Okay so this is mainly a response to growingfearless about stage names/band names. She had asked, “If you want a “stage name” do you have to do it through SAG (Screen Actors Guild)?”
We quickly established that the SAG is a union for actors, and they have a rule that there can be no two actors with the same name so some people choose to or are forced to create a fake name to avoid duplicates. Her question, however, was about stage names for musical performing artists, so here is the process for that. Sorry for the delay.
So the first thing you need to know is that if you are making money as a band or performer, you are running a business. You are offering products and services (CD’s and concerts) to customers, purchasing material and making profits, etc. As a business, you need to be established as a business. A quick and easy way is to file as an LLC, but for more recognized national acts you may want to file as a corporation so the members are given shares in stock equivalent to the cut they agreed upon in the contracts. This may seem like something you never even considered doing as a musician, but that’s what a good manager is for. Don’t forget the lawyer.
Now that you have “My Sweet Band LLC/INC” established, you’ll want to trademark your name. You’ll actually be applying for a Service Mark, basically meaning that nobody else will be able to advertise and perform under your moniker.
Your name will also be under copyright with all of your music.
After all that, you should be safe and sound. Did you know Nirvana had to pay about $100,000 at their height because another band owned the name?
Hope this helps! Any more questions might be answered my the authority themselves: http://www.uspto.gov/faq/musicart.jsp