Unless you're one of the lucky ones who's happy to use their own name when DJing, one of the first things you'll do as a new DJ will be choose your name. It's a massively fun thing to do, of course, but it also has lots of pitfalls for the unwary.
Get this wrong and you're stuck with something you'll regret. I guarantee you that your parents spent months thinking of your name before you were born - you should definitely put the same effort into getting your DJ name right. It's really tempting to pick one in a hurry, but if anything comes of your DJ career, you're stuck with it for life - so don't make that mistake!
In today's post, we're going to look at some basic principles for getting your DJ name right, then give you a massive list of places you can go and things you can try in order to find the perfect DJ name.
At the end, we'll ask you to tell us the name you've chosen, and how you came to choose it - and whether, looking back, you're glad or sad at the name you chose! So to ensure you don't end up with an inappropriate name that people laugh at, like many of those in this Serato forum post, let's first outline those principles for choosing wisely.
10 Rules Of Choosing A DJ Name
1. Decide if you want "DJ" in the title or not
If you call yourself "DJ...", that's what you'll always be thought of. What if you end up wanting to produce music? Think this one through, because nowadays, the line between DJs and producers is more blurred than ever, but while people who aren't called "DJ..." most certainly get booked to DJ, those who are will forever be labelled a "DJ" above all else. My advice? Avoid using "DJ" in your title.
2. Make sure your name passes the "radio test"
If your name was read out on the radio, would the presenter be able to pronounce it properly from the way it is written? ("Pete Tong" is hard to mispronounce, for instance.) And if somebody listening to that radio station heard your name, would they be able to write it down correctly? (Again, most people would get "Pete Tong" right first time, I think.)
This is vital because if people can't say or write your name correctly, they won't be able to look you up online, and won't want to talk about you (nobody likes the embarrassment of mispronouncing a name).
3. Think about what the name you're considering suggests
Calm, anger, noise, harmony, fun, edginess? Does it reflect or distract from the music you play? Or is it just abstract, bearing no resemblance to anything (there's nothing wrong with that, by the way). You may be tempted to pick a "bad" DJ name, because it sticks in the head - but as this Top 25 Bad DJ Names article rightly points out, it's better that your music and performances are the things that are memorable, rather than the fact that you're called "DJ Mucus"!
4. Think to the future, not just now
Will you still be playing dubstep to 15-year-olds when you're 40? Or will you be scoring films, having had a fantastic career as a music producer and EDM megastar? Does the name you're considering have enough longevity about it to last you all that time? In other words, is it universal enough to fit different hats as you move through your career?
5. Think about the logo version
You're going to need a logo. It's one of the big things that's changed in the last few years. All the big DJs have a logo. It looks great on flyers, and stands them out from all the other DJs listed in a standard typeface on those club flyers. But think about how your name will look as a logo. Is it took long for a designer to do anything with? Are there other complications? (Lots of "m"s and "w"s can make for a messy logo, for instance...)
6. Try your name out in any second languages in your area
For instance, how does your name work in Spanish (if you're an English speaker living in a mixed neighbourhood with Spanish speakers)? Can a Spanish speaker pronounce it? Does it mean something stupid or rude? You'll kick yourself if you don't bother to find this out and it turns out that it does...
7. Consider more than one name
What?! Surely that's going against all of this? Well, hear me out, because this isn't as crazy as it sounds. Say you're a deep house DJ by passion, but also a mobile DJ to make ends meet. Would you want to use the same name for both "sides" of who you are? Probably not. People with this kid of dual role are extremely common, and it is well worth deciding if you want a name to represent your more "artistic" side, and one to represent your bread-and-butter "day" DJ job side.
8. Check your name isn't taken
Here's a tip: If you Google your prospective name using quotes around it, Google will search for the words in that order - it's an easy way of seeing if you're name's "taken". (For instance, "Phil Morse" won't return articles with those two words in it unless they're one after the other in that order.) To take this a stage further, run your search on Namecheck, which will check social media sites etc for you too.
9. Consider the URL you want to use
Even if you don't plan on having a website immediately, you should buy the .com (.com is best). Some really big companies, products and brands don't use their exact name as the URL...
