Ghost producing is a very controversial subject in electronic music at the moment. Those who support it make the case that the long term development of an artiste is more important than the artiste being responsible for the music they put out. The other side argues that it is deceitful to trick fans into thinking that the amazing records released by an artiste were crafted by said artiste. However, the situation is a lot more complex than it seems. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Let us first look at how ghost production works.
What is Ghost Producing?
9 out of 10 times, the scenario usually something like this: Artiste X is a superstar DJ who is so busy touring and headlining shows that he/she barely has any time to hit the studio. Artiste Y is a talented but not-so-famous producer. Now, since in EDM it is universal rule that artistes who don’t create new stuff slowly die, artiste X buys artiste Y’s track and releases it as his own. In this case artiste Y is a ghost producer. His name is not credited anywhere and an NDA may even be involved. The fans then assume X created that banger. As you can see, this is very akin to ghost writing.
The above picture is of Maarten Vowerk, a renowned (The irony isn’t lost on me) EDM ghost producer. Here’s a link to a compilation of his production tips and tricks.
Why Ghost Produce?
So why do ghost producers exist in the first place? Why would someone agree to create a record that he/she will never be credited for? A couple of reasons:
- Money – Yup! Sometimes the money is really good! I remember once reading an interview with a ghost producer who claimed to be making upwards of $10,000 a month. He didn’t mind seeing a track he created topping the charts without him being acknowledged at all. That shows you that sometimes the money outweighs everything. Also, Hardwell once confessed that he had ghost produced a track that ended up in the Beatport Top Ten. Now consider this, Hardwell is an industry superstar. The amount of money he earns from shows, residencies and selling his own music amounts to millions. So how much do you think you would need to pay him for him to agree to create a song anonymously? Food for thought!
- It’s hard to break through in the music industry – There are tons of great producers out there that the world knows nothing about. Competition is so stiff that getting your demo heard by a big music label is a big challenge. The road to stardom is not an easy one. Ghost producing would then look very lucrative to such a frustrated lot.
- Disagreement in musical style – Sometimes a producer wants to experiment with different genres and the fans may not be very welcoming of this. A solution would then be to produce the track and sell it to someone else.
Dream Job or Not So Much?
While ghost producers are despised by many in the music world, it is a dream job for some. So what steps should you take to become a ghost producer? Where do you begin?
If you think about it it’s hard to get into. Artistes don’t want their huge fan bases to know that they don’t actually make their own songs and so will not openly post production gigs online. At the same time they wouldn’t accept applications from the general public, however talented the producer may be.
I recommend these options:
#1 – Get signed by a big label as an in-house producer
Once this happens, you will have a steady flow of work and of course good compensation. Go to festivals and hand out DJs your demos. Also find out who their manager is and approach them with this offer. However, first make sure you approach an EDM act with a reputation for not making his own tracks. There are many producers out there who would never even consider using a ghost producer.
#2 – Join a ghost producing platform
Just typing the words “Ghost producer” on Google will bring up a ton of ads related to ghost producing platforms. How these platforms work is that the buyers go to the site. They listen to the options available and if you’re song is picked you get paid for it. After that you no longer own the song and you might even be slapped with a lawsuit should you disclose that it was you who crafted the song. Joining these sites is only a matter of presenting a few of your best tracks and then waiting for a client to come shopping.
#3 – Freelancing sites
On sites such as Upwork and Fiverr, you will come across job postings requesting the services of a ghost producer. This would be another option but I only recommend this to ghost producers who don’t put in a lot of time in creating songs. This is because generally the compensation here isn’t all that good unless you have built an outstanding profile over time.
The above post is from Upwork.
I don’t like sitting on the fence but I’m torn on this one. I do believe that sincerity should exist in art and that it is unfair to falsely lead fans into believing that you created something you did not.
However, my reluctance to bashing the ghost producing scene is that we perhaps would never get to hear some amazing songs owing to a producer’s low popularity. Also, superstars like Martin Garrix, Hardwell, Porter Robinson and KSHMR started their careers first producing for big name stars. Whichever way you look at it, one thing is for sure; it’s not going away any time soon.