World renowned DJs are perceived to have the complete package: show presence, business sense, a unique brand, impeccable mixing skills, and the ability to compose their own music. Novice producers dream about performing in front of crowds the size of Ultra Music Festival or Sensation, but soon move onto other interests underestimating the harsh reality of the music business. Of course, times changed from the pioneering days DJing as it’s now crucial to create original music to prove your integrity. Typically, it seems as if the younger you are the better chances you have to hone in your producing skills, and build your name. Unfortunately, time is of the essence. The trend cycle in dance music is always changing, and producers are anxious to submit music to various record labels hoping for their “breakthrough hit.” To make your career, it’s about getting your foot in the door and who you network with is vital to getting your music heard. As EDM is woven into American popular culture, the reality of what high paid DJs kept under the radar to achieve their success is now the topic of debate. The sensitive issue of Ghostwriting or “Ghost producing” isn’t foreign in the creative world. The role of a Ghostwriter is someone who legally agrees to be compensated to sell their original work or produce for someone else to get the credit. This secret exists in other forms of media industries from books to television and we’re finally realizing that superstar DJs are allowed to tour the world while music is produced for them. It’s inevitable the more famous you become, a team of marketing reps, sound engineers, etc. are formed to help sustain your career. However, how much money is your musical authenticity worth? It’s a hard situation to be in; while every producer wants to be able to make a living off of music, for some that dream comes at the cost of inevitably creating music for other people’s musical careers. On the flip side, artists who contract with a ghost producer will always have to deal with the premise that they have to depend on a second party to make their music.
America’s influx of EDM pop culture has not improved the vitality of genres as well. The industry is already struggling with creating quality tracks but now pop icons like Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and countless others have jumped the bandwagon, hiring famous producers to create the music in order stay on top with the current musical trends, until the next music evolution occurs. The music that is released by these artists is catchy for a little while, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression to the true fans of dance music. It seems as if a lot of the music that is released now is just filler; background music for clothing stores, or restaurants. As long as the beat sounds good, things are find the way it is? Disagreeably, the beat of dance music isn’t where it should be. Not many realize how much work it takes for musicians of genres like classical, rock, jazz and countless other types of music to start reaping the benefits of success. It takes years of practicing an instrument, money, sheer discipline and talent. Although it’s amazing of our technological advancements with music production software and samples, it has become a bit simpler to create dance music with virtual instruments then other traditional forms of music. In regards to hiring a ghost producer to create your music, the “fake it, until you make it” philosophy is only hindering any shreds of dignity EDM has left. To “fake it, until you make it,” most people will find success relatively quickly but it is also short lived. It often leads to stress, and finally being burnt out. This is not only bad for the individual, but also for the industry. It creates a vicious cycle of artists that come and go leaving no real musical substance.
The way things are running now, the industry may never change. DJs who are making money will continue to get their royalties off others through Ghostwriting, while there will be countless others who are working hard in their studio struggling to release a track. The unstoppable force of Ghostwriting has become a lucrative career path. What’s even more mindboggling, are the advertisements of EDM Ghostwriting opportunities posted on the internet. One advertisement in particular we captured was viewed on www.freelancer.com:
I am looking for a producer that can produce progressive house and electro house tracks for me. Once track is done and I am satisfied all rights go to me and also the stems. You will earn 10% of all sales on the track. If the track is signed by a major label I will bump to 25% and you also will receive bonuses. I am not looking for a one time producer I want to find somebody to work with on a regular basis. Also I want strict confidentially with my ghost producer. I already have a foot in the door so this could potentiality be a very beautiful thing for both of us. (Price: $250-$750.00)”
Although, ghostwriting really isn’t considered plagiarism as someone is getting compensation for their hard work; it’s ultimately up to your own interpretation on whether it is right or not. Let’s learn from our past and flourish into a better EDM industry for tomorrow. What should be said for the next generations of aspiring producers is to keep on working on your craft, and don’t give into what everyone else is doing. Although it may take a longer amount of time to learn the in’s and out’s of learning how to produce, the end result will be that much more rewarding. The music that you create may not start off great in the beginning, but it will at least be your own.