Illustration: Daniel Zender
Choosing an artist name can be as crucial as deciding what kind of music you want to make.
But what if you wanted to change your artist name, whether it was for a rebrand, for a fresh start, or because your Spotify page is populated by a Swedish metal act that just so happens to share your stage name? Fear not—here’s a guide to changing your artist name, working with third-party distributors, and staying true to your artistry.
Why should you change your artist name?
Many artists have changed their names for a variety of reasons. Chet Faker became Nick Murphy to make his music feel more personal and less like a project. Rich Chigga became Rich Brian because of the insensitive and racially-tinged implications of his former moniker. Saint Pepsi became Skylar Spence facing legal issues with PepsiCo. Prince became a symbol.
I personally changed my project from “Exitpost,” a meaningless and distracting combination of words I thought was cool when I was 18, to “Kenneth Takanami,” to reflect my Japanese heritage and be more true to my project. I heard someone describe a stage name you hate as “wearing an ugly outfit to a party.” I was tired of wearing what felt like an embarrassing appearance at all times, and decided to shift gears.
So, take your time to think about this. After all, it’s your project and you should feel happy making the music you do. Besides, nothing lasts forever—Nick Murphy made his triumphant return as Chet Faker just last month. Chet Fake it til you make it?
How to change your artist name
There are three things to remember to change: your name on streaming platforms, your name across social media, and your domains and email addresses.
The most challenging process is changing your artist name on streaming platforms, if you want to move all of your old music over. This is especially difficult for independent artists without relationships at streaming platforms. Third-party music distributors unfortunately don’t let you simply change your name like you would a username on a website like SoundCloud. However, most streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music will let you keep your play counts and playlist placements for old music under a new name—just follow these steps.
- The first thing to do is take all of your music down off of these platforms. This may seem daunting, but hang tight—I’ll explain. Keep note of your ISRC codes, as some distributors (like DistroKid) will let you input those when you re-upload.
- Re-upload your music with your distributor with your new name. For most streaming platforms, this should go through without a hitch. Most third-party distributors will let you input the old ISRC codes of your work. If your music is rejected because a streaming platform recognizes a duplicate, contact their customer support. If they’re unable to help, try a different distributor. I switched distributors and was able to re-upload all of my work under a new name and keep my play counts (these streaming platforms’ algorithms for music recognition are pretty reliable).
- If you still have issues re-uploading music, one other trick you can try is to slightly alter your master. Add a fade-in or a fade-out to a song, and streaming platforms won’t reject the track outright, but will allow it to go up under your name with play counts.
- Share your new name with the world! A great way to do this is to time it along with a new release, so everyone can follow your new account and stay tuned for new music.
Be sure to quickly grab available usernames across social media platforms for your new artist name; you can always register a username before using it. Note that Instagram won’t let you change your handle for up to two weeks, so make sure you time switching your username accordingly.
It’s going to be okay
Changing your artist name is a fresh start. The idea of taking your music down and the risk of re-uploading or beginning a new project can be scary. But, it’s your art, and above all, you should prioritize staying true to your artistry. I immediately noticed a different response when I started releasing my work under my birth name. When Prince changed his name to combat his record label, he explained, “It is an unpronounceable symbol whose meaning has not been identified. It’s all about thinking in new ways, tuning in to a new ‘free-quency.’”
So, good luck and find your own frequency.
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February 23, 2021