14

It's pretty common for musicians to use nicknames or stage names instead of their real names; for example, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bono from U2.

Is there a reason why so many musicians do this?

  • I'd guess that it's an attempt at standing out, but I couldn't give you a reason why it's that way for musicians but not, say, actors. Pop singers and such do this as well so it's not purely a "scene" thing. Good question. – Matthew Read Feb 24 '15 at 19:30
  • They are entertainers. – DA. Mar 25 '15 at 18:50
10

Some of them (noted in your question) are nicknames that they had before they were famous. Other times, names are changed by record execs to sound catchy. John Mellencamp was renamed John Cougar because an exec thought it sounded edgier.

Other times, it's just a matter of privacy. Musicians have been known to make up stage names so they could still have a number listed in the phonebook and not get their house swamped by fans. There's also a little mystery about not having your background traceable. You can make up any backstory you want. This isn't as easy to do nowadays due to how easy it is to fact-check in the "Information Age".

  • Fish (Derek Dick) - So called because he spent ages in the bath. Sting (Gordon Summner) - So called because he used to wear a stripy yellow/black jumper to gigs. – Pat Dobson Feb 26 '15 at 9:25
  • Elton John AKA Reginald Dwight - would anyone have taken him seriously !?! – Pat Dobson Feb 26 '15 at 9:26
6

There is a list of reasons with great examples in this wikipedia article.

Various reasons include avoiding being linked to an existing celebrity (whether it's an actual family relation or not), easier pronunciations, to avoid discrimination, building a brand, or just something catchier.

4

One reason is that in some genres it's the thing to do. In both black metal and hip hop, it is rare to find artists that do not use stage names. This is likely due to that the originators of the genres started using stage names for different reasons, one of them usually being that the stage name sounds cooler than the real names.

3

Another take on this: some people feel that they're different on stage, and a stage name just encapsulates that feeling. For example, Hank Williams' "Luke the Drifter" alias for his religious-themed material. An example from another sphere, UK standup comedian Jenny Eclair ("Jenny" is real name, but "Eclair" is a stage name) often refers in interviews to things that "Stage Jenny" will do that the other Jenny might not.

  • I strongly agree. Anyone who has ever been a musician can understand that playing, performing, entertaining, and composing music transforms ones self. Sometimes, artists feel that the name they're given at birth is tied to society, social security numbers, reputation, so on and so forth. Having a "stage name" is an easy escape from society and to give the artist the feeling of personal freedom of expression. – Jasper Aug 19 '15 at 20:01

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