Trademarking your artist name as a singer or musician is worth considering. Especially if you’re going places in the industry. It gives you the exclusive right to create, record and release music in that name. This protects your brand and prevents duplicates.
Trademarking your artist name as a singer or musician
The music industry is a business. As such, if you’re ‘trading’ in the music industry, you may decide to register the right to use your business name. This protects your brand, which is especially useful if another singer comes along and tries to steal your thunder.
Or if someone pretends to be you. It means you also have the right to your name on social media and on websites – meaning you can campaign to have any duplicates that arise, shut down. If you do go ahead, you’ll be able to use the ® symbol next to your name to show that it’s trademarked.
Trademarking is similar to copyright in that it’s about rights. But trademarks must be registered. Whereas copyright is automatically granted to the creator or owner of an original piece of work. Copyright protects artistic works, whereas trademarking applies to all industries.
And copyright lasts a lifetime whether or not the creator is still active in that field. However, the registered owner of a trademark must continue to use the name and brand, to be eligible to maintain registration.
Do you need to trademark your artist name?
No. It is not compulsory to do so and many artists never do so. However, if you’re serious about a recording career and have your sights set on big success in the music industry, it may be a good idea. If you don’t and someone else comes along after you and trademarks the same name as yours, they may be able to stop you using your name to make music.
If you’ve already had thousands of downloads and garnered hundreds of followers on each social media channel, this is a problem. You may be made to stop using your name and fans will struggle to find you.
So if you do decide to trademark your name, the sooner you do it the better. Depending on your name a duplicate scenario may be unlikely though. We’ll take a look at who should and shouldn’t be trademarking their name, shortly.
Can two music artists have the same name?
Yes. There’s nothing to stop this. But therein lies the problem. Imagine plugging away for years, building up and reputation and following, only to find another musician arrives on the scene with the same name. This would confuse your fans and may result in them being redirected to the other musician’s tracks and ticket sales. Worse still, if they act inappropriately, or offend influential people in the music industry, you may be tarred with the bad reputation too.
You may have heard about actors having to change their name because someone else was already registered with the same one. This is because the British actors union, Equity, only allows one registration by each name. So if yours is already taken by a living member, you must create a new one to join.
But this is not the case for the Musicians’ Union, as not all members are working in the same field or genre. It doesn’t matter if you, as a rock singer, have the same name as a cellist for example.
Should an artist trademark their name?
If you’re considering trademarking your name, here are the factors to take into account when making the decision.
- Are you planning a high profile career by yourself? If, for example, you gig on a part-time basis and teach music the rest of the time, it may not be worth the hassle and outlay.
- Are you a solo artist, or part of a band? If you’re part of a group, is it worth trademarking your name as an individual? Similarly, if your band is taking off, you should think about trademarking the band.
- Can you afford it? There will be fees involved, which we’ll explain further into the article.
- How unique is your name? If you have a super unusual name and self-manage a relatively low profile career, it’s probably not necessary.
- Do you sell merch, have a domain name, and big streaming/album sales? If so, you need to protect your overall brand, of which name is a part. So a trademark is sensible.
- What’s your role? If you’re a bassist in a band or a session guitarist, it may not be relevant to trademark your own name. Not all working musicians operate as a business brand in the way a solo artist or pop band would do.
Trademark database – how to check if a business name is trademarked
Before you can trademark your name, check if it’s already taken. The UK government website has a search tool for trademarks. As well as checking here, it’s worth researching whether any other – non-trademarked – artists are operating in your name. They may not have a copyright. But if they’re already out there and prolific in music, it may be worth changing your name to avoid confusion. When searching, also check similar spellings to yours (ie. Katy and Katie, Girls and Girlz).