Ideally, you want the exact match to the name you've chosen. But if that's not available, you can have a variant as your .com, or even go for a .dj or other clever domain variant. Some really big companies, products and brands don't use their exact name as the URL, and so this isn't necessarily a deal-breaker. You can always put the DJ afterwards ("hercules-dj.com" if you want to call yourself "DJ Hercules" and that is taken, for instance), or add "hq", or even a word like "official", or just some other clever variant.
Weigh this up with how much you want the name you've come up with. If it's taken by a house building company, for instance, that's obviously better than the exact URL being taken by another DJ. Check Twitter, Facebook and YouTube URLs while you're at it, as mentioned above.
10. Ask other people what they think of your name
Don't be bullish and just go for something - check with as many people as possible, and ask them why they like (or don't like) your name. And while you're at it, ask them to come up with names or variations of what you've chosen! They may hit on just the right name for you.
Time to start searching...
So having outlined some basic rules, it's time to take that big, blank piece of paper and start the search!
Here's some tips. Take words that mean something to you, and combine them, with each other, with numbers, with one of more of your own names. Keep a sheet of words you like and try and combine those. Nothing's too stupid at this stage: Write everything down (this is brainstorming, not trying to make everything you come up with good). Once you've got a shortlist, that's the time to go back to the rules above and work out the best one of the lot. Don't try and name yourself in one session - keep coming back to it, and have faith - you will get there.
Of course, you're going to need some "seed" words, some places to start, some ideas of avenues to go down. You could modify your own name. You could start with someone else's name, or even an existing DJ's name. Or, you could start your search by getting your ideas from the sites and tactics we've listed below. Here, you should find plenty to keep your quest going below. Good luck!
15 Ideas For Choosing A DJ Name
Try this DJ name generator
It seems to come up with weird, wonderful and often inappropriate names, but it's worth trying this site to get those brain cells working on something more worthwhile. You can find pages on the internet of people discussing the names this thing has generated for them - maybe a little bit sad? :)
Go to site: Quiz Meme
...or this old-school DJ name generator
Looking for an old school, hip-hop, block party kind of name? something Grand Master Flash might have been proud of? This very web 1.0 site churns out countless such names, many of which seem to have "Wizard" in the title. Hint: Don't even bother entering your normal name, just keep clicking the "go" button for different suggestions.
Go to site: Mr P's Name Pistol
Looking for an urban DJ name? Try BBC Radio 1Xtra's version
Looking for an edgy, urban name? Covering UK garage, hip-hop, drum'n'bass, dancehall and r'n'b, and with a male/female button, this slick tool (it has a double decks "name mixer" that scratches your new name out for you!) can give you a few ideas. Overall, though, it seems to play it a bit safe (it came up with "DJ Rhythm Beatz" for me).
Go to site: BBC Radio 1Xtra's DJ Name Generator
Look on a baby names site
Baby names sites are huge, and the best thing about them is that some have names from all over the world, so if you want a fancy Russian name (it worked for Sasha), you can go right ahead and look for one.
I chose this particular one purely because it had to facility to look for names beginning with certain letters, so obviously I typed in "DJ"...
Go to site: BabyNamesPedia
Use an anagram generator
What it lacks in flashiness, it makes up for in effectiveness - this basically crunches any name at all you put into it and spits out an anagram of it.
You can try your name, your nickname, other DJ names you've come up with, other DJs' names - whatever. A great way of doubling up on any suggestions you might have.
Go to site: Name Anagram Generator
Take inspiration from how famous DJs got their names...
From the All You Need Is Bass site, this is a neat and useful pair of articles, that simply collates DJs saying how they got their names, from interviews all over the web. Hopefully the comments to this very article will develop into something similar, but for now this is a good place to start.
The idea, of course, is so you can apply the same thinking to see what you come up with for yourself. I particularly liked The Gaslamp Killer's confession as to where his name came from...
Go to site: How DJs Got Their Names
...and not-so-famous DJs
The Chauvet blog asked its Facebook fans to tell it how they came up with their DJ names, and published its findings in an article that also has some creative suggestions as to how to come up with new names of your own.
I particularly liked the suggestion to hone in on physical or personal traits for your DJ name - although my friend Johnny Twelve Toes might have been best not using his unusual physical trait as his name were he ever to have decided to be a DJ...
Go to site: Chauvet Blog DJ Names List
Pay people to come up with names for you!
