In the music industry performing/recording artists are referred to as “Artists”, whereas Songwriters are just referred to as Songwriters. But why is that?
Isn´t the writing of a song a work of art in itself?
I believe it is about time to re-adjust some of the traditional terminology. To do that we should first understand the difference between Art and Craft.
Art is something that a person or a group of people create from a unique place. Art is always original. Something that cannot be reproduced the exact same way. The beauty of art lies in its fragility and momentary value. Good art usually stems from an emotional place and speaks a language of emotions. Whether those are sad, happy, empowering or reflective.
Both a songwriter and a performer can create art.
A songwriter can write from a personal, intuitive place, and a singer can lay their emotions, their personal experiences into a song when interpreting it! The songwriter crops the ingredients, and the singer is the vessel that cooks them so to say. Sometimes the songwriter and the singer are one person.
There are also songwriters and singers that do not come from a place of artmaking (which requires total abandonment of control), but that are more technical, more crafty in their delivery of songs.
Those songwriters and singers have learned the ropes of how to construct a song, and how to use certain vocal techniques to “simulate” emotions. They are in “control“. This approach has many advantages. It doesn´t require the musician to invest their emotions fully, which makes them less vulnerable and more resilient. A craft is an art in itself of course. It comes with practice. You learn your craft to the point that you can be a service provider. You can produce and reproduce almost identical ideas over and over. This is only possible if you are a master of your craft and know the mechanisms that make a song vivid and interesting.
Think of an actor. An actor can chose whether they let go of their personal ego and become a vessel for another persona. They might act from a place of imagination and empathy. Or they may stay in control and learn to “simulate” certain facial expressions and study the persona they want to reenact. They might not understand how the person feels and reacts empirically, by walking in their shoes, but a priori, by analyzing their behaviour logically. Both approaches can lead to a successful interpretation.
Back to music! Both approaches (the artsy and the crafty one) are relevant and important. In commercial music, owning your craft is mandatory. Not only do you need to be able to deliver songs on request, but you also need stemina to present songs no matter how you feel that day. This is a fast pace industry with a lot of pressure.
As an unsigned indie musician who lives for their art and not for the money though, you might make it a priority to produce the music you truely stand for. Those “artists” will not write every day or sing the same setlist every night over. They might go with their guts more and let inspiration take the reigns!
I believe that both the more crafty and the more artsy writer and performer are artists! Their are different forms of art and we should not label or unlabel some of them!
So yes, I think songwriting is an art in itself. And songwriters should be called artists , too! Whether it is commercial or individual music, it always requires dedication and a certain willingness to deal with your emotions! Only an artist is willing to walk that line!
So, let´s keep creating beautiful art!
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