As an artist, you are the product. A brand.
Your music is important, yes. But so is your name.
When you’re dealing with industry professionals, your name must be associated with quality, reliability and professionalism.
Artist names and pseudonyms can come in handy when you’re first starting out and/or need a lot of room to experiment (and potentially fail!) in several different genres and musical projects.
When should you consider selling art under a pseudonym?
You are just starting out and not exactly sure in which direction you want to take your career.
Using a pseudonym gives you freedom to make mistakes without damaging your personal brand.
You’re worried that industry professionals won’t take you seriously if you write in lots of different genres.
Using pseudonyms can help create the illusion that you are a specialist. It may reassure people who would normally not give an opportunity to a non-specialist.
You are established as an artist in a certain niche and want the freedom to explore new musical projects.
Using a pseudonym for a side-project gives you freedom to experiment. You can feel free to explore other creative projects without damaging your established brand.
How do pseudonyms work?
Your Performance Rights Organization (PRO) can create pseudonyms for you. Each pseudonym will be associated with your main songwriter account with them.
Note that ASCAP refers to pseudonyms as “alternate names”.
Each artist name will have its own IPI/CAE number.
Whenever a pseudonym IPI/CAE number pops up in a cue sheet or on radio play listings, your PRO will know to pay YOU.
What pseudonyms should NOT be used for?
Pseudonyms are NOT meant to trick people into signing an exclusive deal with you.
If you sign an exclusive deal for one of your songs under Artist Name X, you absolutely SHOULD NOT sell that same song to someone else under Artist Name Y.
That would be a breach of your contract.
This may seem like a weird warning but I did get this question once so figured I should make it crystal clear that that is NOT an appropriate use of pseudonyms and artist names.
Selling art under a pseudonym only makes sense as a marketing strategy or as a way to explore different creative avenues without compromising another name and reputation.