It’s no surprise that we’re running a ghost production service over here. But we do still get a lot of questions about what we do exactly, and what it is we deliver. In this post, I’ll try to explain what a ghost production service is. What you can expect from ghost production services and what, as a client, you should be looking for in a ghost production service.
So let’s start by explaining what ghost production is. A Ghost Producer (or Ghost Writer) is a producer who produces music credited to another person. The Ghost Producer or Ghost Production Services, remain anonymous and operates only in the background. Ghost Production Services can be anything from composing and producing a complete track, to helping someone finish a project. While Ghost Production is somewhat of an industry secret, it’s also common practice. Visit the Wikipedia on Ghost Writing for more information.
Ghost Production services vs Co-Production services
The main difference with regular production services (or co-production) is that, when compared to ghost production services, with the former the producer will keep his part of the rights. This means they will keep their share of the royalties and licensing income that will follow from the track. With the typical Ghost Production Services, this is not always the case. In which case the producer license all exploitation rights to a client in exchange for a fixed fee. However, contracts for both a normal (co-) producer and that of ghost production services can include a clause stating that if a track becomes very successful, this deal can be re-reviewed to determine if the said fixed fee is in proportion to the amount of income generated by the track. So whenever you sign a contract with a producer, this is something to keep an eye on.
Custom production vs Marketplace
As an artist looking for a producer, nowadays there are several options. From full service ghost production companies (like ours) to music marketplaces where every producer can sell (or license) their tracks. Both of these have their pros and cons. There are a few obvious ones of course; where with a custom production you can get a track that’s really ‘yours’ in every sense. You are involved in the production from start to finish, meaning the result reflects you as an artist. However, this means the production process takes a bit longer, often making things a bit more expensive as well. Also, a custom production still has to be written, where on a marketplace you can instantaneously buy whatever you like.
Another difference is in the quality of production (which we’ll talk about more later too). Where market places push for quantity with lower prices, with a custom ghost production you choose quality. A professional production simply takes time. Finally, there are some other risks involved with a marketplace. For instance; there have been examples of producers selling the same tracks on multiple marketplaces. Working with (vocal) samples that were not royalty-free or using a template to create tracks that are basically ‘the same, but slightly different.’ To summarize: as a rule of thumb, you could say that tracks from marketplaces are typically cheaper, but offer lower quality. Where custom ghost production services will result in a track of higher quality, but are more expensive and takes longer to complete.
As mentioned earlier the quality is an important factor, but at the same time is also a difficult subject. The reason for this is that with music production there’s an overlap between creative choices and technical choices. What sounds good to one, might not to another. This gets even more difficult considering the different stages of a typical production. It all starts with the ideas for a track; if the ideas for a track are any good is very subjective. However, any producer worth their salt can tell you that doing a heavy-metal polka track targeting Revealed Recordings is not a great match.
From there it goes towards the composition; you can have a great composition that is credible, interesting, and technically very musical. But if someone doesn’t like it, you have nothing. Again, technical quality versus personal preferences. This also applies to the later stages; sample selection, sound design, production, arrangement, and partially to the mixdown and the mastering. For example, technically the balance of a track might be perfect; but since there are creative choices involved, there are personal preferences as well. Simply said; there is not one good mix, there are multiple good mixes possible. As classically demonstrated by the two separate mixes of ‘Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit’ . Where both Andy Wallace and Butch Vig did a great mix, just with a different focus and different characteristics.
Where quality matters
All of this being said; there are technical elements where personal preferences matter less. For instance where a track is blatantly clipping (and not in the creative way), where the phases are completely misaligned and causing problems, where unwanted artifacts appear because of the misuse or as side-effect of a type of processing, or (as I once found with a track I bought on Beatport) where the whole master was accidentally panned slightly one way. On top of that, while personal preferences are very important, if you want to sign your tracks to a decent label or find a good audience, you will need to keep market preferences in mind as well.
This is where the Ghost Producer comes in. He knows the market preferences and can advise you on what creative choices work best for your particular project. So besides the technical qualities you can expect from a professional ghost producer, he will actively guide you through the whole creative process. But in the end, you will have the final say. You will still make the final decisions. But with all information provided, they will at least be informed decisions. All of this to be able to deliver the best quality possible. Something you are happy with and the ghost producer can stand behind.
For established artists this means delivering a quality that, at minimum, conforms to the artists previous work and preferably be even better. So to have a track that’s ready to be released on any of the record labels the artist is associated with. With newcomers or up-and-coming artists this means delivering a track that gives the artist a real fighting chance with their target labels and audiences on any of the streaming services. Goal is to create something that stands out, so the artists can start building their brand.
