The artist name is the official name of an artist, be it a person or a band. In most cases, it's the name as found on releases' sleeves.
This is a simple concept, but there are complications to this caused by artists releasing material under different names, whether as side projects, collaborations with other artists, or due to changes in musical direction. The meaning of an artist name also changes subtly depending on the Artist Type.
The same name can be used for more than one artist. If you add a new artist that has the same name as an existing one, the system will prompt you to enter an Artist Comment - a short description that allows people to quickly tell which is which.
There are also the concepts of Performance Name and Legal Name, either of which might be the official artist name. These two can be linked using the Performance Name Relationship Type. It's not clear how to handle artists with more than one legal name. A proposal for dealing with this is at Linking Different Artist Names.
With the introduction of Advanced Relationships, there's a lot of confusion about Performance Names, Legal Names, and Artist Aliases. The problems and some solutions are discussed in Linking Different Artist Names. There is also some related stuff on various aspects of this at Musical Association Relationship Class, Unresolved Style Issues, Performance Name Relationship Type, and Parent Relationship Type.
There are two other fields in the database that are related to artist name.
- Artist Sort Name determines how an artist is sorted alphabetically.
- Artist Alias is used as a search hint to catch alternative or incorrect spelling of an artist name.
Individual performs and releases material under various names
Paul David Hewson sings in the band U2 under the name "Bono".:
- Paul David Hewson, a Legal Name, has an Artist database record
- "Bono", a Performance Name, has a separate Artist database record
- The artist database records of Paul David Hewson and Bono are linked with the Performance Name Relationship Type
- Bono is linked as a member of U2 (see Member of Band Relationship Type), but not Paul David Hewson
Richard David James is a musician who releases solo material under a variety of names, including Aphex Twin and Caustic Window:
- Both Caustic Window and Aphex Twin are Performance Name, with separate Artist database records
- Each album has the corresponding artist as its release artist
- Each Performance Name artist record is related to the Richard David James artist record with the Performance Name Relationship Type
- The different Performance Names are not related to each other (see Same Artist With Different Names).
It's very common for some Legal Names to be shortened for normal use, such as "William" shortened to "Bill" or "Elisabeth" shortened to "Liz".
Dropping the last name
The classic case is Madonna. In that case, a separate artist is created for her Legal Name, Madonna Louise Ciccone, while "Madonna" is a Performance Name. This allows albums to be credited correctly to just "Madonna", while still allowing important information to be recorded against her Legal Name.
Another example is Kylie Minogue, who frequently is credited as simply "Kylie". In this case, "Kylie" is simply made an ArtistAlias, since anyone looking up "Kylie" in the system would not be at all surprised to see the name "Kylie Minogue" instead.
The band Spinal Tap is composed of several fictional characters, and was originally simply the fictional subject of the mockumentary "This is Spinal Tap". However, the band proved popular, and the actors who play those characters have gone on to record several albums. Each character is considered a Performance Name, and gets an independent artist record. These Performance Names are used as the members of the band (see Member of Band Relationship Type). The actors who play the characters also get artist records, and they are related to their characters with Performance Name Relationship Type.
Many more examples of this are at Fictitious Artist.
Extremely large number of aliases
Cassetteboy produced an album in which every track is credited to a different alias. At some point the number of aliases of an artist becomes so large that it interferes with the usefulness of the data. There is some discussion of this.
Artists with identical names
Artist's name has changed
The perennial example of this is Wendy Carlos (Wikipedia page). She was born "Walter Carlos", but had a sex-change operation in 1972. Even after her name was officially changed, albums were released under "Walter Carlos", on the basis that this would make them more saleable.
When Chinese people emigrate to western countries, they frequently choose a "western name", to avoid the confusion of westerners trying to pronounce their Chinese names, and of the different name order in Chinese names. Jet Li would be one famous example. His full Chinese name is Li Lian Jie, spelled in hanyu pinyin (the chinese phonetic method). "Li" is his surname, while "Lian Jie" is his given name. Changing the name order would look something like this: Lianjie Li.
Björk is an Icelandic musician whose full name is Björk Guðmundsdóttir. Icelandic second names are really more descriptions than names proper, and in this case the last name simply means "daughter of Guðmund". She is, in fact, the daughter of a man called "Guðmund", unlike English names where someone called "Mark Richardson" isn't necessarily the son of someone called "Richard". So Björk calling herself just "Björk" isn't a performance name like "Madonna" or "Kylie"; it's just what any normal Icelandic person would call her.