What Is The Difference Between An Artist And A Musician?

What Is The Difference Between An Artist And A Musician?

When it comes to musical terminology, it is pretty easy to get messed up on a few of them. One of the more unusual terminology comparisons is between artists and musicians. The two are generally used interchangeably, but there are some differences.

So what is the difference between an artist and a musician? An artist is not limited to a single style of creativity. A musician is a type of artist that is specific to playing an instrument. The word “artist” is typically used about those serious about their performances.

Below, we are going to dig into clear definitions of an artist and musician. We will also be exploring different settings in which they may be used.

What Is An Artist?

An artist is a generalist’s term that can define anyone skilled at any activity. You can be called an “artist in the kitchen” as a result. They are most likely known for creatively skilled, as a sculptor, novelist, or musician.

An artist is not expected to have a manager or an agent. Instead, anybody can call themselves an artist.  It does come with a great deal of public scrutiny when you do so. If you call yourself an artist, make sure you have the proof.

Below are a few standard features of artists you may come across.

An Artist Is Not Interested In Selling Themselves

An artist is not usually interested in branding or receiving royalties for their work. However, they don’t say no. Typically, they create pieces based on random inspiration. We’ve all heard the term “starving artist” before, as artists don’t typically begin with a lot of buyers.

Once they find the right circle, they can hire managers and agents to handle the business side of things for them. But this isn’t an all-encompassing statement, as some artists are very skilled with business matters.

They May Not Care What The World Things

I went to a modern art museum in New Mexico once and found one of the exhibits to resemble a giant fabric tube of spaghetti. Apparently, modern art is not for me. The artist should not care what I think. This is typical of artists.

Many artists produce art only for themselves, caring not about the public response. Regardless, they still manage to find success as someone eventually will match their tastes.

They Have A Free Spirit Vibe

Artists are typically among free-spirited people who feel like they don’t have anything to prove. People who have “real jobs” tend to make fun of them. These people do not realize that the art wasn’t produced for them. The whole “free spirit” thing is really more of an expression of their personality’s creative side.

This is not an expression of their ego. Some artists have huge egos that can fill an entire room. Others have no egos and let their art speak for them.  Don’t assume that an artist is arrogant. Instead, listen to what they have to say.

What Is A Musician?

A musician is similar to an artist. To call yourself one, you will need to prove yourself through your skillset. That being said, a musician typically has fewer skill requirements when compared to an artist.

A musician can be just as skilled, if not more skilled, than an artist. Their medium of creativity is only in sound.  Musicians are more likely to find themselves in the music industry. Given that music is such a competitive field, musicians may have huge teams of people to finish a piece.

A musician is more likely to work with managers and booking agents. This happens because they need the business to function so they can create music.  Musicians have higher standards for the business side. Still, some of the best musicians may never pursue mainstream success.

Below are some common features behind what makes a musician unique:

A Musician Only Works With Sound

This might be an obvious one, but a musician only works with music. That’s why they can do live TV performances and radio performances. Because it provides entertainment to the viewers, they typically get more air time than other kinds of artists.

That being said, you can still see painters and sculptures on smaller podcasts.

A Musician Has Greater Copyright Difficulties

With the introduction of the U.S. Copyright Act, musicians and artists alike received significant protections. This prevents people from misusing copyright material. They can include famous art pieces, sounds, and entire music tracks.

Even with this, it was clear that musicians needed another layer of protection.

With the inclusion of the Digitial Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), musicians received those protections. As piracy continues to grow to this day, musicians struggle to make any money from their record sales. As a result, they typically have to do more live performances.

Other kinds of artists have this trouble too, but it is most prevalent in the music industry. Check out this video below to see how music piracy has changed the industry:

A Musician Can Also Be Broken Down Into More Narrow Categories

If an artist is a high-level concept, a musician is a lower-level version of that concept. Going deeper into that, you have more narrow categories of a musician:

Depending on who you ask, all of the above categories can also be called artists.

Is There Crossover Between Artists And Musicians?

Yes, artists and musicians have an incredible amount of crossover. Anyone who creates something qualifies as an artist, meaning that all musicians are types of artists. That being said, some people have pickier preferences. there are also clear differences between artists and musicians.

What Makes Artists And Musicians Different?

When asking this question, we will delve into the idea of entertainment. Entertainment is defined below:

“the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.” – Oxford Dictionary

When you look at a piece of art on the wall, you can sometimes be entertained. However, art isn’t always put up to entertain someone.

Many artists like to invoke certain emotions when creating it. Emotional experiences are incredibly important with art. Sometimes, that emotion isn’t meant to make you think of entertainment.

Art can also be used to enhance the image quality of a room. If you have ever walked into a doctor’s office and looked at a large landscape picture, you aren’t having fun. You are likely complimenting the artist.

At this point, you could argue that music isn’t always meant to provide a positive experience. However, most music is intended to be performed in front of a live audience. The performance needs to be entertaining; otherwise, you can expect people to leave the performance in droves.

This doesn’t apply to all music, such as those produced to keep you focused during study time. Still, it does apply to music more often. Turning this idea around, many people have argued that most music is no longer “true art.”

What Makes Music “True Art?”

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Lady Gaga discussed why she almost left music. Her discussion delved into her being treated like a “money-making machine” for the music industry.

To address this feeling of musical stagnation, she moved to other mediums. She became an actress on “American Horror Story.” Many musicians probably feel the same on this issue, wondering where the line between “art” begins and “trendy money making music” ends.

Because of this, many would-be famous artists have stepped back from the potential of making money. One could say that the music industry has a toxic culture.

On the other hand, many people who listen to music have very particular tastes. Some people may not be willing to call your brand of music “art” because it wasn’t played in Peru with a pan flute.

How Do I Bridge The Gap Between An Artist And A Musician?

Like with most careers, you need to be able to enjoy it to perform at your best. As with any job, showing up and performing at 100% is almost impossible if your heart isn’t in it.

If you feel like you are getting to the point where you no longer love what you create, it might be time to take a moment to re-evaluate your position. Ask yourself those tough “do I still enjoy what I’m doing” questions. If you can’t say that you enjoy yourself as a musician (or an artist), it might be time to move on.


An artist is a high-level version of a musician. While an artist typically has higher skill demands, a musician will have higher business demands. Both are creators that can create beautiful things in their own right.

Regardless of how you define yourself, other people may disagree with you. Some people may only consider art “true art” if made of spaghetti and paper mache.

Whatever you create, all that matters is that it has meaning to you. Always remember to prioritize working for yourself. Do what you love, and the money will come.

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