As an artist looking to make it in the music industry, having a searchable band name is essential to being discoverable by both fans and potential fans. In this piece Chris Robley details how artists can develop a moniker that will ensure they're findable after the show.
Musicians: Don’t be “UnGooglable!”
Is it “unGooglable?” Is it “unGoogle-able?” Whatever, I think you get the point:
You need your music, your website, your videos, your social presence to be found FIRST when someone searches for your artist name online.
Whether you’re a young garage band about to play your first gig, a YouTuber reconsidering your channel name, or a musician who’s about to be signed, when it comes to SEO (search-ability) considerations around your artist name, there are some common rules that apply no matter how you’re releasing music.
Your name should be… unique.
Duh. There are probably a thousand “Accordion Girl” videos on YouTube, but what about “Subsonic Accordion Banshee?” Stand out!
GOOGLE IT FIRST!
This is the most important thing, and the easiest way to ensure your name IS unique: search for whatever artist name you’re considering BEFORE you settle on something. You don’t want to find out later that you’ve got competition, plus a Trademark lawsuit on the horizon.
Don’t call yourself the thing that you DO.
It’s implied in the first example above, but don’t name yourself “Piano Covers” or “Video Game Classics.”
Let your name be bigger (and more searchable) than the kind of music you make. If anything, try mashing up your name with your genre, like Subsonic Accordion Banshee, Samurai Guitarist, Piano Mangler Bob, or Banjo Guy Ollie.
Your artist name probably shouldn’t have parentheses or a colon.
Loose Collars Bluegrass Trio is a perfectly fine band name.
Loose Collars (Bluegrass Trio) or Loose Collars: Famous Bluegrass Hits is not.
Be careful with funky spellings.
Your band name is Trahppyhhk EyeLanz3000?
Aunt Joe is gonna type “Tropic Islands Three Thousand” into her search engine. Sure Google MIGHT know how to find you, but that’s a big IF.
Maybe choose an artist name that kicks ass even when you spell it correctly!
Oh, and don’t expect people to know how to spell a cappella.
Don’t have a dozen different monikers.
We all know a bunch of hip hop stars who go by multiple names, and Will Oldham has released music under a trillion monikers, but there’s a difference between you and them. They’re already famous.
When you’re building your career, don’t confuse your audience by putting out similar music under a bunch of different names.
Know your brand.
Is your music all over the map? Do you get creatively restless? It’s probably best not to name yourself something that pigeonholes a genre like “Batshit Bonkers Ballroom Big Band.” Instead, choose a name that can serve as an umbrella for all your output.
Conversely, if you know you’re a diehard servant of swing for life, the five Bs above might just work!
Avoid using your own name if it’s common.
Nate Smith? Expect listeners to be confused, since there’s probably a Nate Smiths in every genre. Also, expect your music to get mixed in with other artists’ catalogs on platforms like Spotify.
Save yourself the headache. Try inventing a memorable stage name or moniker.
Funky casing won’t help.
nAtE sMiTh won’t make you any easier to find.
But Star Wars-izing your name might work! How about N8 Smithoo?
Don’t use terms that are commonly searched online.
And avoid single-word artist names that are already common things (like “Soap” or “Rope” or “Dope” or “Stars” or “Cars” or “Mars.”)
As for common search terms, “Used Bass” or “Lottery Tickets” might not be common artist names, but they sure as hell get a ton of search activity, and your music will be buried under a thousand other results.
Take your time.
Don’t rush into choosing your band name. It conveys a lot. It might be your single most important “branding” tool, so give it power.
Cover song artists should be even more careful choosing a great, searchable artist name, because people won’t be searching for you online using original song titles.
Your artist name is more than a username.
Treat it accordingly.
I don’t hear a name like Kill, Kill, Condemnation and picture peaceful New Age piano.
You want your name to evoke a mood that answers the question: “What will I hear when I listen to this artist.” If your name isn’t serving that purpose, or at the very least giving accurate hints, then it’s worth changing course.
Chris Robley is the Editor of CD Baby's DIY Musician Blog. I write Beatlesque indie-pop songs that've been praised by No Depression, KCRW, The LA Times, & others. My poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, Prairie Schooner, The Poetry Review, & more. I live in Maine and like peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, a little too much.