You’ve finally decided to take the plunge and officially become a DJ. You have your turntables, your mixers, and the best headphones you can afford. But what you don’t have is a name. Unlike naming a pet or giving a friend a nickname, choosing a DJ name that doesn’t work can kill your career before it even starts.
How do you pick a DJ name? Start by assessing your style, the kind of music you like to play, and your audience to narrow down your list of names. Then, you can brainstorm a name that will speak to the image you’d like to project, make you stand out in online searches, and define you through your career.
It sounds like a lot to think about, especially when you see other DJs who just throw the word DJ in front of their first name and call it a day. But once you understand just how important a name is to your career, you’ll want to make sure you find the right one.
If you would like to watch a video about choosing the right DJ name. You can also do so down below. If you rather want more information about the process you can read on in this article.
The idea of taking on a stage name that better represents what someone would like their image to be is nothing new, and the same thing applies to DJs. We know that sometimes people choose stage names to separate their real-life from their entertainment life, but why else is a great DJ name important?
In short, it’s important for your marketability. The right DJ name can instantly tell potential bookers or potential fans exactly who you are and the kind of environment you can create.
In that sense, your DJ name is like naming your company, club, or restaurant. People will gravitate towards your name if they feel that you fit the vibe they’d like. Take the Hard Rock Café, for instance. You wouldn’t go into one of the restaurants and expect to hear smooth jazz and drink bespoke cocktails. You’d expect what you get – a lot of classic rock memorabilia and music.
Having a DJ name that meshes with your market means that you can promote yourself to the people who want to hear you the most. A lot of the pitching is done for you through your name and how it’s branded (we’ll get into that later in the article).
Essentially, your DJ name places you in the market to help you find the right audience. Pick the wrong name, and you might get lost in a sea of other DJs who have made the same mistake you did.
It’s easy to see how important a good DJ name can be to your career, but what exactly makes the names that work well?
A good DJ name is:
Let’s explore each of these elements.
Even if a name is a perfect fit for who you are, that doesn’t mean it’s a fit for our digital age. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is incredibly important when choosing a great DJ name. If your name is too generic, no one will find you. If people can’t easily spell your name and find you, it makes it that much harder to break out.
As you’ll see, much of picking a good DJ name is about identity, sound, and image. In some ways, those parts are easy since it’s just about you, not every other DJ on the internet. But even the name that fits you perfectly in every other aspect can be a total miss if it’s hard to spell, hard to differentiate, or hard to remember.
You have to find a name that aligns with how you want to feel on stage and the image you want people to see.
A lot of top DJs use their real names, but their real names sound interesting, like Armin Van Buuren. But if your name is something common like John White, your DJ name can make you stand out and help you take on a persona that’s more engaging on the stage.
Take Grandmaster Flash as an example. Even without knowing about his music or his impact on music, you can get a sense of who he is – his name implies someone at the top of his game, who makes an impact. His birth name: Joseph Saddler. It doesn’t quite project that same image.
Your real name might not align with your style, either. Let’s go back to the example of John White. It’s a proper name, but you might be someone who wears loud clothes or plays outlandish music choices that people happen to love. A DJ name can help you personify your style.
Many people have ended up in a situation where they get stuck with an unfortunate nickname as a joke or a matter of circumstances. Choosing a DJ name that aligns with how you feel about yourself will prevent you from feeling like you’re stuck with a name that doesn’t feel true to who you are.
This goes right along with your image. Your ideal audience will be drawn to you based on your name and how you brand it.
In many cases, this can be straightforward. If you specialize in the funk genre as a DJ, your name might be DJ Funk (though that’s likely not the most distinctive choice.) Your audience knows what’s up when they hear your name – they like funk, and will hopefully like you.
But what about something more ambiguous? As a simple example, say you choose the name DJ Pie because you specialize in playing sugary pop music, and your image is sweet and approachable. Sounds okay. But if your audience happens to be filled with Spanish speakers, they’ll likely read your name as its translation – DJ Foot. Not exactly appetizing.
Many DJs work corporate events as well. No matter how cool a tech startup is, they likely won’t hire a DJ whose name is overtly sexual or too inappropriate for a work environment. The same goes for weddings – you have to appeal to the guests, which usually include grandparents or children.
A good name projects the image you’d like to present but also takes what your audience might associate your image with in their environment, or even their native language or culture.
If you’re a DJ, you love music, which goes without saying. Maybe you love your turntables or freestyling, so you choose the name DJ Turntables or DJ Freestyle. They fit you. They fit your image. But they’re about as generic as you can get.
