Updated: Jul 8, 2019
If you don’t feel your own name has enough va va voom (I’ve waited months to get that term into a blog), think of something personal to you which feels like a fitting ‘stage name’.
That could be as personal as using the year you were born in, which is how Ellyn Phillips of Studio 79 came up with the name of her city centre performing arts college. It is a reflection of how close to her heart the Studio is, literally evolving out of her roots in the city. With BTec courses funded by Regent College rather than students, making those courses accessible is both her Unique Selling Point and her personal passion for the business. “I think Leicester is a thriving city and, being born and bred here, I always wanted to give young people the opportunities I never had within the performing arts. I know the talent here is immense,” she smiles.
For Rude Angel, a band with a mission to raise suicide awareness since losing lead vocalist Lianne Ashberry in 2015, the name was about personality too: “Rude Angel was originally a passing fun reference to Liane’s mixture of goodness and irreverence,” explains writer, producer and musician Alan Chapman. “We liked the different meanings of ‘rude’ and it makes a lovely juxtaposition or contrast with ‘angel’. Now even more it reflects the paradox and the story – first Liane losing [her daughter] Ella, then us losing Liane.
It reflects the happy/sad mix, like so much art – it’s intense and joyful, desperate and uplifting, tearful and inspiring, serious and fun, dark and light.”
Once again, the personal approach was crucial. It was even more important for Rude Angel to get the name right as music, like so many other art forms – theatre, poetry, design, crafts – speaks to people on a “on a sensory instinctive level – not a logical ‘thought’ level, as we might consider a local council or firm of accountants,” continues Alan. This is an essential point for the creative industry.
Of course, it doesn’t get more personal than your own name. But that’s not to say you won’t share it with someone else in your industry as performance poet Rob Gee found out….
“I’m lucky enough to have been given a two syllable name which sounds like a stage name. I’m unlucky to share this name with an American hardcore techno DJ, who’s significantly more successful than me and hogs the first few pages on both Google and YouTube,
particularly in North America, where I earn a disproportionate amount of my income,” laughs Rob. “I could employ a whole army of web wizards to push my rankings up and this would still be the case.”
Ok, so there’s nothing Rob can do about sharing a name with another performer, but he’s right about hiring web wizards to shunt him up Google rankings. Both brands (that’s both Robs) have completely different target markets and so trumping one on Google isn’t like getting in there first for someone’s custom. If you want to see hardcore techo, you’re unlikely to convert your plans to an evening of performance poetry just because our Rob came up higher on your search engine. Which ultimately means Rob needs to work just that bit harder to rubber stamp everything he does with clear self-branding, such as using images of himself on show flyers, websites and posters. With the best will in the world, Rob cannot be mistaken for a hardcore techo DJ when dressed in a hospital nightgown and specs…
It’s about being clear, transparent and honest about what it is you do. To do that you have to clearly communicate that one key brand message which underpins yourwork and communicate it in everything, from your website homepage to your ingenious flash-mob idea for Leicester’s clock tower on a Saturday afternoon. For performance poet Andrew Graves, currently working on the God Save The Teen project in Leicester following a writing residency at NHS Leicester Bradgate Mental Health Unit and Leicester’s The Final Stage project, ‘self-branding’ is all about two essential things -confidence and integrity. “I don’t know if I’ve ever really been comfortable with ‘self-branding’ but I definitely do it, in one sense or another,” he says.
“To me it’s more about being confident and sure about what it is you want to do and what it is you don’t – a gig isn’t worth doing if I can’t do it as me.”