Mind you, some people do go by the name they were given as a child - more power to them. But here are some reasons why you or some other artist (self-proclaimed or merited) may look for another name:
I suspect that is where Lady Gaga came from - I have never known another Lady Gaga - have you? Someone with a very common name will try to find one that stands out from the rest. People are less likely to forget a strange name.
Their given name is too hard to remember:
Some artists during the Renaissance Period in Italy had nicknames that stayed with them. For example, Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi is much better known as Donatello, Jacopo Comin is known as Tintoretto, and Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi is best known as Boticelli.
Their given name is too Common:
If your given name brings up thousands of people with the same name on Google search, you might want to stand out from all the rest by finding a name that no one else has.
Their given name is too hard to pronounce:
We have that problem in our family, because most people have difficult saying the name Kongaika (it means part fish). We always have to tell people to say it with a soft "g" like in singer, or King Kong, but most people say it with a hard "g" like in digger.
Some artists, actors or writers like to separate their private life from their public life. With social networking sites being so popular these days, many individuals like to remain anonymous so they can say what they like online.
What fits the genre of their art:
Personally, my given name does not suit the type of art that I do, but the name I have chosen to go by sounds more Polynesian. Much of my art and articles I write are Polynesian in nature - hence Elayne is a better fit.
To Switch Brain Modes:
Some artists claim they can think better with their right brain when they assume their "other" name. They can slip into a different personality to perform best. Sounds kind of weird, but I identify with this.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization):
If someone wants to appear on the front page of the Google results, one name would be easier to find than a longer name. Consider the name Picasso as opposed to Francis Bacon which could bring up a myriad of pages including recipes.
Other reasons: Other reasons that a performance or visual artist may change their name could include ethnicity (either wanting to be identified with or not, and also to avoid discrimination) or family connections (any skeletons in their closet?). Maybe they just feel that their name is dull, uninteresting, or sounds like a swear word in another language, or brings about an undesired image. Perhaps their name is just too long to write over and over - think of all those autographs!
Changing a name and committing to it is a very interesting process which should not be considered lightly. It is a rebirth, a commitment with confidence of marking a change in your life.
Most performance artists call it a stage name. A well-thought-out name can make a big difference to the success of their career. Using their given name may inhibit their success.
For actors in the United States and The United Kingdom there are guilds that stipulate that no two members may have the same name. So do not try being another Lady Gaga - try to come up with something different. Often times, agents choose a name for a rising star.
Writers call it a pen name.
Professional wrestlers call it a ring name.
I guess visual artists would call it their artist name or alter ego. Others feel that an artist is not authentic when they change their name. That is one way to look at it.
If someone else has the same name as you, at least you can be the BEST of them all by your reputation.
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