Chris Padilla/Blog / Notes

Debating Stage Names

I'm gearing up to get my music on Spotify! A pretty exciting step!

But I've hit a problem: There are already 3 folks named Chris Padilla on Spotify.

It's not a new problem. In high school, I was one of 5 Chris's that played saxophone.

I'm used to having to mix up my usernames across apps and sites, but this is my whole name we're talking about!

Worth noting: It's not just a musician or an artist concern, it's a professional concern! Even Wes Bos and Scott Tolinski talked about this on Syntax.

I got this advice from Distrokid:

Ideally, if someone already has the name, you should come up with a different name. In the world of actors, for example, no two actors are allowed to have the same name as each other and both belong to SAG (the actors union). That's why Samuel L. Jackson is Samuel L. Jackson, and not Sam Jackson or Samuel Jackson -- those names were taken. If you want to look like a pro, suck it up and come up with a different name if yours is already taken.

Fair enough. So now I'm in that spot where I'm coming up with a name.

The process so far is somewhere between writing down inspirations, aesthetics I like (colors, themes, the like), and also turning to a random name generator to see what sticks.

Benefits of a Stage Name

I've liked being just "Chris Padilla" pretty much everywhere. It's kept things simple and easy for the most part. Even with music, just knowing that it's my solo project and that it can all be pointed back here.

I'm not the only Chris that does this, either!


There are some exciting opportunities with stage names.

First: A stage name can encapsulate a project. Done with a set of ideas and themes? No problem! Change names and move on! Prince did it for more contractual terms, but it still worked for him!

Second: It brings an opportunity for clarity between those projects. A problem I'm starting to have is that when someone asks "What do you do?" The answer is: Software, music writing, saxophone performing, drawing, blogging, teaching. Potentially, the list could continue to grow over a lifetime! As a human being, that all can be contained within one Chris Padilla. But if you want to talk marketing terms, it gets difficult to say "Chris Padilla — Developer, Musician, Doodler, Internet Guy, Baker of Pies..." and so on.

Third: A healthy dose of separation between "The Real You" and "Public You." Derek Sivers says this well. I don't have the pleasure of being big enough for strangers on the internet to criticize me, but should I ever be, it's easier to say "Well, they're talking about Chris D Padilla. Not me, just Chris."

Fourth: There's a certain freedom that comes from a stage name. I always felt that by performing on stage, you had a chance to embody a character. To step into a person, mindset, and mood you might not otherwise channel in your day-to-day life. A stage name is just another layer of that. Online, there's no clear stage. But a name can be like putting on a super-suit in that way.

It's funny how some domains don't have that choice. Authors, speakers, most professional work — it's all on your real name for the most part. But I think there is something to be said about how we are separate from the roles we step into.

(Well drat, but that's not entirely true! R.L Stein, Lemony Snicket, Paul Creston — all Pseudonyms!)

But, Then Again

There's also the benefits of consistency! Unambiguous, less elevated and pretentious feeling, less "webby" (I'm thinking of Twitter handles and gaming tags), more personal, and the benefit of carrying any reputation with you even as you pivot and transition through domains.

Also, maybe this is more of a problem if my name were Chris Martin. There's a really famous Christ Martin already, of course.

And then, on top of that, context matters! If I'm talking about L. Armstrong, you'll know who I mean if I'm in the midst of talking about famous Jazz musicians. You won't confuse Louie Armstrong for Lance Armstrong there.

If we're talking about SEO, a quick search of "Chris Padilla Sax" will pull up my YouTube channel of Sax videos. You won't even be recommended the Wikipedia page for former Under Secretary for International Trade Christopher A. Padilla.

So, maybe it's not as much of a problem.