iHeartRadio Music Festival 2016: How The Artists Got Their Names

What's in a name? We investigate. The origin behind band/stage names often proves to be very interesting. They can come from absolutely anywhere -- which got us thinking. We are mere days away from our 2016 iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, and there are quite a few artists on the lineup who have very thought-provoking names. Many of the artists on his year's lineup take their name from their birth names, if not are exactly their birth names. However, there are many stage/band names that we couldn't help but wonder -- where do they come from? We did our research, and found out. Check it out below:


In case you didn't know, U2 wasn't always called U2. Their previous names included "Feedback" and "The Hype." So how did they end up with U2? There are a lot of theories, but the most popular is that Steve Averill (a punk rock musician and family friend of U2's Adam Clayton) had suggested at least six possible band names for the guys. And the band reportedly ultimately chose the ambiguous U2 because of its open-ended interpretations ... and because it was the name they disliked the least.

twenty one pilots

Band names can come from many places -- even literature. Tyler Joseph came up with the band name twenty one pilots from reading the play All My Sons by Arthur Miller. The play is about a man who makes plane parts for World War II and has to make a tough decision about faulty parts -- whether he should send them out knowing they are faulty (which would benefit him in business) or recall them. His decision ultimately caused the death of twenty one pilots during the war -- one of which his own son. Tyler once said in an interview that the story is relatable to him, in that, it reminds them "sometimes the right decision may not be the decision that benefits you right now, it may be the harder decision, it might be the decision that takes more work. The right decision is ultimately worth it, no matter when the reward is. It’s something we live by as a band and as individuals, it’s nice to have a band name to remind you of that."

Billy Idol

Billy Idol's real name is William Michael Albert Broad. So you can imagine why he picked the name Billy, as it's a nickname often used in place of William. But where does the "Idol" part come from? Well, the story goes, Billy was a very smart student, but because of his superior intelligence, he became bored at school, and his teacher once wrote "Billy is Idle" in one of the margins in an assignment. This remained with him, and ultimately inspired his stage name.

Florida Georgia Line

Florida Georgia Line's band name isn't hard to figure out. The name is a tribute to where both Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard are each from. Brian is from Ormond Beach, Florida, while Tyler is from Monroe, Georgia. Hence Florida Georgia Line.


Like U2, OneRepublic wasn't always called OneRepublic. In the very beginning of the band's career, they were called "This Beautiful Mess." Following a parting of ways to attend different colleges, the band reunited under the name "Republic," then becoming OneRepublic after they were signed to a label and realized the "Republic" moniker may have already been taken.

Cage The Elephant

Cage The Elephant's band name was inspired by a crazed man, who lead singer Matthew Shultz remembers as a guy with a shaved head, screaming to himself, who made a mad dash right for the band. After most of the band members made a beeline for their car for safety, Matthew was the only one stuck outside. The man went right up to him, gave him a hug, and said, "You have to cage the elephant."  


Zedd's stage name was actually inspired by his real name -- Anton Zaslavski (mostly his last name and the "Z" at the beginning). He explained in an old Tumblr page, that "Z" throughout many places in the world is pronounced as "Zed/Zedd," and ultimately ended up with that as his official moniker. He said, "Except for USA, everywhere in the world, the letter 'Z' is pronounced as 'Zed / Zedd'; which is the first letter of my last name. I was too lazy to think of a name so I just took 'Zedd' since 'Zed' was already taken by same random dude." 

Tears For Fears

Tears For Fears is derived from a form of psychotherapy created by American psychologist/psychotherapist Arthur Janov called Primal Therapy. Primal Therapy is a trauma-based psychotherapy, and according to Janov, "neurosis is caused by the repressed pain of childhood trauma." Tears For Fears. The idea is apparent in their debut "The Hurting."


If you don't know Pitbull is from Miami by now ... that's why he calls himself Mr. 305, sometimes. But why Pitbull as his overall stage name? Pitbulls were outlawed in Dade County where he grew up, and he once said of the canines, the dogs "bite to lock. The dog is too stupid to lose." Dalé?


Sting is a very interesting stage name. So where does it come from? In his early career, the rocker was part of a few bands: Phoenix Jazzmen, Newcastle Big Band, and Last Exit, but was given his nickname because of his frequently worn black and yellow striped sweater -- basically, he looked like  a bee. And, as you know, bees can "sting" you. By the way, Sting's real name is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner.

Panic! at Disco

Many believe that Panic! at the Disco's band name comes from The Smiths' song "Panic," which include lyrics like "burn down the disco." However, there is another report that the name actually comes from a song from California-based rock band Name Taken called "Panic," in which the track actually includes the line "Panic at the Disco."

Good Charlotte

Who is Charlotte and why is she good? And why did Benji and Joel Madden choose this name for their band? In an old interview from 2000, Joel explained that the name Good Charlotte actually comes from a children's book of the same name. "It's the name of a children's book I had. It's really old. It was one of my favorites when I was younger. We were looking for a name and it was sitting there. Good Charlotte -- it just fit." He added, "It's about a little girl. Everyone thinks she's bad. She's always getting in trouble and has bad luck. At the end of the book, everyone finds out she's really good."

Cold War Kids

Cold War Kids was a band name that bassist Matt Maust had thought of before the band even formed. He explained to Spin several years ago that during a visit to Budapest, he and his brother discovered a park where statues were "dumped" after the fall of Communism there -- however, it's now a great spot for picnics, and has a playground for children. He said, "Being in that environment just made the phrase 'Cold War Kids' pop into my head. I may have heard it before. I’m a cold war kid, too — I was born in 1979. Originally, I used the name for a website I had where I posted art and poems. Then when I started playing music with the guys, they thought it would be a good name for the band, too."

The Chainsmokers

Are The Chainsmokers actually chainsmokers? Perhaps once, but during a 2015 interview with Complex, they say not anymore. However, their days of the bad habit did help to influence their stage name.


Their name is DNCE -- NOT DANCE. But dance does have to do with their chosen band name, and it describes the four of them together, perfectly. They told iHeartRadio during a 2015 interview, "There was a song that one day we were writing in the studio, and an idea for a song pretty much [came about] where you're too drunk to spell dance, but you still get down. That's where it started. It just kind of describes the imperfect awesome[ness] of the four of us together."

You can watch these artists perform live, along with the rest of the star-studded lineup, during a live stream of the 2016 iHeartRadio Music Festival This weekend beginning Friday, September 23rd at 7pm PT/ 10 PM ET. Don't Miss it!

Photos: Getty Images


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