What does a Ghost Producer do?
A ghost producer basically does everything a regular producer does. From songwriting, regular production, arrangement to audio engineering. But where a regular producer is often credited the ghost producer mostly remains uncredited. Although in some cases the ghost producer can still keep a part (percentages) of the mechanical or publishing rights. You could basically see the producer as a ‘project manager’ for anything production, recording, mixing and mastering. A valuable member of the team. Ghost production isn’t just about delivering a track from scratch. All clients have a creative say in the process. Starting with simple ideas, references and overall notes. But besides that also by working from midi files, audio stems or even recorded audio (singing, whistling etc.) During the process of creation the client is involved in every step, by showing previews and asking for feedback. The final result is a track that, creatively, is just as much the clients track, as it is the ghost producer.
Who uses a Ghost Producer?
The vast majority of bigger artists and DJ’s work together with either a regular producer or a ghost producer for the reasons mentioned above. If you take a look at the DJ mag top 100, it’s safe to say most of the DJ’s work together with at least one other producer. This is both beneficial to the artist as well as to the ghost producer. For smaller artists it might give them an opportunity to labels, promotional channels or distribution methods that might not be accessible for them otherwise. Most DJ’s starting out their career simply are not able to deliver that type of professional quality track. In that case working with a ghost producer can give them the extra boost. Ghost producing, or even ghost writing (or painting) is something that has been happening for a long time. It was there centuries ago in the time of the famous painters, where a famous painter would sign the painting of his student and it’s still here today. It happens in every sector in the creative industry. In the music scene of today, where artists have a demanding tour schedule and less and less time to be in the studio, a ghost producer can help the artist create or finalize his tracks. Often the artist himself has a lot of ideas, maybe even part of a project, and the Ghost Producer can finish the track for him.
Famous artists like Tiesto, David Guetta are known to have people helping them with their productions, while other famous artists such as Hardwell, Nicky Romero and Martin Garrix are known to have ghost produced for others.
Ghost vs Co-Production
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.
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.
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.
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.