This is similar to SEO in that you want people to find you when they put your name in a search engine. Even if you change how the name is written, like changing it to DJ TURNTablez or DJ Freeeestylzzz might make people confuse you with someone else and make it harder for people to Google you.
You want your DJ name to be distinctive, yet memorable. It shouldn’t blend in with all the other DJ names, but it also shouldn’t be so out there that no one can remember it.
Have you ever watched a movie or read a book that referred to something trendy at the time, but is totally irrelevant now? It can feel nostalgic at best, but cringe-worthy at worst.
Don’t let your DJ name fall into that same mistake. Imagine someone named DJ Fidget Spinner trying to book a gig today. That name might have worked for six months in 2017, but now it just sounds odd.
Just because something is hot and cool right now doesn’t mean it will be forever. The same applies to what you’re into. If you’re really into one kind of music, it doesn’t mean that’ll be the only thing you play. Picking a name that’s too genre-specific can be a bad move too.
A good DJ name stands the test of time, both in regard to that person’s music and that person’s style. This is a hard task since you don’t know who you’ll be down the road, but choosing something that’s true to you can help you evolve along with it.
You now understand just how important a DJ name is to your career and what makes a good one, but what’s the recipe for the perfect title? Here’s a step by step guide to choosing the perfect DJ name.
These steps could be put into two broad categories – brainstorming and curating. The more you let your ideas flow, the more options you have. The more options you have, the more you can narrow down your list to find the perfect name for you.
Sometimes the perfect DJ name is the same as the one on your birth certificate. Many DJs, like the aforementioned Armin Van Buuren and other well-known DJs like David Guetta, Steve Aoki, and DJ Khaled use their real names or variations of their real names as their DJ names.
If your name is distinctive and you like it, you can use it (with or without ‘DJ’ in front of it.) You can also use your middle name or a nickname if it sounds interesting too. For example, Tiesto’s name came from a nickname his friends gave him; his real first name is Tijs.
Maybe someone in your family has an interesting name – they can be a good fit too. You can also change the spelling of your name or just use your last name. There are a lot of possibilities, just from what you already have.
Your personality, both on and off the stage, is extremely important and can be the biggest inspiration for your DJ name. It encompasses your clothes, your music, and your visuals. You can put your memories, jokes between friends, or things of significance to you under this umbrella as well.
A simple way to get your ideas flowing is to gather up images, songs, or words that you associate with your style and life, or the one that you’d like to project on stage. You could do an old-school collage, or just collect things in a folder on your computer.
These things can include:
Once you see everything that encompasses your style, you can start compiling words or phrases that are associated with those things. Write them down – there’s no pressure to name yourself any of them literally, but they’re a good start.
You can also look at the names of other DJs in your space. Is there a common thread among them? Are a lot of them using their real names? Or do a lot of them riff off a certain image? For instance, DJs who specialize in rap that’s all about flexing wealth might have names that suggest wealth and excess. Many female DJs call themselves “Lady.”
Sometimes, you can use what you look like too. If you’re tall, that can be a source for your name. If you have a distinctive quirk or feature, that can be a source for your name too.
Conversations or weird occurrences are also a great starting point and have led to some of the most iconic DJ names of all time. For example, Deadmau5 got his name after he found a dead mouse when he took his computer apart. The “5” styling came from a character limit on a username.
While the big list and mood board you created might have sparked some good ideas, sometimes you might need more help or to expand on your list.
You can use the following to spin-off of what you’ve already gathered about yourself to come up with more ideas:
Name generators are plentiful and straightforward. Sometimes you can just press a button, and the site spits out a list of names. Other ones ask you for information like associated characteristics or letters you’d like to include. This site has a whole range of name generators, from villain names to band names to usernames that you can fiddle with. If that's not enough I have a second wonderful name generator great for certain branches that you can find if you click on the button below.
You can use the dictionary or thesaurus to come up with new ways to say what you’ve already listed. For instance, you might love sweets. You could just go by “Candy” or “Sweetie,” but you could also go into the thesaurus and find words like “bonbon,” “confit,” “hokum,” or “sugarplum” and use those to inspire your name.
Going back to your birth name, you can look up what your name means and riff off of that. The name “Emily” is extremely common, but few people know it means “to strive or rival.” Those are far more interesting and can be added to your brainstorming list.
You can also take a common word and put it in another language (assuming it’s still easy to pronounce and remember to spell). If you have a cute style, you can go by Kawaii (Japanese for cute) or Fofo (Portuguese for cute). Same idea, different word and sound.
