File Under: Creating and Maintaining Your Persona, Marketing Your Music, Building Your Music Business, Understanding Your Legal Rights
If you need to choose an artist name, or if you are thinking about starting a side project, follow this how-to so you choose a name that’s memorable, searchable, trademarkable, and yours.
- Estimated Cost: Free.
- Estimated Time: 15 minutes preparation with immediate results.
What You Need To Have Before You Start: A list of potential band/artist names and your brainstorming skills.
1. Perform a web search on all the major search engines.
Using your list of names, pop each one into your favorite search engines to see if any other bands or artists are using the name. This should pull up results not only from the web, but also many of the most popular social networks such as Facebook or Twitter and other musician-focused sites like Reverbnation, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and more. This is important since once you have your name these are the sites where you’ll want to set up accounts. Pay particular attention to the first search results page and the top results, though keep in mind some artists with the same name could turn up a few pages in.
If you discover a band or artist using the name, scratch it off your list and brainstorm another one. If you determine your name will likely get lost in the sea of search results or is associated with results you don’t necessarily want to be associated with, scratch that name off your list. If your search comes up clear, you can go on to the next step.
2. Check domain registrars to see if your name is taken (and to reserve your name).
You’ll need a website, so make sure that the domain name with your band/artist name is available for purchase. Search a domain registrar like NameCheap and GoDaddy. If it's already registered, find a new name. This is important since your domain name will be printed on all of your posters, merchandise, albums, and web presences.
3. If in the U.S., search the US Trademark Office online to rule names out.
The US Trademark Office has a free online search tool called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) where you can check to see if your desired name has been trademarked or is pending. Not every business or person trademarks their name (there’s a lot to it), but those that do are serious about their name in the marketplace and are staking a claim to use it uniquely and stop others from using it.
If the name you choose triggers a similar result, you’ll likely want to scratch it off your list because it's already been trademarked. If your search comes back with “No TESS records were found to match the criteria of your query”, that’s a good sign that no one has registered the trademark, and that it might be available.
NOTE: There’s a lot to this thing called “trademark”, so if you want to learn more and are serious about obtaining one for yourself, we recommend talking to a lawyer, and also, the Lynda course Music Law: Managing a Band's Business is a good reference. For detailed information about trademarking a band name, see The Indie Band Survival Guide (2nd Edition).
Once you’ve zeroed in on a name, some of the next steps include:
- Purchase the domain.
- Set up your website.
- Set up accounts on social presences such as Facebook, Twitter, Reverbnation, Last.fm, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and more.
- Consider trademarking your name for music and merchandise purposes.
- Music Law: Managing a Band's Business
- The Indie Band Survival Guide (Remixed & Remastered: Second Edition)
- Making Money With Music (15-hour Online Course)
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Photo credit: Jack Dorsey