Ghost Producing 101: Common Mistakes People Make About Ghost Producing
The definition of a ghostwriter: You are a ghostwriter when someone else takes full writer’s credit for something that you wrote. However, if the credit as songwriter still goes to you while someone else sings the lyrics, you are not a ghostwriter—you are the actual writer. Just because you didn’t sing it, that doesn’t make you a ghostwriter. You can only consider yourself a ghostwriter if you wrote something and did not receive credit as a songwriter.
The exact same thing goes for ghost producers. If you do not receive credit for your production work, you are a ghost producer. If you are listed in the credits of a song, you're not a ghost producer. I've seen a lot of producers misguiding fans, and it's time to set the record straight.
Below are common mistakes that people make when it comes to ghost producing.
Mistake 1: Some EDM producers wrongfully thinking they "ghost"-produced an artist’s song.
If you produced the instrumental of a major pop artist’s song but had no influence in the final cut/decision (as in lyrics, subject matter, story, direction, etc.), you are the beatmaker and not the producer. This is especially the case if someone else guided you and gave you information of what he/she and the artist were looking for as far as sound and genre. Because you only made the beat and did not fully produce the song, you cannot be considered a ghost producer. On the other hand, if you were involved in all steps and had influence in deciding the direction of the final song (everything that happens from the moment the beat is delivered), and you were not credited? Then yes, you were a ghost producer for that song.
Mistake 2: Thinking that the producer (credits) and artist (names in the song title) are the same thing
If Maarten Vorwerk’s name is in the credits, he is not a ghost producer of that project. There’s nothing ghostly about having your name clearly visible in the credits, right? Seeing his name in the credits automatically tells you he couldn’t be a ghost and actually helped produce that song. If he wanted to put his name in the song title, he’d become more than the producer—he’d become the ‘artist’ for that song as well.
The names you see in song titles are technically not producer names but artist names. Once you add your name to the song title, you automatically become an artist for that specific song.
So when people ask Vorwerk why his name is not in the song titles, it’s because he’s only interested in being a producer and not an artist/DJ. The artist name technically has nothing to do with the producer—even if the producer is the same person. So you can have your name listed in a song title without being in the credits and vice versa.
Mistake 3: Thinking that the mixing/mastering engineer is always a producer of a song
A producer is in no way obligated to do everything in the song making process—especially not the mixing/mastering part.
If someone only did the mixdown or mastering for your song, you’d be terribly wrong to credit that person as being a producer of the song. In that specific project, he’s nothing more than an engineer, and there is a difference between an engineer and a producer.
If Steve Angello helped out a few artists with only the mixdown/mastering, don’t go spreading rumors that he ghost produced for those people. He merely functioned as an engineer. Those people he did some engineering for are pretty good producers themselves, and I’m pretty sure Angello would agree with that.
Another example: If David Guetta isn’t interested in doing the mixing and mastering himself but has huge influence in actually making the music and guiding the creative process, he has every right to claim that he is the producer. Producing has nothing to do with being an engineer.
Mistake 4: Calling a credited co-producer a ghost producer because he/she wasn’t named as artist in the song
For this, I’ll use the R3hab example. There are rumors of him having a ghost producer. The rumor’s source? The “ghost” producer’s website, which shows his portfolio/credits.
To me, it’s pretty simple. How can the guy be R3hab’s ghost producer if he is credited and even shows the information on his own website? This makes it clear that people don’t know the difference between an artist, producer, songwriter, mixing engineer, and a mastering engineer. The producer in question is not an artist and probably doesn't want to be. The song title isn’t meant to fill in the producer’s name; it’s meant to fill in the song’s title and the artists. In this case, the credits tell you that R3hab is the artist and producer, and the guy he works with is only the producer.
Where did the confusion come from?
I think it’s because of the differences in how EDM songs are released as opposed to other genres. In EDM, the producer, artist, songwriter, mixing engineer & mastering engineer can be the same person. Because of this, people often mistake which function is responsible for which part of a song.
In EDM, things that should be credited to engineering or songwriting might be placed under ‘producing’ because it could be the same person performing every process and “Producer” is the final responsible station. So every EDM producer mistakenly gets credited and critiqued for the engineer part because often it’s actually the same person. This can lead to some trouble.
Calling a mixing engineer a bad engineer because he can’t compose is like calling a midfielder a bad midfielder because he sucks at goalkeeping. Calling a producer a bad producer because he sucks at engineering is like calling the coach a bad coach because he can’t score goals.
Relevant info for novice producers
Another cause is that most EDM producers learn to produce and engineer at the same time, yet they think that all they’re doing is producing. No, you are actually learning to become an engineer and a producer by exploring the DAWs and watching a bunch of tutorials online.
For upcoming producers that seem confused by the terms producer and engineer, please read this. When you’re tweaking the knobs to add or remove reverb, EQ’ing certain things, and automating, you are technically engineering rather than producing. Deciding which direction you want to take for the entire track is considered part of producing, as you are choosing the feeling and overall message of the song.
If Guetta came up with the idea and melodies, I could care less who engineered the song. The concept of the track has the most value. A producer with great ideas but weak engineering skills will likely contribute more to the world of music than a producer with weak ideas but great engineering skills. In the end, it's all about making great music that people can relate to.
Right now, the confusion of engineer vs. producer apparently hurts some genuine producers. Some of them are getting critiqued for their production skills with arguments that technically have nothing to do with producing.
Real Ghost Producers
So when should we classify someone as a ghost producer? Just know that finding their name in the credits already tells you that they can’t be ghost producers of that song. To summarize everything I wrote, here are a few examples of when you are not a ghost producer:
You are not a ghost producer if you were only involved in the engineering (mixdown/master). You were an engineer.
You are not a ghost producer if you weren’t named as an artist but were properly credited for your production contributions. You were either the producer or a co-producer.
You are not a ghost producer of a full song (with vocals) if your control of the song’s direction ended after you delivered the instrumental. You were the beatmaker.
You are not a ghost producer if you did the arrangement, created a lead sound, did vocal recording or composing, but still had no influence on the song’s direction because someone intensively guided you through the process of the song's creation, making sure everything went according to how he/she wanted. You were the arranger, audio designer or composer.
You are a ghost producer if you produced a song and let someone else take credit for your part. That’s it.
The ‘fake producers’ we should hunt for are the producers who:
Claim to have produced a song when someone else produced it. (Again, the names in the song titles are not automatically claims that they produced it, those are the artists. Producers are in the credits only)
Claim to have engineered a song when someone else engineered it
Claim to have created certain melodies when someone else created them.
Claim to have written certain lyrics when someone else wrote it.
These are the actual differences between producers, artists, and engineers. Of course, I also shared my opinion here and there, but I also shared a great deal of music knowledge. If you wish to share your opinion, just use the hashtag #ghostblogger on Twitter. I will read the comments and possibly provide you with more insight on the industry.
Article contributed by GhostEDMGuru.
Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of EDM.com.
Cover photo credit: Creepy Halloween Images