Is using a ghost producer a viable option in furthering your career?
In a previous article we debated the benefits of hiring a ghost producer, and discussed the benefits of working with artists in order to achieve optimum creativity. Now, we’re going to look at current opinion within the industry, and whether it is now socially acceptable to use ghost producers, in contrast to previous years. This is a debate that has raged on since the birth of dance music, and looks unlikely to be settled any time soon.
For those who don’t know, a ghost producer is the mastermind behind a particular release who choses not to come forward and take ownership. A ghost production deal can come about in a multitude of ways, a track can be created then sold by a ghost for a standalone fee when a major producer takes a shine to it. Another common occurrence is that a mainstream producer may specifically enlist a ghost producer to create their vision. This second method can also result in co-producing, in which the producer who takes credit for the track has a great deal of influence over the finished product, but may not produce it themselves.
The latter is perhaps the most common, as major artists aim to remain creatively present in their productions while juggling intense touring schedules. For example, an artist may be on the road mid-way through a continuous tour around the USA. They may be on a tour bus and struggling to produce at an optimum efficiency, but be struck by an exciting idea for a chart-topper. They may email a producer they’ve worked with before and give them the outline, before the two artists will go back and forth with ideas and adjustments. Although such releases often turn into collaborations, on occasion the producer behind the scenes may remain anonymous and hand over the track to the big name, while gaining financially from the track’s success.
There was a time when listeners didn’t realise that ghost production existed, back when people believed that every track released was created solely by the artist who released it. This lack of awareness surrounding ghost production created a furor when the first snippets of gossip began to surface and leak. At the centre of this controversy was Maarten Vorwerk, a producer who had secretly been behind many of the industry’s most prominent tracks. When Vorwerk’s ghost production became public knowledge it opened up a can of worms. It changed the way fans viewed artists and cast a negative light on many of the leading names in the industry.
It was a period of great uncertainty for fans and artists alike. Fans were unsure whether to trust their idols, artists were unsure whether they would be shunned if their use of ghost producers leaked. This created a great deal of negativity within the industry itself as many lashed out accusing leading artists of being ‘fake’. But, over time this shifted and gave way. Despite the initial negative outcry, the use of ghost producers is no longer the taboo it once was.
In the current climate, a huge volume of artists have used ghost producers at some point, or have enlisted co-producers to help bring their creative vision to life. Now, listeners no longer have a choice but to accept ghost production as the norm, as without it, the industry would be in completely different shape and lacking many of the chart-topping hits that are surrounded by adoration. It is now accepted that artists are human after all, and often require help when their career reaches a certain level.
With this being said, how will you know if it’s acceptable to hire a ghost or co-producer? The fact is that while ghost production is still largely a taboo, providing that you have produced the majority of your music yourself, you won’t be shunned for enlisting help. Fans are looking for authenticity, so it is important not to weave yourself into a web of lies. For example, if you have released a track that is completely ghost produced, avoid talking too publicly about the creation of the track. Avoid lying if possible, lying too openly and being found out can be incredibly damaging for your public image.
Even with the increasing acceptance of ghost production, it is still a choice best avoided if possible. If you can handle producing all of your own music, don’t risk losing face by enlisting a ghost. Many are not so strongly judged due to their stature within the scene and their already solid fanbase. It is questionable whether a producer with less acclaim would be let off so easily if it is discovered that they regularly hire ghost producers.
Like many of the debates within the music industry, there is no solid yes or no answer to the question of whether or not it is acceptable to hire a ghost producer. The aspects you should keep in mind are the pros and cons that could affect your career in the long run. On the one hand, there is an incredible demand for releasing a constant stream of new music, something which can put a huge amount of pressure on artists. On the other hand, many fans will only choose to support artists who they feel are completely genuine and don’t enlist help from anyone else. Ultimately, only you are the artist can make such a big decision, but ensure to take the time to evaluate all of the factors.