Here’s the fun part – take the big lists of words, images, and whatever else you’ve compiled and start forming potential names. They don’t have to be perfect at this point since you’re still narrowing things down.
Make sure you consider the following:
Let your mind run free. Listen to your favorite music while you work as inspiration. Again, the more names you have, the more likely you are to hit the right note.
By now, you probably have a lot of contenders for your DJ name. The process doesn’t have to be done in one day – take your time! It’s an important decision. You wouldn’t name your business in a hurry, so why would you do the same for your DJ name?
The first way to narrow down the list is to cross off names that just don’t sound good to you. Easy enough.
The next step is to Google the potential names to see which ones are taken, which ones are too similar to other DJs, and which ones are easily misspelled. This will now be your “master list.” If your favorite names are all taken, it’s better to know now than later.
You can also take this opportunity to see what social media handles are available. Someone entirely unrelated to the music world might have a handle that’s your name. You’ll be able to figure out what handle you can use across social media. It always helps to be consistent across platforms, so make sure to check everything you plan to be on.
Out of the list of available names, pick the top three favorites. Then, let the ideas rest for a bit so you can come back with fresh eyes later.
Now that your list is down to three names, you might feel closer than ever to pick your DJ name. But hold up – even though it’s important for you to like your DJ name, it’s important to get feedback from others as well.
Ask your friends and family what they think, since they know you the best. Which of the three final contenders feels the most like you? Does it sound good? Does it sound appealing? What does it make you think of when you hear it, and does it sound like the music you play?
However, keep in mind that your family or even some of your friends might not be your target audience, so take their opinions with a grain of salt.
To get a more context-appropriate opinion, you can ask other DJs you know. They might be able to tell you things that a Google search wouldn’t, like how audiences receive certain names or horror stories about DJs with names like yours.
As with all advice, take it into serious consideration, but ultimately do what feels right to you.
With everyone’s feedback and a little time, you might have your DJ name! But before you run off and make all your social media handles, you should take one last step and mock-up a logo that fits with your brand and identity.
Not everyone has graphic design abilities, but luckily, there’s the internet. You can go the free route if your budget is limited and mock up some options at FreeLogoDesign. You can put in the style you’d like plus your DJ name and find something that fits your image fast.
Or, you can hire someone to get more specific options. Your personal network is a great place to start, but if you’d like, you can hire a freelancer on a site like Upwork or Fiverr. They’ll be able to customize your logo to give you a feel of how your DJ name will look on posters or, eventually, in huge letters behind you as you DJ for a crowd of thousands.
This seems like a lot of stuff to do just to pick a name, but hopefully, you can see how worthwhile it is. Since it’s such a process, you’ll probably get stuck at some point. Don’t panic or give up.
Here are some ways to get un-stuck:
Even after all that work, there’s still the possibility of not liking your name down the line. By then, you might have all your social media ducks in a row and won’t be able to rebrand easily. Then what do you do?
You could change part of your name, so there’s still the association between the two. For instance, you could drop “spinner” from DJ Fidget Spinner to make DJ Fidget, or go even further to call yourself Lady Fidget if that works for you.
You can also create a new persona that fits where your career is going. If you’re going from DJing at parties to DJing at a club, you can create a new name that fits your club persona a little more.
If neither of those options feels like a good fit, try changing up your logo or another part of your branding. Maybe you need a new look at your name. After all, you were excited about it at first – you might just need to look at it differently.
Whatever you decide to do, give people enough notice before and after the change. Blast it all over your social media, tell your contacts, tell your friends. After, make sure your website and social media mention that you were formerly a different name, so your existing fan base doesn’t get confused.
As we said at the start of the article, a good DJ name is a big part of your marketability. So, what if you pick a name and your career drops off? What if it turns away the audience that you’re trying to court?
Go back to the drawing board. Do you have feedback from gigs you missed out on? Take that into account. For instance, your name might feel too scandalous for a corporate crowd, even though you play work-friendly music at corporate events. Pick another top name from your list that’s less polarizing.
Take a look at your audience, too. You might have thought they were really into pop, but maybe they’re more into techno. You might also have a different perception of your image than you actually project – in other words, you’re operating as your ideal versus your reality.
Find your most brutally honest friend, preferably one with knowledge of music, and ask them what your DJ identity is really saying. You might be surprised by what you hear.
Picking a DJ name is an important task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. With some research and a lot of brainstorming, you can find a name that’ll stick with you throughout your career.