A Ghost Producer is a music producer that composes and produces tracks for other artists allowing artists to focus on performing and touring. A Ghost Producer can either co-produce, produce the track entirely, or assist other artists with sound engineering. Ghost Producers charge a flat fee, or get paid in royalties from the tracks they produce. These arrangements allow producers to focus on creating music without having to be in the spotlight. When ghost producers are paid to create a track for another artist or record label, they waive all rights to the song, and agree to remain anonymous. This allows artists to benefit from a large talent pool of producers to maintain their brand while the ghost producers make money doing what they love.
The above definition of a ghost producer is analogous to the job description of a ghostwriter.
Much of the heated discussion around ghost production in the EDM scene comes from an ignorance of the primary motivations behind the practice. Naysayers tend to harshly criticize DJs suspected of using ghost producers as “frauds” or “talentless”. There is a dearth of awareness among critics about why ghost production is actually very beneficial.
The following real-world examples of ghost production within the EDM scene should help clarify why it is a good thing, and why critics need to look past the accusations of ‘cheating the listeners’ that they automatically resort to.
Famous Ghost Production Examples
Maarten Vorwerk is perhaps the most well-known ghost producer in EDM. Despite the anonymity involved in most ghost production arrangements, Maarten Vorwerk is widely recognized as the producer of music released by the likes of Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and DVBBS.
In a frank interview from 2015, Vorwerk described how ghost producing allows him to live his ideal lifestyle, with lots of studio time in the pleasant climate of Aruba. Vorwerk’s name often appears in the credits of the tracks he produces, but very rarely in a producer capacity, meaning he escapes the limelight for the most part.
Maarten Vorwerk’s success is a great example of the need that ghost production can meet from the ghost producers’ perspective. His passion is making music, and he doesn’t want the spotlight that comes with being a DJ who has to attend live events and play sets in front of large crowds.
Martin Garrix is a prime example of how ghost production can help propel talented producers towards big things. It was his work on an unnamed hit electronic track that got him noticed by Spinnin’ Records after they found out it was him who had produced it.
The rest, as they say, is history. Garrix has gone on to become the world’s number one DJ, and his work as a ghost producer had a huge part to play in that. By releasing high-quality tracks consistently, regardless of whose name it is under, talented producers will eventually get noticed, and if they want to make it as DJs, they can. This shows just how rewarding ghost production can end up being.
In an interview conducted during 2014, DJ Chuckie opened up about ghost producing some tracks himself and shared his own opinions on the practice. When asked about the rationale for people producing music for others without getting official credit, Chuckie’s response was succinct and honest, “I guess that some people don’t want to be an artist. He just wants to be in the studio”. Absolutely.
DJ Chuckie’s relaxed attitude about ghost production is mirrored by his peers; the people closest to the music industry. In a poll of the Top 100 DJs carried out by DJMag, 67% of the DJs who chose to answer the question outlined their support of ghost production.
The example of KSHMR and how he has ghost produced tracks for DJ Borgeous is particularly insightful in terms of what it reveals about the compensation side of ghost production.
Leaked contract agreements between Borgeous and his record label Spinnin’ Records revealed that the ghost producer, KSHMR, was paid 75 percent of royalties for Borgeous’ track They Don’t Know Us and 37.5 percent for Zero Gravity.
Skeptics often paint ghost producers as desperate people, working for a pittance to have their music released under another person’s name. These leaked documents completely dispel that notion, though. It is also worth noting that the contract shows that DJs and their record labels know what good music is worth and they are willing to pay well for it, meaning ghost production can be a rewarding career path to go down in EDM.
The admission by Afrojack that he ghost produced David Guetta’s Titanium was quite revealing. This tune became a smash hit on global music charts, and Afrojack easily could’ve released a similar tune under his own name. But the style of that track did not mirror Afrojack’s unique brand of electronica; it was an ideal fit for David Guetta. Ghost production afforded Afrojack the chance to explore his creativity without isolating his hardcore fans.
This young man was just 10 years old when his release Tonight entered the U.S Billboard dance charts at number 49. There was much controversy in EDM about Jude, with skeptics pointing out that there was no way such a young man could’ve produced such a track on his own.
Jude delivered the perfect riposte, stating that he had a team of people helping him out ranging from his uncle to Carlos Escalona, and that a single person rarely ever creates a track from start to finish these days. By showing wisdom beyond his years, Jude reminded everyone that ghost production is everywhere and is a common practice at all levels of music.
The superstar Dutch DJ has ghost produced hits for the likes of Britney Spears, Rihanna, and David Guetta. This is a prime example of how ghost production is not limited to aspiring musicians. It’s simply a smart business move to leverage talent that can help you add an authentic twist to your music, and established DJs are bound to represent a reliable way to do this. It is much the same as one author paying another successful author to write a chapter or even a book for them yet nobody bats an eyelid when it happens in publishing.
