When choosing the name that’s going to represent you and your music, don’t take the decision lightly. The moniker is going to follow you wherever you go, and it will be forever associated with any music you release under the name. So choose wisely: picking a good name can not only be a great tool in promoting your band/brand, but it can also help you avoid fan confusion, online hassles, and possibly even lawsuits.

How about a stage name? If you’re a solo artist, the thought of using anything but your real name may not have occurred to you. And honestly, most of the time, using your given name is going to work just fine. After all, what represents you better than the name you’ve been using your whole life? But if you have a really common name, one that might be overly hard to pronounce, or even one that you simply feel doesn’t suit your music – for whatever reason – don’t shy away from the idea of adopting a stage name. You won’t be the first musician to do it. I think we’ve all heard the theories on how Bob Dylan might have fared had he stuck with Robert Zimmerman. And you can’t help but wonder if Iggy Pop would have had the same impact had he gone by James Osterberg.

Does it match your music? Picking a band name is trickier, because unless you choose to go the Van Halen route and use your last name as your band name, you’re probably starting from scratch. (If you have a last name as cool as “Van Halen,” you may want to consider just going with that. Just sayin’.) There are many schools of thought when it comes to picking a band name, and there are no hard and fast rules that universally apply. Some folks would tell you that you should go with a name that directly evokes the feelings you’re trying to get across in your music, but if you’re a fan of irony and/or sarcasm, maybe choosing something completely incongruous with your sound is the way to go. But be wary of picking quirky or jokey names: what may seem funny at the time may seem old and tired down the road.

Use the internet! When picking your name, the internet is going to be your best friend. Think you’ve thought up the best band name ever? Give it a quick Google and see if somebody already beat you to it. You’d be surprised how many artists we see on CD Baby with the same band names. In the pre-internet days, you could claim ignorance when it came to another band having the same name as you’re using, but nowadays, you’ve got no excuse. Make sure you’ve chosen a name that no one is using, or no one has used. The last thing you want is someone badgering you online for taking their name, or even worse, taking legal action against you. So go original. When it comes to online promotions, you’ll be glad you did.

Online advantages of a highly original name:

– Search engine-friendly. Nothing like being the top result in Google when someone types your name in, instead of making people search through stuff to find you.

– Easier access to ideal domain names. If you name your band something no one else has ever thought of using, you’ve got a great chance of slapping a “.com” on the end of it and claiming the domain for yourself.

– Same goes for MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. While there’s nothing wrong with facebook.com/yournamemusicfacebook.com/yourname looks sharper. Choose an original name, and you’ve got better odds that no one’s using the URL you want.

Some common mistakes we’ve seen artists make:

– Using a first name only. If you just call yourself “Steve,” you’re never going to show up when people are searching for you online.

– Using overly common words. You ever wonder if the band Train gets tired of seeing locomotives pop up when they Google themselves?

– Using excessive punctuation and/or symbols, purposeful misspellings, or any other tweak that will constantly have you saying, “It’s spelled…” This one certainly has some exceptions (hey, it worked for !!!) but you might consider doing yourself a favor and leaving out the bells and whistles.

The bottom line: When picking a name, look to the future. Is it going to set you apart from the crowd, or is it going to fill you with regret and assure that you’re lost in the muck of the web? Use Google to do some research, and make an informed decision. You’ll be glad you did.