What's in a name?

How do you choose your “performance name”?

I’m writing this as I have been considering this question for a while, and seem to have stuck with ‘steveoath’ even though it is clinging on to a past musical life. When performing/recording did you consider the asthetics of name? Did you choose something because it sounded right for the genre? Or do you use your own name?

It might be kind of trivial, but the names of artists/bands is a part of music that has fascinated me. When I first started going to diy gigs (pre widespread internet!) my mate and I used to look for cool sounding names on flyers and saw a lot of great shows.

Favorites? For me “if these trees could talk” really resonates with their songs. (Is that because I know what they sound like?)


e-os = horse (eee-yosss) phonetic and a concatenation of various world spellings of “horse”
hrafnfaxi = black mane

I call him my Halter Ego

I’ve been using “boring machine” for quite a long time now. Chose it the old-fashioned way, by opening a random page of a big-ass dictionary and blindly selecting a word :).

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READYdot for a very long time. It was not my idea, but we started as a colective (i’m the only one left). We were all over chiptunes and the likes so the name comes from the C64s READY:_ (well, yeah not a dot but READYdot sounds better than READYdash or READYunderscore…)

For YEARS I was Kinetic Monkey - When I started making electronic music I just thought that Kinetic sounded cool, but there was already a DJ Kinetic when I went to upload my music to Vitaminic (was it called that? I feel like it was… Yup! I started THAT long ago.) So I added “Monkey” to the end because Bonobo’s debut had just been released, I was all over that, and Monkey’s were COOL. Fast-forward 18 months, and the Artic Monkeys exploded making every other band with Monkey in the name get “Like the Artic Monkeys?!” every time they mention their name.

I now go by the artistic name of “Simeon Smith” because… well, because that’s my name.

I love post-rock band names like Explosions In The Sky, And So I Watch You From Afar, MaybeSheWill etc… It’s kind of like a snippet of their story and it makes you want to hear the rest.


i feel like i have this conversation often with people, so it’s clearly a good topic.

monikers or project names give a sense of liberation from past work, in a certain sense. so if you had a rad rock band back in the day and suddenly want to do a house record, perhaps it feels like a clean break so the new work can be judged on merit.

but there’s also something about just sticking to your real name, or a single stage name. i’d hope that audiences would be ok listening to a variety of different material, and not be disappointed if it doesn’t follow the thread of past projects.

as for the name itself, to me it’s a completely aesthetic/narrative decision. it’s part of the work/project.


@tehn the “clean break” is exactly what I feel I should be doing. I think I tend to write dark sounding stuff as that’s what I had done previously (the ‘oath’ coming from previous band).

I want to wipe the slate so hopefully I can approach writing without any narrow process. I would like to experiment a bit more instead of being one dimensional.

So the upcoming lcrp will be new moniker time. Been Reading/watching scifi recently so either… Delta City (RoboCop ref), or the more absurd Falconer Quellcrist (a rearrangement of a character/legend’s name from Richard K Morgan’s ‘takeshi Kovacs’ series of novels).

this has been my strategy. if i could have ever thought up a moniker that felt right i might have used it, but i never could. there’s also an air of professionalism and seriousness about using one’s given name, which, depending on one’s aesthetics, politics, objectives, and/or moods may or may not be a good thing.

i agree with this also, and in addition to “seriousness”, the use of a real name comes across as “neutral” or intrinsic, so the work isn’t really about the name of the artist. whereas by taking particular genre-specific names, the person and the work become wrapped up as the same thing.

that said, i’ve been using the same moniker for 20 years now-- and it feels like a virtual self that has existed long before social media. it feels weird to get attached to a virtual self, particularly a word that is hardly ever spoken out loud.

also-- the point about politics-- using a real name as a form of anti-anonymity i really appreciate.


Yeah, but not everyone has a name that can be internationally read… I find that sometimes really frustrating trying to communicate the name of that new guy, and your listeners just goes… “Ehem…”

For me the process of creating music is a meditativ, trip-like experience. I can totally drift away, forget time and jam on a single loop and a beat for an hour or more untill my ears cant take it anymore :wink: Maybe it’s due to my workflow: Most of the time i take a beat i created befor and start jamming into ableton/mlr and using lots of effects on top of that.
That is the trippy part.
After that the work starts: Listening through the recorded session, choosing which parts to use, editing them, adding additional layers/parts, …
I hate that part.

Another reason is that i hope my latest ‘songs’ will send the listener on a acoustic trip. And because i feel the stuff i create is best labled in the way my name suggests.

As i have to kick my own ass every time to get the second part of my song-creation-workflow done, I’m way behind my planned schedule. The album i wanted to release on bandcamp end of last year is still work in progress. One more song and some minor mixing changes have to be done first. So i hope end of 2015 is a more realistic release date.

Then you’ll be the judge if my assumptions regarding the connection of my music and my name are justified - or if i’m just trppng.


Comes from an alias I’ve been using forever in forums, chat and games. From an early episode of " The Jackie Chan Adventures " … I just thought this line was hilarious :

So anything that is in the digital domain is under that name. Where I use my given name for ‘organic/acoustic’ efforts…

A while back I read an article online on how to “compose” your pseudonym (I don’t remember the source unfortunately…). The essence was something like that: Pay attention to whether you use and (if you do) where you place plosives like “p, t, k”, depending on the style of music you create and the connotation you want to cause, such as emotional response or even just a certain esthetic quality. I think music that has a harsh quality to it benefits from a project or artist name that is rich in plosives (see death or black metal bands) and the other way round. Sometimes I even find that more accurate than the moniker’s actual meaning, though this isn’t a general rule of course.
I think almost everyone has a sense for artist names somehow fitting the music the artist makes, and this somehow helped me get more of a feeling for finding suitable project names.