How much do Ghost Production Services typically cost?
The truthful answer is: it depends. It depends on if you’re purchasing a ready-made song from a marketplace (that goes from €249,– to around €800,– on average) or from a custom ghost production service. In which case it will depend on your wishes for the project. Important factors are the musical complexity, length of the project, and potentially other parties involved. With potential other parties I mean songwriters, vocalists, session instrumentalists, and/or third party mixing or mastering engineers.
With our ghost production services the average pricing for a professional quality instrumental (or a track using royalty-free sample pack vocals) is somewhere between €1000,- and €1500,-. This includes everything from the composition, to the production, to the mixdown, and finally both a self-master as well as a third party (analog) master in one of the most experienced dance mastering studios. With credits mastering tracks of artists such as: Avicii, Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, David Guetta, Afrojack, Sigala, Galantis, Deadmau5, Major Lazer, Oliver Heldens, Camelphat, Nicky Romero and so many more.
Additional costs can come from working with third parties. The pricing of a typical experienced and professional quality songwriter/vocalist ranges from €500,- to €1600,-. More established names can charge quite a bit more though, in which case you’re often not just paying for the vocals, but for the use of the artist’s brand name as well. With session instrumentalists it depends. In case you’re just looking for background instruments or backing vocalists, you can sometimes find decent quality guitarists, saxophonists, cellists, or backing vocals for as low as €75,- on a service like fiverr. But as always: generally speaking, the higher the required quality, the higher the pricing will be.
You can imagine, when doing a commercial project, a track can become more of a team effort. Where you’re not just working with a ghost producer but with a complete team of 5 to 6 people. For example you, the producer, the songwriter, the vocalist, a session guitarist, and finally the mastering engineer. When a label and a publisher are involved these might also want a creative say over the final outcome. So the final pricing would come down to all the things mentioned earlier summed up.
What should you expect from a Ghost Production Service?
First and foremost; honesty towards you. A good ghost producer will advise and inform you of his (or her) decisions. They will ask the right questions to get an idea of the complete project before they start. They will advise you when they think adjustments are needed to make the track a success. I’ve highlighted some of the other key features in the paragraphs below.
Additionally, a ghost production service should be fully transparent about pretty much everything, just not about the artists they’ve previously worked with. If you ask a ghost producer what artists he previously worked with and he gives the artist names as an answer, be very careful. A good ghost producer will work with a non-disclosure agreement, meaning he can not disclose any information regarding the projects he did for his clients. If he discloses this information about others, he will disclose information about you as well.
This also goes for a ghost producer being anonymous or using an alias himself. You, as an artist, should know who you’re dealing with exactly. So you can personally determine if you want to work with them. A good ghost producer does not require to be anonymous or to use an alias. The only thing they need to do is A) deliver a good product and B) to not disclose your information to others.
Finally, you should be expecting the quality as mentioned above, as well as some guidance in the music industry for the newcomers. An experienced producer can really make a difference and help you on your way. Explaining how to brand yourself and how to promote yourself and your music. And of course, the producer should be reliable (deliver what he promises.) and be a bit flexible during the process.
Who should use a Ghost Production Service?
I can think of a lot of reasons for someone to work with a (ghost) producer. Some of the reasons apply to normal producers as well. For example; when an artist doesn’t have the time anymore to produce for himself due to various reasons (such as extensive touring schedules). Or when demand for an artist is higher than he can personally fulfill. If he wants to work with certain artists/genres in which he is not experienced. Or if he simply does not have the musical or technical skills or knowledge to deliver a certain quality. But the two most important factors to actually work with a ghost producer are: 1) when you want to keep/license all of the rights to the project, and 2) when you want to keep it a secret you’re working with other producers.
You can be a musical visionary. Have amazing ideas and the skills to market yourself and your artist brand. But not have the experience or knowledge to produce tracks of a sufficient quality. Or you can compose an amazing piece of music, but not be able to complete it, and turn it into a finished professional production.
If you are serious about your musical career. If you want to take it a step further and understand what it takes to be a professional artist; ghost production is something that could benefit you.
This is probably the single longest post on the blog of this website. The sole reason for this being to answer some of the most asked questions about this topic, and to explain what it is a ghost producer actually does. I hope this will help you understand what ghost production services are really all about.
If you’ve read this and are looking for a ghost production service, please check out our website. Come and see what we have to offer. I think we score really well on all of the topics above, with a returning client percentage of over 95% for both 2019 and 2020. So I guess we’re doing something right 🙂
If you’ve still got any questions left, please let me know and I’d be happy to answer them!