t already use. Next, reroute all emails to your new email and respond there.
Finally, forward your old domain to your new domain so anyone searching for you will find you on the right site. Name changes should be done only once and with a bang, so redo the logo and profile pictures so that everything is new and exciting.
Will Your Name Age Well?
Another thing to consider when choosing your stage name is that you want it to be something approaching timelessness. Something that has a specific meaning now could lose or gain other connotations, and as time passes, people might take issue with your stage name or get confused by it.
Your best bet is to choose something interesting but unlikely to devolve into problematic interpretations. For instance, the term “Wife Beater” inspired images of a plain white tank top. Now, an artist under that name is likely to experience people adopting an unflattering opinion of his personal life. So again, choose wisely!
Using slang or joke names can have different connotations. So while a name might be entirely appropriate in one area, a different target audience might find it wholly inappropriate.
I once had an embarrassing experience where I told a friend I wanted a sweater, and he thought I was telling him I was sweaty, but felt awkward and didn’t comment. He told me the story months later when he finally realized what I’d said and explained that he’d never heard of a jumper called a sweater before. Instead of conjuring the image of a jumper, I’d inadvertently told him I was perspiring. Not the end of the world, but when you’re dealing with your stage name, you want people to respond to it the way you intended, not with some other meaning.
Double-check that your name doesn’t mean odd things in other languages or have negative connotations among different cultures.
Creating A Brand
According to Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” Simply put, your brand is the customer’s impression of your business. This includes the colors, logo, packaging, customer service – the whole deal.
The DJ business is no different, so make sure to pay attention to the small, superficial details. Your identity is everything from what type of music you create to how you dress and even what charities you promote.
Make sure that you believe in the messages you’re promoting and the life you’re leading. While fan love is intoxicating, it is capricious and viciously cruel when it feels like it’s spotted hypocrisy. Put another way, fans want to be able to see consistency. Adam Levine sold a punk image to go with his awesome lyrics and crazy falsettos, and all put together, his fan base could understand what they’d get when listening to a Maroon 5 album.
After choosing your name, you need to create a logo, choose colors, take pictures, and decide on some sort of direction, a life philosophy that drives you and that is easily communicated. This will give you a clear trajectory and help you realize your dreams.
So there you have it, our definitive guide on how to come up with a stage name. I hope you’ve found some inspiration in there and already have your DJ logo idea sloshing around in your head. If not, here’s a brief recap of some of the key points.
There’s the natural approach, which uses your given name as this gives you a superior authenticity. However, if your name isn’t easily remembered, too complicated, or you simply want to go in a different direction, you can go through your other options.
Old nicknames, abbreviations, or even simplified spellings are a good way to infuse your stage name with something personal but still cool and specific to DJing. For those who want to go in an entirely different direction and maybe hoping to separate their DJing from their personal life, there are many ways to decide on the stage name that’s right for you.
The easiest is if you have some sort of life philosophy or word phraseology that you like, you can practice moving it around and playing with the sounds until you fall on something that sounds right. Take a look at similar artists to you or even famous DJs for more inspiration.
Additionally, you can plug in your chosen words to a name generator, which produces many configurations and associations of your entry and gives you much more concrete food for thought. Consider images, phrases, even people, and places that are meaningful to you, and go from there.
Whether you are happy being a bedroom DJ or plan on one day becoming a professional DJ and have a DJ career, have fun with it.
Remember, all the above applies if you are also coming up with a music producer name or any other pseudonym in the entertainment industry.