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The Difference Between an Artist and a Wanna Be!!!

I’m getting kinda sick of hearing the word ‘Artist’ being thrown around Hollywood and other social media circles as though anyone who has a talent automatically qualifies as an ‘artist’. That is so not the case and in my opinion needs to be clarified.

I have had one too many coffees of late with people telling me that they have to get out of this job or that relationship because “they are an ‘artist’ and the situation they are in is stifling their ability to express themselves”. Somebody please give me a vomit bag! Talent does not equal art and talented people are not automatically artists. In order to call yourself an artist you have to earn that right and the way you do that is by doing what any real artist does….show the world the things that are affecting you when you feel inspired to do so.

An artists is someone who expresses what they are feeling, thinking and or observing about a situation they are experiencing or witnessing. The situation may have moved them, inspired them, angered them, whatever…..they have been affected by their experience and they choose to express that through their art. A real artist, when they have something to say, GETS OFF THEIR BUTT AND EXPRESSES WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY. They don’t wait for it to be cool, or profitable, or convenient, or trendy. They express because what they have to say about their lives is their truth and they can’t not express it. Their intention is not to make money or gain fame, but to move and provoke thought in the people that their art engages.

I am so over being asked “Can you show me how to “make it” as an independent artist?” by people that haven’t had the courage to say what they have to say. It’s not the artist in me that drives me to “make it”. It’s the business woman in me that is stimulated to “make it” and pioneer a path for other independent artists. The artist in me is not interested in the business side of things. She doesn’t need to “make it”. She’s not stimulated with money or cool shoes or amazing restaurants. The business woman in me is, and she makes no apologies for it. The artist in me only cares about stimulating conversation around the things that are affecting and moving my thoughts and feelings.

So to all you so called artists….the next time you hear yourself calling yourself an artist, please take a minute to reflect “Am I really an artist? Do I have something to say about the things that are affecting my life and am I actually saying them? Am I more focused on how to make money out of my talents than what I have to say as an artist?” After you’ve taken time to really think about these questions, ask yourself again…..”Have I really earned the right to call myself an artist?” If you’ve answered no, it doesn’t mean you never will. it just means that if you are going to call yourself an artist, you need to start bringing it!

Please comment and share your thoughts!

Lee Safar is an Independent Australian Singer/Songwriter now based in Los Angeles and building a successful music career globally. Having recently signed a major distribution deal in Japan after and being shortlisted for the Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack, Lee is helping artists/bands all over the world build a global presence online gathering true fans and not hype! (to contact Lee for help on you’re social media presence in the music industry email

The Difference Between an Artist and a Wanna Be!!!

Reader Comments (14)

I feel like this post hits the bulls-eye of my life. I've always felt the urge to create, but when it comes to communicating what I have to express, I'm held up by perfectionism and by the fear of rejection.
I have to put an enormous effort into winning my fears. I'm testing myself with some busking lately, but even when I actually see that some people appreciate what I do, it still seems too hard. but it's hard to give up trying, too. it's a lifetime internal struggle.
does all that fear mean that I'm condemned?

July 29 | Unregistered Commentermarsiano

It's always seemed to me that anyone that needs to try to define themself as an "artist" means they aren't one. That's a title other people give you, not one you give yourself. Same with "guitarist" instead of "guy who plays guitar."

Essentially, Lee, your article is about being honest with yourself and, amusingly, you are honest with us at the end of the piece where you state you are helping build a 'global presence online...' etc for 'bands/artists'.

So, it's also an article is about you promoting your service (is it free?) and your music and not really about who has the right to call themselves an artist, which, truth be told, is absolutely anyone for anything. Last time I looked there were no laws in place in the UK or USA or Australia...

What peculiar strand of self-loathing and fake humble pie induces a plumber to call himself 'a guy who messes around with pipes'?

July 31 | Registered CommenterTim London

@ Tim

The kind of plumber who doesn't make a living doing it?

