An artist is someone with a vision who is able to create music or be able to contribute to music creation. A musician, on the other hand, is someone who plays instruments, writes, and performs music. While all musicians are artists, all artists may not necessarily be musicians.
For example, many pop artists often do not write their own songs or produce, arrange and play the instruments in their tracks. They are not considered musicians. However, some pop artists such as Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran are artists who are musicians because they sing, play instruments, and perform their music.
What Is An ‘Artist’ In Music?
Anybody who creates art can be called an artist. In music, one of the most important things is the ability to dream and conjure up what to say through their work.
While anybody can learn music theory and play an instrument with lots of practice, not every musician has the ability to create something.
An artist is responsible for not just building a brand for themselves and has a distinct signature in terms of sound. While major music labels often assemble a team to help an artist write, record, and release music, there is no guarantee that the artist will always be able to deliver a hit or the audience will be able to resonate with them. Some people have a distinct ‘spark’ or x-factor while most don’t.
Artists such as David Bowie and Prince are examples of artists of great caliber who were able to not just play instruments and write music but also had great ability to translate their ideas to other musicians who collaborated and featured on their records.
Who Is A Musician?
A musician is someone who can play instruments, has knowledge of music theory, and can write music. Instrument virtuosos such as Steve Vai or Victor Wooten are not just incredible players but they also have a unique sound and extensive knowledge of their instrument and music theory.
Musicians are also often able to produce and arrange music. Although this is not a compulsory skill, more and more musicians these days choose to learn music production to be able to bring their music to life.
Bands are great examples of a varied bunch of musicians who have proficiency in their instruments and can collectively contribute to creating music.
To be a good musician, one needs to work hard and spend time perfecting their craft. There are no shortcuts. The more time you spend practicing, the better you get.
Are Music Producers Musicians?
People often assume that music producers are not musicians because they work extensively on computers. But this is incredibly incorrect. To be a good producer, you need to first be a good musician.
Whether you write music on a guitar or use a DAW such as Ableton Live, if you do not have adequate knowledge of music theory, you will eventually face obstacles in your process.
Music producers are required to know not just how instruments work but also have the ability to arrange and compose music.
In electronic music, producers often compose, mix and master their music.
Are DJs Musicians?
There is perhaps no straightforward answer to this. If a DJ is simply matching tempo to create a set with different pre-existing tracks, then no. They cannot be considered musicians. This also applies to DJs who only use music recorded and performed by others to create their set.
If a DJ creates their own music, can add their own elements to other people’s music, then they can be considered musicians. We often see a lot of producers perform DJ sets, this means that while they are not performing their songs live, the music they are playing is either entirely their own discography or they are curating a playlist with other music that meshes well to fit the mood, tempo, and vibe of their music.
DJs like Grandmaster Flash are considered musicians because they have demonstrated extreme proficiency using turntables to create a unique sound. DJ Hahn who is part of the band Linkin Park is also a musician.
While a great DJ may not necessarily have musical abilities, what they have that many musicians or artists don’t is the ability to really understand the needs of an audience and cater to them.
Are Singers Artists Or Musicians?
A singer is a musician. Just like guitar players, drummers, and other instrumentalists, they use their voice to create music.
If a singer performs their own music then they are an artist. If they sing covers or backing vocals such as harmonies for others, then they are generally not considered as artists. Not all singers necessarily want to be artists, some prefer being part of choirs, orchestras, or even teach music.
Many famous singers often started as backup singers for artists before embarking on their artist careers. Mariah Carey, Cher, and Elton John are some examples.
Which Road Should I Take?
If you are considering a career in professional music, then no matter what genre you choose, you should first spend time sharpening your skills and working on your musical abilities. If you do not have sufficient knowledge and experience, you might be in danger of becoming a one-hit-wonder.
Also, remember that the music business is incredibly competitive. Korean pop ensembles train extensively for years to achieve perfection. This is why they are performers of such high caliber.
Creating and performing music are two very different things. Some artists simply perform music. They have limited musical abilities and are not in charge of their own music.
Some musicians are incredibly talented but cannot create music.
The music industry comprises several different kinds of people and there is always something for everyone. It takes a group of people, comprising artists, musicians, engineers, and crew, to make a record. When you are at a gig, it is again a team that puts the show together so you can enjoy the experience. The music industry cannot function without this mix of eclectic people.