Have you ever talked to a ghost producer? I have. I talked to someone that produced a Beatport-charting single that ultimately sent the wrong person’s career into the next stratosphere. People are applauding a DJ that landed on every major festival in the world off of the success of a single that he didn’t create. Every once in a while, I text the original producer with pictures of the fraud playing to tens of thousands of kids just to fuck with him. Hoping to crack him. Hoping he’ll break.
I can’t speak on either name, because this ghost producer isn’t interested in speaking. Sure, I could have secretly recorded him admitting that he ghost produced a hit single. I could provide the contracts with the splits for the record. I could have secretly videotaped the studio session that he opened up for me while we were on Skype. I have enough information to throw the accused party under the bus. That’s reporting, right? But I can't actually do any of this. I wouldn’t break someone’s trust in order to generate numbers. The bigger issue is that this unknown producer just wants to get known for his music. The industry essentially forcing him to shop his tunes out to false idols because they aren’t covering his work. He has to pay his bills somehow, right?
I pushed another artist that also happened to have a record on regular radio rotation. The video has almost 1.5 million views, and the track isn’t credited to him. If the track and the producer are exposed, content curators will jump on the drama instead of thinking about the fact that this is an incredible producer capable of making hit records or admitting that they let a producer with superstar potential slip through their fingers. This producer sent his tunes to DOZENS of platforms before I picked him up and boosted his career. This is an indicator that sites aren’t being run by people who truly know music. Sure, I can expose the tune that he should be famous for, but all blogs will attach themselves to is the drama instead of getting behind him and fixing the issue that they are inadvertently causing.
I discussed how obvious ghost production was in the career of a reputable DJ/producer with a writer here at DAD, and it took him 20 minutes to wrap his head around it. Oh THAT’S why every song has someone else on the credits. Oh THAT’S why he can perform at shows year-round and somehow still produce prolific records. Oh THAT’S how he can dip between 10 genres and do well with all of them. Oh THAT’S why this record sounds like the whole career of someone that essentially disappeared from the industry. And while this swarm of DJs are using ghost producers and the ignorance of the general audience to boost their own careers, there are exceptions to the rule.
Skrillex’s output has noticeably slowed down since his career spiraled out of control. This is because it’s absolutely impossible for someone to create epic records while on a grueling tour schedule. But instead of latching onto ghost producers and claiming records as his own, he is using his OWSLA label to push artists he believes in. This should be the model within the industry, but it isn't. And as it stands, those that represent business before art are ruining this industry.
Anyone actually publicly speaking out on their job as a ghost producer would send waves throughout the industry. Outing a known producer for this controversial practice would cause a shit storm for PR firms, booking agencies, labels, advertising companies, and everyone else under the sun. The only way to stop this practice from happening is for ghost writers to speak up on their position in the industry, and out the producers that haven’t been creating their own records. This has yet to happen. People are scared to upset the balance.
Irene Test wrote a great article a while ago speaking on the issue. She included a thread from the Trance Addict forum, where producers are listed as frauds. Because the ghost producers for these reputable names aren’t speaking out, these accusations are no more than that. Keep in mind that this is one forum representing one genre. If there’s validity to even ONE of these names, imagine the other lanes within EDM that ghost production may affect. The fact that Irene’s article has been “liked” 13,000 times on Facebook should be an indicator that people care.
Not all ghost production is someone in power taking advantage of their position though. There are instances where both parties are pleased. I’m aware of one notable ghost producer that gets paid incredibly well for his work. I’ve reached out, and he told me that he has no interest in speaking publicly about it. There is an even split on publishing dollars, and that’s all he seems to really care about. He’s produced several crossover records that landed on Billboard charts, and doesn’t have to grind as a DJ or swim through the business end of things. He’s happy doing what he loves and staying out of the limelight.
If this were the case every time, nobody would care. But there are kids being taken advantage of, lied to, and cheated. I’ve heard stories of unfair splits. Failure to pay sums agreed upon. And unapproved changing of credits after a collaboration was released. Most of us snarky 30-something writers and curators latched onto electronic music before the bubble. It was underground; the antithesis to everything in the rap and pop world that we despised. As more and more money funnels into this industry, the business moves remind me of the scene that had no qualms with leaving 10 years ago.
If you ghost produce, stand up. It doesn’t have to be for our website, but it will be for our culture and our future. There are so many websites that truly care about music, and would love to know that we are crediting the people that inspire us to write. We need you to level the playing field, to stand up for yourself, and to upset a system that is benefiting everyone at the top with the work of those on the bottom. Sitting back and saying nothing only proves that you care more about the business than the art.