@Brian John Mitchell
so you wouldn't have considered Van Gogh as an artist after all, since he didn't make a living painting.
is money the real measure of your artistic value? in my opinion it's only the measure of how much you are fashionable. if you really believe in art, you don't do it for the money, you do it for yourself, because you need to do it.
I agree that 'artist' is a title that other people give to you, but I fear that in most cases it will happen too late for the artist to know it, especially if he is doing something really innovative and unfashionable. time is the only judge about the universal value of a work of art.
being asked the question "when did you realize being a genius?" Salvador Dali' once answered "I just kept telling people I was a genius, so I became one".
I wouldn't blame someone who says: "I am an artist". self assertion can help doing something so difficult.
waiting for the final judgement of time, since we probably all will be dead then, could we find a compromise during our lifetime and consider as artists those who at least try hard to be one?

August 1 | Unregistered Commentermarsiano

@ marsiano

I would consider Van Gogh an artist, however I think the idea of him proclaiming himself as an artist during his own lifetime of not selling a painting would be about as valid as a paint by numbers housewife calling herself an artist.

Here's how I believe money should (& to a certain degree does) relate to art. If someone believes something is art; they are willing to pay money for it, either directly by buying the art (or paying to attend a concert in the case of music) or indirectly through support that comes from other things like artistic foundations & local art councils.

I know some people are big on "fake it til you make it" on being artists. But that has always seemed a little bogus to me. How about you can call yourself an artist if you spend more than 40 hours a week making art, not including promotion time or driving time. Which completely means I'm not an artist more than week or two a year.

Here's a question, the last 40 years or so of his life was JD Salinger a writer?

@Brian John Mitchell
'artist' can be used as a title of honor for a remarkable work, even if it's a 'once in a lifetime', but I think that Lee Safar's article is about commitment, and commitment deserves to be honored too.
comparing Van Gogh's commitment to his art to that of some bored housewives is not too generous.

August 2 | Unregistered Commentermarsiano

My favorite part is how your bio totally undoes everything you said in the actual post. Thanks for the LULZ!!!!

August 2 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

@Brian John Mitchell

Van Gogh created art.

What do you call someone who creates art?

An artist.

Perhaps the catch is in semantics, with compensation as the clarifyer - in othewr words, even the paint by numbers housewife is an artist, in a sense (I guess), but a PROFESSIONAL artist is one who makes a living at it.

Someone can be a baseball player in college, for example - just not a PROFESSIONAL baseball player.

@Justin Boland

Funny how the bios tend to do that far too often - a shame especially when enjoying the post for the most part...maybe bios should be placed at the top...

August 3 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

Some interesting comments made to the article that I wrote. Thanks to everyone for the responses so far. Glad that it stimulated so much chat! However there are a few points that I do feel that I need to address give the comments made:

@Tim London: The article was not about promoting my services. It was my expression of a frustration that I am observing about the notion that the concept of the role that an artist used to play in society has been lost. The content on my 'Dream Angel' website is completely free. It's a way of me paying it forward for the success I'm having so that other may do the same.

@Justin Boland: How does my bio undo everything that the post says? It's quite the contrary actually. My parents culture prevented me from being a musician. That is different from being an artist. When I was about to break away from that culture I left a high paying corporate job to pursue my passion for my craft and have spend most of my time since expressing the things that I find important to me. I get emails on a daily basis from fans telling me that from reading my bio, hearing my music, and discovering my Dream Angel posts that they are starting to question their own lives. Isn't that what an artist does? I fail to see how that contradicts what the post says.

My main point in the article was that there is a distinct difference between a musician, painter, potter etc and an "artist". Yes I agree, everyone has the right to call themselves an artist as long as they're engaging art that provokes something. Those who are too scared to get out there and affect other people with their opinions, in my opinion, are lacking the fundamental element of what is required to be an artist. You don't need to wait to be called an artist by others, but if you're going to call yourself an artist be clear that you will need to have something to say that has the potential to stimulate change.

@Dg I agree that an artist is someone who creates art. But creating art is different from creating a painting or a song. The difference between art, and a painting, is that it provokes, it makes a statement, it is an honest reflection of what the fuck you have to say. The point of my post is that someone creating songs to sell music and create 'cookie cutter' music isn't interested in creating art. They're interested in making money. I have no issue with that, nor do I have an issue with artists making money (I'm not a fan of the idea of a struggling artist). I do have an issue with entertainers calling themselves artists when they're not, and I have an issue with the bullshit when someone is trying to prove that they are an artist. Yes, there is a fear in expressing that art, particularly initially. But that is part of the process of sharing your message as an artist. It doesn't affect the honesty in what your creating or what you have to say.

