Having exceptional talent, world-class DJ Gear, lots of practice, and an upper advantage on the best DJ effects make you ready to step into the deejaying world, right? Technically yes, but practically wrong. There is something else that’s equally, if not more, important that can determine your fate as a DJ – your DJ name.
Ironically, most DJs pick a name without thinking anything would ever come from it on a lark. Many aspiring DJs don’t pay too much attention and end up adopting bland monikers, or in worse case scenarios, they don’t bother taking up any DJ names. However, some of them often get stuck up later on with accidental results, which they never foresaw.
Whether you’re looking to come up with your deejaying stage name for the first time or you’re trying to re-brand an old moniker, this article will help you to make that important decision. Instead of just bombarding you with fluffy suggestions, we’ll also look at the science behind DJ names, branding and provide you with the way forward to a successful career.
Why do you have to choose a DJ name?
Emerging as a top DJ in the already competitive industry is really difficult, and surviving in it is also a challenge. For you to stand out among the millions of already popular names, you need to position your strong brand identity well.
To succeed, you must have a unique aspect – what sets you apart from the rest? Well, deejaying is a skill, and many people learn the same skills from each other. So, however you play, might not be too much different from what someone else is doing. Yes, elite skills and quality craft contribute to your overall branding – eventually. But your name holds a higher significance.
This is why when you wish to get a piece of the market share, you must come up with a unique selling point in terms of marketing to enhance your visibility in the market.
Real name vs. Nom de plume
Whenever most of us tell our friends or introduce ourselves to strangers that we are DJs, what’s the first question that usually follows that? Yes, they will always be like, “And what’s your DJ name?” That’s how much important a DJ name is if that’s the very first question we all get asked.
Most DJs are often torn up between using their real name or a nom de plume. But why would anyone use a fake name yet they can use their real identities as their stage names? It’s all an interesting balance. A ‘fake’ name allows you to craft an identity around the actual name or one based on your personality or skills.
Out of the many DJs in the world, only a handful have actually launched themselves with their own names. These exceptions, such as Allan Walker, Calvin Harris, Armin Van Buuren, etc., decided to go with their real names. But why won’t you also take the same step up? You can also go through the same route or come up with a unique moniker that people will only identify with you.
DJs such as Tiesto, Avicii, Skrillex, and many others were able to make a name for their brand by coming up with nom de plumes based on a number of factors, including their personality or just a nickname. For instance, Skrillex has been said to have gotten the name as onomatopoeia of the music that he makes.
Deejaying as a career is a business, and just like coming up with a good company name, you’ll experience the same dilemma. According to a piece done by Mashable in 2008 about naming startups, Nina Beckhardt, president of The Naming Group, an agency whose employees have crafted names for Walmart, Target, and Puma, notes:
“There’s a spectrum from descriptive names which speak directly to a product benefit or attribute, to empty vessel names, where it doesn’t mean anything about the product that we’re talking about.”
As DJs, it is also important to remember that you also have the same choices to make. The three of them include:
- Being factual – picking your real name
- Descriptive – a name that describes the type of DJ that you are
- Abstract – going for hybrid names or choosing non-English words.
To help you understand the power of branding, you can draw your facts from the recently published list of the top 100 most popular DJs by DJ Mag. The 2019 list consisted of top DJs, where more than 60 of them used fake names that people identify them with.
Out of the top ten, only David Guetta, Armin Van Buuren, and Oliver Heldens use their real names. The others, such as Afrojack, Martin Garrix, Marshemello, etc., use names that represent their brand and not their birth names.
As you can see, made-up names tend to ‘shout’ better than real names. However, we are yet to find substantial scientific research that tells us which style is more appealing to the masses. This means you may have to go with your guts here.
In this digitally-advanced world, the number one thing that should be on your high priority list is picking a name that would easily show up on the search engines. Is your name unique? Can you actually own the name, and that no one else is using the same name? If someone Googled the name, would you easily rank?
While promoting your DJ name on online platforms, you need to be able to have control of all the major online platforms, such that nobody else is using the same name as you. This means whenever someone goes to all major social media platforms and search for your name, only your brand shows up (or at least at the top).
To help you get started, here’s a checklist that you can use when coming up with the right name that’s easy to rank organically:
- Is the .com domain available?
- Is the Facebook custom URL available?
- Is the Twitter handle available?
- What are the top organic search results for that name?
- Are there any other DJs listed under that name?
