Pixie Lott

Pop success, it’s all in the name

Who remembers David Sneddon? David won the BBC’s talent show Fame Academy, a pre-cursor to X-Factor, in 2002. His subsequent debut single went straight to number 1, and then he kind of vanished. So what happened? You might put it down to the possibility that perhaps he wasn’t that talented, or the show itself was rubbish, or that pop music fans are a fickle bunch… Well in my opinion, he disappeared from the scene because he released his records under the name… David Sneddon.

This is not a pop star’s name. Someone surely should have told him this. All the big solo artists over the years have understood the importance of a strong name, and there are some patterns of success he could have emulated: 1) Using a first name as the surname: Elton John, Bob Dylan, George Michael, John Grant, and the amazing Ben Howard; or 2) You go for a one-word name: Madonna, Prince, Seal, Beyonce… A case in point on this one is the huge success of Michael Rosenberg , who uses the name Passenger and Alan Pownall, who uses his real name. Both write very similar songs (I much prefer Alan’s though), but only one has sold millions of records. The name Alan Pownall just doesn’t have swagger; or there’s 3) Using an initial instead of a surname such as Mel B and Katy B (they’re not related).

Now there are some exceptions to the role. Robin Thicke is pretty big right now, and I wouldn’t have put that name down as one to succeed. Let’s see how he does though without the one-named master, Pharrell, by his side.

The same is not so true for band names, as there is just more room for quirkiness and nerdiness. Having said that, even if they wrote an amazingly catchy pop song, the superb Sub Pop band Pissed Jeans can never go mainstream.

So poor old David Sneddon. Well not so poor actually – since winning the Fame Academy, David has become one of the UK’s most successful pop songwriters, writing hits for people like Lana Del Rey (who changed her name when she realised that ‘Lizzy Grant’ wasn’t getting her any attention), and Pixie Lott (clever enough to change from Victoria to Pixie). So no need to feel sorry for Sneddon. However, another talent show success with the same issue, Lucy Spraggan, should take note. Her career is floundering, so Lucy, now’s the time to make that change!

Post Author: Jon Kudlick

I am a songwriter and keyboard player, and previously a manager to the indie band 'The Bright Lights'. I am now one half of the electronic duo 'Mother of Billions', and occasionally write about the quirks of music and the industry.