Is it Time to Accept that Ghost Producers are the New Normal? [OP-ED]
Ghost producers have been in the industry for quite sometime. Hidden amongst the elite, creating music for our most renowned producers. When someone hears about another artist using a ghost producer, one begins to question their credibility as a producer (rightfully so) because they’re not creating their own material.
This is true, to a certain extent.
There are two major types of ghost producers in the industry today. On one hand, your favorite producer may like a record that they did not create but want to purchase, so they pay the ghost producer an agreed price for the record in order to keep the royalties and entitlements under their well-established name. Then there is the second ghost producer that helps an established producer create a track along side them. This help could be as little as adding a single change to a chord progression or as large as changing an entire movement.
Mat Zo, who is a London based producer, called out a few big names in the dance community a few years ago, stating that the producers we look up to aren’t necessarily making their own music.
In this tweet, he is referring to producers as being the “nerds” and that the “jocks” are the big name DJs who purchase the records and then falsely claim ownership with their well-branded names. Mat Zo states that he is standing up for the young producers who are trying to break into the scene and is asking for the top guys in the industry to help mentor the blossoming talents instead of exploit them for their creative ideas. For many of us, this was our first taste about what it's really is like in the music world. But not everything that Mat Zo stated is entirely true.
Mat Zo is correct, but not all ghost producers sell their entire records to a producer, sometimes they just want the credit for the work that they were involved in. The most common misconception associated with ghost producers is that they give their entire track to a DJ and that’s it. But in reality, they sometimes just help out on a track.
I thinkKSHMR said it best…
“I think it's acceptable to get help, ultimately, it is up to the artist to decide at what point they are no longer being honest with their listeners.”
This statement speaks volumes about how the industry functions today.
I must admit, when I found out that some of the producers that I followed used a ghost producer on some of their records, my heart sank. It sank because I had immortalized these producers as a sense of inspiration and wanted to become just like them. It was almost like finding out that George Lucas didn’t actually direct Star Wars Episode V and VI, which are arguably the best movies in the series.
But let’s take a second to look at it from the other side of the coin. Although the artist who uses a ghost producer may seem illegitimate, the ghost producer in return has to make a living. Asking if a ghost producer is necessary is forgetting about the fact that these producers also need to compensated for their creative projects. Producers like myself, want some kind of recognition for the hard work they have put in and would like to earn some money and credit for the time and energy spent on creating a work of art. If a well known producer likes a record I have been making and wants to purchase it off of me, I would most likely concede and make a deal.
It’s much harder to become an overnight musical sensation because of external factors in the music industry, such as social media presence, management, distribution, and marketing. None of which have anything to do with actual talent. Since the market has been highly saturated by the content that’s being pushed out daily, just being acknowledged for the work is good enough for many. Many of us dream to become a big name producer some day, but who wouldn’t mind making a few dollars here and there for the work we have already created? If we as artists continue to create, we will continue to evolve and grow while these alleged “big name” producers will eventually end up in the shadow of their own mediocrity.
So are ghost producers hurting the industry? To me, it does affect the way we look at the music world and can take some of the legitimacy out of the industry. However, lesser known producers also need to make a living. It’s not the ghost producers fault for creating the music, it’s the artists who is buying it from them and taking the full credit of the song and thereby disillusioning their fanbase.
The legitimacy of the music industry is definitely a topic to ponder, but all-in-all there’s not really anything that can be done to change it. And in the end, everyone got their compensation. The big-name producer got their gold record, the ghost producer got their hush money, and even you, as the listener were paid in music that brings out an emotional feeling in you.
So be happy and enjoy, but just realize that maybe idolizing these artists may just be for the image and not for the music itself.