Posted: 16 July 2018

In a world full of artists, where do you belong? 

Read time: 6 mins

The industry is bursting at the seams with worthy musicians, so, how do you stand out? Finding your identity as a musician can be challenging but is important. Being a musician is more than making inspiring music. It’s about the person behind the music. It’s about who you are on stage, in interviews or at music events. The identity you take on as a musician can impact on album or ticket sales and is as important a factor as the quality of the music itself.

So how can you show people who you are? Well the most obvious part of your identity both in regular life and in the music industry is your name. It’s no secret that naming your band or picking a pseudonym for yourself can be tricky so we’ve compiled some top tips:

1. List every idea

That means every idea makes the list, even if you think it’s stupid. Playing rhyming games or other children’s games like ‘I Spy’ can help get the process started.

2. Mix and match

Mix together some of the ideas you’ve come up with and see if they sound better. Adding the perfect adjective, number or symbol could take your name from average to awesome. 

3. Check online

Once you’ve got some names that you like, it's worth typing them into a search engine to see what comes up, make sure it's your own. Be wary of names with negative connotations. While the music industry is known for controversy and pushing the boundaries, an offensive name may seriously limit your options in the future.

4. Think big picture

What started out as a temporary name may end up being your moniker for life so you need to think about the long-term impact. How would that name look on album covers and merchandise? What about web domains and social media pages?

5. Don't follow the crowd

While you might want your name to fit in with your chosen genre, don’t just copy what everyone else is doing. It’s hard to stand out when everyone’s got the same word or phrase in their band names. Among the most popular choices for bands, are names to do with animals, blood, the sea and the colour black.

Coming up with a good stage name is challenging, but remember that all artists before you have been through the same thing. We looked at the current top 50 singles in the UK and USA charts to check out any name trends from some of the world’s most famous artists:

Personas and personalities

Now you've got your name, let's look at your on-stage persona. For some people this is just about having confidence and presence but other people want to take this further, building their own public-facing alter ego. 

For most people, who they are on stage is an extension of their day to day personality. It comes naturally and develops over time. However, some people want to separate their personal lives from their music and create a whole new character to portray on stage. You only need to look at the work of David Bowie to see how successful an alter ego can be. Sometimes though, the most recognisable thing about an artist isn't their outrageous personality or elaborate alter ego. Sometimes it's something symbolic like the colours you choose to wear or the way you do your makeup. 

Given what we see in the media, it's easy to think that your personality as a musician is predetermined. Some of the stereotypes about musicians crop up so often that you might even be convinced that that's the way you're supposed to act. But just how true are the ideas we have about different band members? Take a look at some of the most common stereotypes about people in bands. Do any of them really match who you are?

Covers vs Originals

Figuring out your name and stage persona is important but what you play is also a huge part of who you are. It can be hard to decide what music you want to show off on stage. Do you want to play those chart toppers you’ve been practicing in your bedroom for all these years? Or maybe you’re ready to finally reveal those lyrics you’ve been scrawling on the back of napkins? Are you destined for a career in covers or originals?

Cover bands may get a lot of stick but they can be great fun. There's something magical about having a crowd instantly react to your performance and having a room full of people singing, dancing and clapping along. Gigs usually get a strong turnout and generally the pay reflects this. In the short term it can even pay better than doing the circuit as an originals band. However, a lot of cover bands find it hard to progress in their careers. There isn't as big a market for albums or arena tours and few record labels are looking for cover bands. That isn't to say there aren't exceptions to the rule. Some of the most influential artists of today started out in tribute bands. 

Being in an originals band isn't always easy. As if writing a great original track wasn't challenging enough, there's the added uncertainty of how it will fair in front of a crowd. Until you can prove that your sound can draw in a steady crowd, you might only be offered low paid, or even unpaid, gigs. So, why do people do it? Well, there are few things better than seeing someone fall in love with your music. When the audience goes wild, they’re going wild for your songs and your talent. That kind of response makes the long hours and the low pay worth it. It'll help to open new doors within the industry like getting signed, selling music and maybe one day touring the world.

So who am I?

As important as band names, stage personas and performance material is, it's equally important to remember at the centre of all of this is you. Your life story, your experiences; struggles and passions are what makes you unique. In a world full of talented musicians, it’s your one-of-a kind take on the world that can mark you out amongst the masses. 

Ultimately there’s no rule book to discovering who you are as an artist. There are countless examples of artists who broke the mold. Who weren't afraid to challenge stereotypes and be different. So maybe the question isn’t who am I, but who do you want to be? So whoever you decide to be, wear your identity with pride.