August 5 | Unregistered CommenterLee Safar

I don't know much about art but I know what I like.

Lee, if you are posting that you know what makes an artist and what doesn't then expect a little disagreement, especially when you're knocking my kind of art. Give me a straight down the line, auto-tuned, hook-riven, uptempo 3 minute pop song, sung by a session singer and mimed by a pretty model over the fake angst of a singer-songwriter struggling to capture that feeling he got during the sad bit of Nip And Tuck any day.

It's an impossible argument. There are no rules to being an artist - art doesn't exist as soon as it's bought or even seen. There are professional critics who's job it is to filter and sift for the industrial side of art, but their opinions only count when it comes time to sell. Some artists don't want to sell. That doesn't make them any less an artist. Some artists hack off bits of themselves or pump themselves up with chemicals, try to become 'new creatures'. Some artists spend their whole lives trying to place a few grains of sand in exactly the right place and understanding that they never will and that is their art.

My dad was an artist, when he planted flowers and veg in the garden (no he wasn't, he was a gardener - yes he was, he was a gardener and sometimes an artist).

Feel free to enjoy or hate what you like but don't tell me and the world that your tastes are for 'art' and ours are for... not-art.

My take on what you're saying is that you have a romantic ideal of what an artist is, probably one that wouldn't allow, say, a Grayson Perry into your Lower East Side Garret. And my guess is that 'struggling artist' is almost by definition, not your definition of an artist.

And if your services are free then I mis-read your website and I apologise because it's always nice to help people along.

August 5 | Registered CommenterTim London


I don't know you from Adam, so in the wilderness between our two brains, perception is reality. I'm sure you really are an interesting artist -- mostly because you're an interesting writer -- but I still recommend re-assessing your bio copy. Twilight doesn't matter unless you were actually on the soundtrack, and we've got a producer on World Around who's got a record deal in Japan -- he's turning 17 in a few months, too.

To someone who doesn't know you, your bio sure makes you sound like a wannabe. Just a heads-up. That obviously doesn't equate to any judgement about what you actually "are" because I don't know that. Just commenting on the small digital chunks of you that I can see.

"...if you're going to call yourself an artist be clear that you will need to have something to say that has the potential to stimulate change."


August 6 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

@Tim, I appreciate your point and I think you, and some of the others, are misunderstanding my intended point. If you think that that I'm trying to say that some people have more of a right to express their art that others because of the validity of their art then you are mistaken. I believe that Bubblegum pop is just as valid an art form as emo rock or the most intense Van long as the artist is expressing what is honestly going on with them and presenting their truth, even if their truth is admitting that they're hiding behind their bullshit, then that is absolutely art.

Take a look at Madonna....perfect example of pop that is art. She, and her co-writers, are expressing her truth and she doesn't give a fuck if it offends people or not. All she cares is that it affects them and has them asking questions. Questions about whether they agree with what she's doing or not. Questions about how her extremist ways affects their sensibility, and what the affects of her radicalism will be on a generation. This art has people thinking. Madonna is absolutely an artist in my humbled opinion because she is telling you what she thinks. That's what make her different from an entertainer. I'm not slinging shit at entertainers. I'm just saying that there's a difference and that difference needs to be acknowledged and distinguished. I am saying that if someone is going to call themselves an artist they have to bring it. They can't be lazy about bringing it. Even if all they ever produce is one piece of art in their lifetime. They life needs to be their honesty. They have to bring it by bringing their truth because truth is the one thing you can't bullshit and there are too many people professing to be artists but not being honest. Once again, write bubble gum pop that was inspired by Nip Tuck but tell me, your audience, how that honestly made you feel. Take me there with you so that I might get affected to.

Madonna defined pop for a generation, but she still used it affect a generation. She wasn't lazy about being honest. She had something to say. She has, and still has, an opinion and she's gonna tell you what it is so that it might get you thinking about what your opinion is. She is sharing her experience with you so that it might stimulate thought in you about your life. THAT IS ART and while we may not all desire to affect the thoughts of a whole generation, consider stimulating the thoughts of the people with those gracious enough to come to your shows. If you're gonna call yourself an artist, then be an artist. If you're not, then that's fine too. Just be honest about who you are and what you are. I'm not judging anyone. I'm just asking people to check in with themselves about who they are and what they're looking to be.