It doesn't have to be very much, but going on your favourite DJ forum or website and offering cold, hard cash in exchange for a DJ name seems to have worked for at least one resourceful DJ out there.
He offered US$15 and by the look of it, got loads of people sending him long lists of suggestions....
Use a band name generator...
Why? Because other DJs might not be, so you are more likely to find something that's original. Band name generators often let you "choose your genre" (so metal might produce aggressive names, rock might produce epic names, and indie, quaint names) - and you can also often experiment by giving such generators a single word and letting them come up with names that include that word.
The generator we've chosen to show you here includes those three genres, of which we found "indie" to be the most promising for DJs, especially when you give it an idea by adding a single word of your own.
Go to site: New Band Name
...or a fake name generator
This site is for when you're being asked all kinds of personal details online and want to give them something that's not you. But the name generator part of it is really good, because you can choose the "name set" it uses from loads of different countries. So if you're looking for a Russian sounding name, it's no problem.
You can also choose gender, and even "age" of person (not sure how this affects the name, but there aren't many females in England under the age of 50 who are called "Peggy", for instance!)
Go to site: Fake Name Generator
Name yourself after a star
No, not a pop star or a movie star, but a real star. This educational website has alphabetical lists of stars which have been given proper names. What's better, each star has a "common" name, and "astronomical" name, a "meaning" (which gives you translations usually from the Greek or Arabic), and a constellation - which are all in themselves rich sources of ideas for your DJ name.
Go to site: Star Names
Get ideas from street names
Of course you could just walk around your neighbourhood (and there's no reason not to look at street names while you do), but there's a better way: Just look up every street name in your postcode, or in Detroit, or in New York, or in wherever's important to you and your music, online.
Melissa Data has US and Canadian street names in a huge, freely searchable directory, but I'm sure if you looked online you'd find a similar service for your country.
Go to site: Melissa Data
Find a historic figure and steal his or her name
The good thing about this tactic is that you can find someone you identify with, so if any clever interviewer asks you where you got your name from, you can say with a straight face that you're named after [insert fascinating historical figure here], because you "really identify with their struggle" etc. This tack may have you investigating obscure Mongolian leaders of the 14th century, but it's all work that'll pay off in the end!
Go to site: BBC Historical Figures
Scan the lyrics of your favourite songs
Dial up your favourite songs and read through the lyrics, looking for a word or a combination of words that resonates with you.
Try joining the words up to make one long word, "wordsearch" style, then try and remove random, made-up words from the jumble in front of you that sound cool. Again, it's going to sound great when you tell an interviewer where you got your name from when you're famous one day.
Go to site: Song Lyrics
Trawl through the music charts
This awesome site has masses of music charts, from all ages, all countries, and of all types. You can research whole musical scenes long forgotten, pulling out the names of all their big.-hitters. You can see song titles and artists.
If this lot doesn't inspire you, you really shouldn't be trying to be in the music business at all. A great place to get lost... just remember, you're here to pick a DJ name, not to trainspot!
Go to site: Alaska Jim's Music Charts
Got A Name? What's Next...
So I hope that lot inspired you, and you've come back here because you've now got a name! Once you have got your name, you should go ahead and reserve it everywhere that's important to you - as a minimum, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube plus buying your chosen URL.
You'll also want to get someone to make a logo for you. That is a subject for another post, but there are great resources online nowadays - things like 99designs, for instance - where you can pitch your logo project to lots of designers all over the world for a relatively small sum of money. If you're at college, you can definitely find art students who can help you with this stuff, too.It's worth looking at as many DJ logos as you can and writing a short brief to outline what you're expecting before giving this job to anyone, to save wasting everyone's time.
Finally, I know we opened this article with a whole list of "rules", but the truth is you don't have to fulfil absolutely every condition I outlined. It's more important to be aware of the ideals, and if your chosen name falls short, in an area, just to give due consideration to what that means. After all, "deadmau5" fails the radio test rule, and he's not doe so badly...
So, what's your DJ name? Did you use your real name, a variant, or something totally different? DJ or not DJ? How did you choose it? Are you happy with your name? If you got to choose it again, would you choose something different? How did you find it reserving your name URL and social media handles? Has your name got you in any trouble? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.