Depending on where you’re at in your career, changing your artist/band name can either be as easy as renaming a few social profiles or as difficult as destroying every trace of your previous incarnation and humbly starting from scratch. Hopefully you’ll never have to change your name, but here are some reasons you might have to:
You find out another band is using the same name.
Understandably, this used to be a much more common occurrence before the advent of the internet. Somewhat less understandably, it’s still a problem. Swedish metal weirdoes Ghost recently changed their name to Ghost BC as a result of what they described as “legal reasons.” They are the 32nd band on Discogs to use that name, so I’m assuming one of the previous 31 told them to knock it off.
Then there’s the case of bands like Suede and The Charlatans, who had no issues in the UK, but as soon as they came to the States found they didn’t have claim to those names. You might know them as The London Suede and The Charlatans UK. Not quite as catchy.
Do your googling and make sure the name you want hasn’t been used before! You’ll save yourself some major annoyances later.
You realize the name you picked is terrible.
You think Radiohead would have conquered the music world using their original name, On a Friday? Well, maybe. Their music is really good. But, On a Friday is a high-school band name if I’ve ever heard one, and the future-Radiohead’s label saw this and made the band change it. Plenty of bands have had to – or chosen to – do this, and they’re probably glad they did. You think Red Hot Chili Peppers is a mouthful? Try Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem.
You have rendered yourself unGoogleable.
Sure, you could name your band Food (I’m sure it’s already happened many, many times), but good luck getting anyone to find you online. Not to mention the struggle that comes with trying to get a decent URL, Facebook address, etc. You might find this is all too much and decide to go with something with a little more SEO power. May I suggest The Food UK?
Your name no longer reflects your music or is holding you back from a wider audience.
Portland band Starf*cker decided to change their name back in 2009, briefly becoming PYRAMID, then Pyramiddd, then they just changed it back. Rapper Killer Mike temporarily become Mike Bigga a few years back, but he changed back, too. Both artists probably felt the connotations that came with their names was hindering them, but when you’re at a level of popularity such as they were, it was too late and it didn’t take.
Which brings us to the real point of this article: how do you get it to take? And how do you do it in a way that your fan base will accept and respect? It can be tough, certainly, but not impossible. Here are some tips:
Tell people why you’re changing your name and take any criticisms in stride.
Fans and friends will want to know why you’re making this change, so tell them. Whether it’s for legal, career, or personal reasons, they’ll understand. They may not love the idea at first, but stay strong and stick with your decision. Your fans will adjust.
Use it as an excuse to have a party or show.
“Food is now The Food UK! Come celebrate our rechristening and pick up a t-shirt with our new name and logo on it!” Boom: you’ve turned a possibly awkward situation into a reason to celebrate, and it’s a great way to spread the word.
Unless you’ve received threatening legal documents, leave your old stuff up for a while.
People will still be trying to find you under your old name, so let those sites/profiles live for a little while. Just make sure the old sites make the name-change clear and have direct links to your new pages. Or, just redirect your old site to your new one and save them a click.
If you want this to go smoothly, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row. Slowly transitioning things (specifically online things) over the course of a few weeks will just add to the confusion. Make a plan ahead of time, have all your new branding supplies ready, and try to add the new stuff and delete the old stuff all in one fell swoop.
Have you ever changed your band/artist name? We’d love to know if it helped or hurt, and how you did it. Tell us your stories in the comments section.
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["What's Your Name?" image from Shutterstock.]