The Dream of Being Discoverable
March 23, 2009
I'm a fan of The-Dream, the producer-turned-singer who was born Terius Nash and is responsible for pop gems ranging from Rihanna's "Umbrella" to Mariah's "Touch My Body". His solo albums have been genuinely entertaining and well-produced, a fact that is particularly fortunate given that nearly all of the catchiest choruses to his songs contain expletives that can't be sung on the radio. The-Dream's excellent debut Love/Hate, in particular, demonstrates this trait. (Listen to the samples to hear for yourself!)
However, a few days ago, I was recommending The-Dream's work to my friend Ben since we share similar musical tastes, and I was surprised to hear that he had been reluctant to listen. Ben was balking because, as he correctly pointed out, the extraneous hyphen in The-Dream's stage name is annoying.
Then I realized: The-Dream is one of the first successful pop acts in the world to have deliberately incorporated search engine optimization into his stage name. (If you're fortunate enough to not be familiar with the practice, SEO is the effort that many people put in to making their content easier to discover on the web. It's part necessary evil, part spam-inducing cargo cult.)
You see, without the hyphen, "The Dream" would have been almost impossible to find on Google or iTunes or YouTube before he got famous. In fact, unless you have a fairly distinctive (at least in English-speaking parts of the world) name like I do, this can be a common challenge. But I posit that the hyphenation of his name made him unique enough to be easily discoverable even before he had hit songs. Simply showing up when people are searching for music or videos is a pretty important part of getting your name out there if you want to be a big star.
I used to make predictions on my blog years ago, but one of the ones I forgot to write down was that Google would influence business names just like the Yellow Pages did. Instead of naming yourself "AAA Plumbing" so that you are listed first, you'd make sure you were easy to search for on the web by naming yourself The-Plumber, presumably.