The last point is very important, especially when it comes to legal matters. Suppose you became successful after taking up a name that someone else was already using; they might come to sue you later, in the name of copyright infringement or ‘confusing the public.’
The most surefire way to avoid running into such problems and complications in the future is to conduct a simple Google search on the name, or if you’re hell-bent on using that name to build your brand, you can perform a trademark search. Trademarking your brand name is the best way to go from a legal perspective.
Although it won’t be a simple process, it might save you a lot of legal fees and suits in the future. While we are not lawyers and not in a position to give legal advice, we found a comment from Pamela Koslyn, a Hollywood Business Attorney, in an Avvo discussion about artist trademarks.
Here’s what she said:
“TM rights are acquired by use, and maybe your use of providing musical services pre-dated the use by others – you don’t specify dates of use. Recording artists often register their performing name for those services, and the USPTO will do a search of others registered under the same or similar name to prevent competitors from confusing consumers, which is the USPTO’s mission.
There are 2 kinds of TMs, word, and stylized marks. Words marks are easier to get but harder to enforce against the use by others. Stylized marks are harder to get but easier to enforce. Which one you may want really depends on what rights you’ve already acquired by use in whatever type of TM you’ve been using until now.
You should see a TM lawyer help you with this – about 1/2 of all TM application are denied, and the fees are non-refundable, and you may want to TM your name for entertainment services, for CDs and DVDs, for clothing, and for online retail, each of which will cost you $325. I don’t know whether TMs are rejected because the applicants try to DIY, but it can only help your chances if you hire a lawyer.”
The brand identity
I know much of you only care about right now is just the music, but let’s face a few facts: if you succeed in your career, your name becomes a brand, and people will put value to it. If your brand is well-crafted and flexible, your brand can become more valuable. Some of the things you may need to think about are:
- Brand flexibility – do not pigeonhole yourself.
- Brand fit – does your name fit the style and vibe of the music you play?
- Visual appeal – how will your name look like when it appears in the text? If your name was to be put on a poster, would it attract people?
Here’s a bonus tip: Try to create a mockup flyer with an event that you might want to play in. does your potential name fit in well? You should also understand that flexibility is very crucial in terms of deejaying. This is because you never know what the future holds, but a particular name can hold you back from progressing.
For instance, if you started as DJ AfroRhythm, it will be hard for you to transition later into techno-house music. In the same way, going by DJ Skratchcr8zy won’t bring out the same appeal if you decided to venture into chill house music.
Variations on a theme
Coming up with a moniker from scratch can be difficult, so why don’t you get started with what you already know and modify it? Some of the things you can do are:
- Alter your real name – if you feel great about your name, then this is the road for you to take. Just add a little tweaking to your name, and you’ll easily come up with a compelling stage name. Some popular DJs that have tweaked their real names are Martin Garrix, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, etc.
- Alter a famous name – do you know about any popular brands of names that you can easily tweak without sounding too much like you’ve ‘borrowed’ the name from them? If you have this ability to tweak an already existing name, do so. However, you have to be wise when doing so to avoid any legal suits in the future. Some of the most popular DJs, especially in the electronic field, to have taken this route include Mord Fustang and Com Truise.
- Consider foreign words – an abstract name has a high potential in terms of branding. Most people get their inspirations from Greek and Latin word translations for their favorite words.
Using DJ name generators
If you’re a little stuck up and not feeling so creative about what direction you should take, there are other ways to make the work easier for yourself. Most artists today use name generators to develop something unique that can help them in their branding journey.
You’ll find many DJ name generators freely found on the internet that you can take full advantage of. Some of them will go the extra mile to provide you with a form to fill, noting down your genre, your likes, your real name, etc., all in a bid to come up with something unique that you can relate with.
Some of the best DJ name generators to consider include:
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Should you have a “DJ” in the title or not?
A: While the answer to this question is entirely subjective, it solely depends on the type of crowd you’ll mostly be playing to and the genre of music you do. However, we will once again refer you to DJ mag’s top 100 deejays list. Out of all of them, only one with the prefix ‘DJ’ stood out (DJ Snake).
Q: How do you know that your name suits the DJ you want to be?
A: First and foremost, what kind of DJ do you intend to be? This should be the first thing to consider. If you’re looking to become a mobile DJ, your name should not scare the parents of engaged couples while still appealing to millennials. Likewise, for corporate bookings, it should be acceptable to the “company decision-maker” while still generating excitement on their promo.