In a frank interview with BBC Radio 1 in England, Porter Robinson described how he had ghost produced a track for a friend in EDM after realizing it didn’t feel right to have his name on it. Much speculation ensued, with the consensus that it was Hardwell’s Apollo track that Robinson produced. Hardwell himself came out and said that he had a ghost produced track in the Top 10, so people naturally put two and two together.
Whether this was the case or not, we can see how from Robinson’s perspective, ghost producing allowed him to try something different with his music and make a profit on it while avoiding the possible alienation of existing fans. Another example of ghost production enabling artists to explore their creativity in a professional environment.
Benny Benassi is one artist who has been refreshingly open about using ghost producers. His cousin Alle features in some capacity on many of Benassi’s tracks, often as the writer or studio partner. Alle is happy to stay out of the limelight, while Benassi embraces it more. It is an arrangement that clearly works well for both men and Benassi’s honesty shows that ghost production is nothing to be ashamed of.
The Dutch act is actually composed of three members, two of whom prefer to concentrate on production rather than live performances. Jeffrey Sutorius is the face of Dash Berlin, but Eelke Kalberg and Sebastiaan Molijn essentially ghost produce for him. The unique ghost production arrangement actually sees the latter pair listed as producers on many tracks. But since Sutorius is the face of the group, most people take it as a given that he has produced the tracks. This way, Sutorius gets to feed off the energy from live crowds, while Kalberg and Molijn feed off their passion for music in the studio; so both parties benefit.
Zedd is a great example of an artist who used ghost production as a stepping stone to becoming a mainstream name in EDM. By producing tracks for the likes of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, Zedd got his name out there among record labels, who have a way of finding out who produced most tracks. He also received compensation estimated to be in the millions for his work on Lady Gaga’s music. Zedd is a shining example of how ghost production helps people both financially and in a marketing sense.
Interestingly, Zedd also enlisted the help of ghost producers on one of his own tracks, The Legend of Zelda. This shows that he is not afraid to go back to his own roots as a ghost producer because he knows how many talented producers out there can help make a track sound better.
Also known as “The Man Behind the “Tiesto” Brand”, Dennis Waakop has ghost produced many of the superstar DJ tunes including Feel It In My Bones and Escape Me. Being an artist as huge as Tiesto involves a lot of work in public relation, marketing, and production. Ghost production gives Djs like Tiesto a useful outlet when they need to avert focus away from making music onto other important facets of being an artist.
There is much to disapprove of when it comes to Danny Avila’s success, given that his wealthy father possibly bought that success for his son. One positive, though, is that most of Avila’s tracks are ghost produced, meaning one or more producers are getting handsome compensation for their work. Maarten Vorwerk is likely one of these producers, but it just goes to show how there will always be opportunities for ghost producers as long as people like Avila are in EDM. And if these ghost producers would rather stay out of the limelight, then who’s to judge them for doing what they love and getting paid well for it?
It’s no big secret that Will.I.Am pretty much makes a living from using other people’s tracks and adding his own autotuned voice to them. In fact, Will.I.Am and Quintino both ended up using Maarten Vorwerk’s music in different tracks. On his track Bang Bang, Wil.I.Am apparently copied Quintino & Sandro Silva’s Epic, which is a track that Vorwerk originally produced. In truth, Vorwerk ghost produced both tracks. This is a prime example of how lucrative ghost production can be when you’re good at it. Vorwerk got to produce hits for two major recording artists, such was the demand for his work.
The crux of the above examples is that ghost production arrangements pretty much invariably work well for both the ghost producers and the Artist who is credited with the music. Behind the myopic “cheating the listeners” jibes from critics lies the true motivations for ghost production and why it is so beneficial.
Ghost producers are paid to do what they love, which is evidently being in the studio and creating music, as opposed to working jobs they are miserable at because they couldn’t make it big or simply didn’t want the limelight that comes with being a household name.
Ghost production provides a feasible path to becoming a superstar DJ for talented producers. Despite the non-disclosure agreements contained in most ghost production contracts, the record labels tend to find out about producers they really like and sign them up behind the scenes, making it a potentially lucrative road for many.
Likewise, for established names, ghost production offers DJs the chance to explore their own creativity by producing music anonymously for other big names without alienating their own fanbase by deviating too far from their unique brand.
The artists who use ghost producers pay them fairly, and they are leveraging a wide pool of production talent that would possibly be otherwise unused or wasted. It is bizarre how this could ever be seen as a negative thing.
Furthermore, there are many facets to being a successful artist, including composing tracks, mix engineering, and even marketing. It is no surprise that DJs sometimes seek the talents of others to help them out. Many electronic songs that you know and love would never have seen the light of day without ghost production.
The truth is that if critics open their eyes, they’ll see that ghost production needs to be lauded, not unfairly slated.