Peculiar to music are sound and lyrics. While sometimes, it involves physical attraction to the artist, sound and lyrics endear artists to fans and help them gain acceptance. When you get accepted, you create a brand around the things you feel represent you with the fans. The cumulative of these factors is the artist’s or creator’s identity.
But one fundamental part of identity is a stage name. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a young, super-talented upcoming Nigerian artist.
He had everything going for him; the voice, the sonic understanding, the songwriting, the understanding of marketing and the meticulousness that the greats have, but the sophisticated part of him made him choose a three-word stage name that seemed of medieval European origin.
Now, let’s get one thing clear; while we have certain Nigerian artists making money without albums and singles, but simply through stage performances and endorsements, most Nigerian artists will only make money via hit singles, and grabbing a market share with the majority of Nigerians.
It is important to understand that the bulk of Nigerians are not sophisticated
Depth is perpetually lost on Nigerians. The elites might enjoy the symbolisms and other figurative expressions that possess depth, but the average Nigerian, that represents majority of the market share you hope to grab craves simplicity. Anything complex is tedious and will get ignored or criticized.
Usually, your music is the first thing that attracts people to you, but sometimes too, it’s your name. The funny part is; our world is now super-fast and incredibly ruthless. Our world is saturated with too much content and too little time – and even resources – to consume the content.
Thus, people have become intolerant and cynical, with a bias that grows by the second. This bias and their natural preference means they now either like something by default or hate it on the spot. Asides that, emotions these days is a game of two extremes with no middle ground. People either like you or they don’t.
In this fast world, where the fan has too much content to consume, there is a competition for the fan’s attention and the upcoming artist is bang in that conversation. You and your music need the fan to pay attention to you, he owes you nothing until you buy his loyalty with your content and he becomes a fan.
The reason is then simple; everything about you must be relatable, original, simple and crisp, not tedious in anyway.
America is not Nigeria
Ladies and gentlemen, avant-garde concepts and polemic movements in music – stage name, genre of music and appearance – sell better in America. The trap culture is currently big business there, but guess what, it was not always been like this. At the risk of sounding dismissive, Americans are also better evolved than we are.
Equally, even in the west, most avant-garde movements are subcultures. When the punk and gothic cultures were big business in America, it tickled an evolving teenage to under-30s following, not entirely the mainstream.
Thus, artists need to understand why they want to make music. Do you want to retain the originality of your sound, style and brand? Do you want to make money – which I think is most people’s goal? That’s for you to decide. But it’s important to understand that not everybody will succeed as the wildcard/exception.
Most people’s course will forever be determined by the general rule. So, in the eventuality that you fall under the general rule, please make decisions that will make you thrive.
So, for people who aim to make money, here are a few pointers on how to choose a good stage name;
1. Be original: Try to sniff if the name has not been used in anyway by anybody and avoid cliché. Cliché naturally attracts cynicism from people. You might yet succeed, but cliché could very well slow your rise.
2. The name must be as short as possible.
3. While the name must be short, it is better if the name can be pronounced and better it’s not an acronym.
4. The name must be simple, and geared toward your target audience. If you are in Nigeria, it will be better to choose a name that everybody can pronounce.
If the name is going to come from your tribe, you might need to make it short and easily pronounced, even if people might get the sound wrong.
Other times, your genre of music also determines your name. A name like, ‘A Deaux La Feminant’ could definitely be a problem.
5. Be creative while understanding the first four points. Also remember, you can always change your stage name before you 'blow.'
Now I understand, you might query how people from Latin America, or Asia, with relatively complicated names thrive across the world, but I’ve answered it.
The west is not Nigeria, the west is a mix of all kinds of races and ethnicity, the ones who blow might have a different route in life to the average person. Remember, there is the rule and then, there is the exception.
I am not saying you will not make it if your name is complicated, but a good stage name will definitely stand you in a better stead. Will that guarantee your success? No.
A good stage name is just one of the things you need to succeed as an artist. The others; sound, style, lyrics, technique, uniqueness and sometimes, your ability to simply craft hits.