@Justin, you said "To someone who doesn't know you, your bio sure makes you sound like a wannabe." and "Twilight doesn't matter unless you were actually on the soundtrack, and we've got a producer on World Around who's got a record deal in Japan -- he's turning 17 in a few months, too." I suspect the thousands of 18-35 year old female twilight fans who contacted me after reading that bio thanking me for sharing my story would disagree with you. That bio that makes me sound like a wanna be gave thousands of people all over the world inspiration to start finding a way to live their dreams. They identified with the fact that for one reason or another, they were not allowed to live their dreams, and they admired the fact that I was able to forge past those road blocks in my life to make my dreams eventuate in a very challenging industry. The other people who may not agree with you, are the independent artist that contact me on a daily basis asking for my help to show them how to make it in these changing times of the music industry. I am a self managed independent artist and have been up until now. I wrote my first song 6 years ago and released my first EP 2 years ago. Last year, MTV wrote 2 feature articles on me because I was in the running for The Twilight Saga New Moon soundtrack. The Soundtrack Examiner wrote "According to Twilight Source, artists highly likely to be on the soundtrack include Bon Iver, Radiohead, Band of Skulls and Muse. Other possible artists include Kelly Clarkson and up-and-coming Aussie singer Lee Safar. The rumor that Kings of Leon would release a song for New Moon is false." 125,000 people read that article. I know many signed artists that would kill to be mentioned in the same article as Radiohead and Muse and they wouldn't care if they didn't end up on the soundtrack. Why because the exposure show's the hard work that I've put in to make my career happen. I didn't have to pay for the publicity not did I have to sign a deal to make it happen. I may not have made it onto the soundtrack but I still got a hell of a lot out of the work I put into making it all happen and everything that I, and my new fans got out of it, does count. I honestly think you need to reassess your comment about Twilight my friend.

Which leads me to Japan. I'm not sure if you're aware or not but Japan is the second largest music market in the world, and potentially very rewarding if proven to be successful. Getting into that market is extremely difficult- ask any western artist that has tried to break it into Japan. It's not like iTunes where you just put your music up there and hope that people buy it. The Japanese have a completely different culture of music consumption. They purchase via their cell phones from mobile providers and like I said, it's tough to get on the distribution list of a reputable distributor. I happened to sign a deal with the MOST reputable for independent artists- ICJ Inc who are the exclusive distributors for MySpace Music Japan (Where most digital music is consumed in Japan). Anyway, my point is that all of this stuff counts for independent artists. Particularly in a time when the model for our industry changing on a daily basis. Your not attacking an artist when you say these things, your talking to a business woman that works her arse of to create opportunities that may one day pioneer a model for indie artists looking to take stock of the direction of their own careers. I share all my strategies with any artist that asks and while it is true that I have not yet made it, I well on the way. I just signed the deal with Japan not 4 weeks ago. We're still in the planning stage with the distribution company who are keen to work with me and my new business manager for Japan to help us penetrate the market.

When you make suggest that I'm a wanna be, you're not offending the artist in me. She has nothing to prove or justify to you. You are however offending the business woman in me who is still in the process of building this career and who is trying to be transparent with my fans and other artists in an effort to encourage others to do the same.

Anyway, I'm sure I've gone on quite enough....peace Lee!

August 9 | Unregistered CommenterLee Safar

Those are all good points but you still need to write a better bio.

You repeatedly said that I'm insulting your inner business-woman, but I really don't think that's true at all: what I've insulted is your pride. That's what you're defending.

Let's talk business: those 125,000 people...don't remember you. You were a single new name among hundreds that those readers came into contact with on that particular day. That's why publicists work so hard to get their clients everywhere at once, because it takes a lot of repetition to actually reach people -- a single impression is not enough unless it's a magazine cover, and even then...

Lee, I just want to emphasize again this is about your bio, not you, because I don't know you. I'm not saying what you "are" because I don't know that, and odds are nobody else does, either. I'm not making fun of you, just giving you blunt feedback.

Either way, you're definitely on the right path, so you'll have bigger and better things to write about soon. Cheers.

August 9 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

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