Ghost Producer: It's Inevitable and Rampant - But Not in Some Genres
UKF recently ran a piece featuring an interview with a ghost producer, who shared some insight into the shadowy world of ghost production.
There are a couple of points that struck me as most significant in the interview. First was his point about genres where ghost producing is rare, specifically dubstep and drum and bass. "The mixdowns and production levels in general are at such a level that it would be hard to pass off unless you’re making it 24/7". This won't come as a surprise to the hardcore fans of those styles, nor anyone who makes (or has tried to make) them, but it may quiet some critics. He mentions that it does happen, "But it’s nowhere near as popular because drum & bass and dubstep celebrate sound design and authenticity. Certainly a few years ago dubstep really pushed sound design to new levels and the idea of having someone make a track for you was defeating the object." Amen to that.
The second point is that he doesn't feel bad at all about what he does for a living. While he acknowledges that fans are being lied to, he feels that electronic music is simply moving in the direction of other popular styles of music, where songwriting and production aren't necessarily being done by the person on stage.
"People have always had ghostwriters or producers. Big singers or bands don’t always sing their own songs. Big EDM acts are more honest about it now than ever. You see so much outrage and fury in the underground scene but they’re furious at a genre or part of the industry that is miles away from their own; Justin Bieber, Cher, Britney Spears – none of them write their own songs, none of them produce, none of them engineer, many of them lip-sync when you see them live. That’s the absolute truth of the industry and has been for years."
I certainly can't argue with the truth of this statement, but it strikes me as missing the point. Electronic music from it's very beginnings has been the domain of mad geniuses, working long hours with their synthesizers/computers to create sounds and styles that the world has never heard before. Much like the classical composers of centuries past, pioneer electronic producers push music to new frontiers, without thought for fame or popular recognition.
As electronic music has reached massive global popularity, it has opened the door for these incredible creative minds to finally be recognized for their art - yet too often, the spotlight is being taken instead by shallow entertainers with charisma and slick marketing, but not a shred of creative genius. Imposing the industry model of pop onto the world of electronic music is fundamentally dishonest, because the expectations and assumptions in electronic music have always been very different from those of pop.
No one assumes that Britney Spears or Justin Bieber write or produce their own music, because virtually no pop stars do. But Sasha, and BT, and Skrillex, and Noisia, and deadmau5, and Culprate, and countless other electronic artists do - so electronic acts who use ghost producers falsely borrow the creditability and authenticity of these artists by association. This ghost producer acknowledges how shallow the world of celebrity and pop music is: "I’m not saying this is right, quite the opposite, but if musicians (of any genre) got famous for their talents alone, the music industry would be a very different place." Yet he doesn't recognize the part he plays in enabling that same shallowness to invade electronic music. It's not my intention to cast accusations of hypocrisy, but it's hard for me to imagine how someone who obviously has formidable skills and experience not seeing the place that ghost producing has in creating and perpetuating this dynamic.
[In the interest of transparency, I'll make it clear that I've been offered work as a ghost producer a number of times, and always declined for ethical reasons. So my opinion on this is informed, but absolutely biased.]