Using your real name to me is actually by far the most courageous and most consequent way of publishing music, because it implies you accepted all of the different styles of music and maybe even different art forms you create as an expression of your personality regardless of any differences in style or genre. Plus the seriousness and professionalism thing that analogue01 pointed out and of course tehn’s argument of the audience tending to rather accept any changes in musical styles. I don’t agree with this in terms of using a single stage name that is a pseudonym though… I mean, I’m sure everyone of you knows the feeling of slight disappointment when an artists releases a new record and you just feel as if the quality somehow decreased just because the artist left known waters. I even know it the other way round, there are artists whose recent work I absolutely admire but whose older records to me somehow don’t quite cut it.


I think it depends on the aim of your musical output. For my primarily modular sound exploration project I picked the name “Synthetic Reality” because:

  • I thought it sounded kind of cool / futuristic
  • I am using the project to explore different forms of sound synthesis and structure
  • I try to make each piece specifically put the listener in a different space / mood removed from the current

Originally I thought I might use the name for other music as well but I think I won’t. I’m starting work on some techno music and it just doesn’t seem as appropriate. Also I’m planning to play out some techno shows and it just doesn’t look like something that really fits the genre / sound I want to portray.

I thought this was rather simple until i read the thread and really thought about some of the points raised. There are still questions I cant answer (mostly why) but i’ll join the discussion.

rapidfire answers…


glia is my online self. i stumbled on the word while reading years ago and it’s meaning intrigued me. i have had other online “selves” but this one has lived the longest because it has deep personal meaning now. it represents things i consider important and is a constant (and compact) reminder of those things to me

i can never be sure what it means to others but i deliberately chose it knowing that most people will only encounter the name online. it is short, easily pronounced, and in my eyes, typographically solid.

rather than change names based on genres or styles, i just use album and song titles to accomplish the same thing that others do with different aliases. i have assumed other names only when i collaborate (which is rare) and was quite happy to remain anonymous during live shows so neither my nickname nor real name has ever appeared on posters or bills. if i perform again in the future i would just use glia

(on a tangent: all of that logic gets thrown out the window when i do visuals. i have used my real name in the past for fotographic work and more recently adopted a separate moniker for motion graphics and film experiments.)

anyway for the past few days i couldnt quite parse why i prefer the anonymity of an alias. i thought it was because i have no interest in my real life mingling with my online life but that cant be entirely true…i have told some folks i know that i record as glia.

but the truth i had to confront was sort of startling: i’m not comfortable being identified as a musician. i’m into music more than most but my choice of a separate name indicates that i dont view music as important enough to file under my birthname. in real life i am a teacher and a minister and to be known for anything else feels strange

anytime people have referred to me directly by the name i created for music it has been disorienting. it’s very difficult to describe the exact feeling but it stems from the fact that i rarely speak the name or think of myself as “gli”

i’m not sure if that perspective makes sense to anybody on here (or if it resembles schizophrenic rambling) but it represents my view on this topic

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woah time capsule moment

stumbled in here searching for a completely different post

To revive this topic a bit…

What are people’s thoughts on using just one monicker versus multiple?

I see the advantage of using name mostly being that it makes recognition easier. However I also feel that it doesn’t quite seem appropriate if you are working in multiple totally different genres. At least to me, a name can evoke certain associations and moods that compliment the music. It doesn’t necessarily fit all styles.

jasonw22 sort of splits the difference between my largely unpronounceable real name and the robotic randomness of an aol-like screen name.

23 years ago (really?!) when I first started writing on usenet and mailing lists and irc I used manycrows when I wanted to be anonymous and jasonw22 when I didn’t.

There’s a story behind manycrows but I was surprised after meeting my now-wife, who first got to know me online, that without knowing the actual story, it implied another story she made up herself. In her mind’s eye I was a Native American, middle aged. Not a 20something blonde of German descent.

I eventually started to see authenticity problems with online anonymity and stopped using manycrows.

But I might go back to it for music.

Genres? Bah. :wink:


Hi there, good people of lines! :eye:.:eye:

I was just struggling and in crisis (as always) with project names, and I had the feeling I might not be alone, so I’d like to start a conversation about it!

The idea of releasing under my real name has something that makes me feel more connected to the music, and it does pleases my ego. In parallel, there is the anxiety of being ‘responsible’ for that music, and directly linked to criticism.

Also, I want the music to be heard, and there is always the insecurity that the name might not be “cool enough”. It might sound childish, but you know, how can one read “Venetian Snares” and not give it a shot?

On the other side, there is a aesthetic appeal to a pseudonym and something about a good project name suggesting that the music transcends the musician. If that second path is chosen, how can the musician find a name that resonates with his work or at least with himself?

Please, share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with us :sunny:

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And an anonymous poll just for fun? :eyes:

  • My releases are under my own name;
  • My releases are under a pseudonym/project name;
  • I really haven’t thought about it and I’m using a nickname of some sort that could be my own name or not.

0 voters