The work needed to produce a track can often be extensive. You need the right time, equipment and knowledge to successfully finish and release a song. Because of this, the main artist isn’t necessarily the only person working on the track. Some musicians will employ the skills of others to help complete their production. This is the role of a ghost producer. A significant, but often overlooked role within the music industry. So… what is a ghost producer and what do they do?
In this article, we will cover the ins and outs of what a ghost producer does. We’ll take a look at their role within the music and what the title encompasses. By the end of this article, you might even fancy taking on the role yourself!
What Is A Ghost Producer?
Ghost producers are everywhere in music but rarely seen. They are the unsung heroes of many great tracks.
For a fee, a ghost producer will help an artist write, create and/or produce their own track. However, the ghost producer is given no credit for their work on the track, hens the ‘ghost’ part. They are purely employed for their creative input but agree to not receive any credit. Often a legal agreement is used to ensure they remain anonymous.
After a boom in EDM in 2014, producers started to employ EDM ghost producers to alleviate some of the pressure. This is where the concept of being a ghost producer took off. The likes of David Guetta have used ghost producers, which may come as a surprise.
What Does A Ghost Producer Do?
A ghost producer is required to do everything a normal producer does. Songwriting, mixing, sound engineering, all the standard skills are required. The key difference between the two is that a ghost producer works on someone else’s track.
Once hired by a client, they will work closely with them to determine their goals and ideas for the song. Despite bringing their own creative input, they must work directly towards the client’s demands. The final song should closely represent the client’s idea. Even though the ghost producer brought the technical skill to make that idea a reality, the song itself is still a creation of the client.
As we’ve said, ghost producers do not receive any official credit. Still, a certain percentage of publishing or mechanical rights can be awarded to the ghost producer, meaning they do have some official claim over the song. Either way, they will always charge a fee for their services.
Why Hire A Ghost Producer?
If you’re a producer, you may be wondering why anyone would hire a ghost producer? The creative process is part of producing a track and should be purely your own input? In a perfect world, yes. But in reality, the process of making a song can be more challenging than how it appears on the surface.
Making music requires talent, knowledge and skill. You may have the best ideas and know you’ve got the next big hit in your head, but translating those ideas isn’t a simple task. You might be new to the music scene and just need some help with the technical side. On the other hand, you might be a veteran producer but want some outside, more modern input. A ghost producer is the best way to overcome these issues.
Building your music career can be a long and slow road. To get ahead of the race you can hire a ghost producer to help fast track your music production. You know you will eventually have the skill and knowledge to do what the ghost producer will, you’re just not quite there yet.
Another huge factor of making music is time. To produce a track you need free time and lots of it. Earning as an artist can be tough, resulting in many musicians taking full or part-time jobs outside of music production. You want your music to become your full-time job but do not have the financial stability to dedicate all your time to it. A ghost producer can take away some of the pressure and help speed up your production and get your music released.
This is also often true for DJs. It is very common for a DJ to produce tracks as well, helping to develop their career and gain more income. When touring constantly, however, they simply may not have enough time for all the technical side. Often to counter this, DJs will work with a familiar team or single ghost producer.
Why Become A Ghost Producer?
To be a ghost producer you have to be comfortable not receiving any credit for your work. This can actually be appealing to some in the music industry. You want to work with your creative passion and earn from it. However, you don’t fancy becoming exposed in the public eye and potentially getting recognised for your work. You would rather do what you love but behind closed curtains. This is the life of a ghost producer.
If this sounds like a great role for you, you might be wondering how to get into ghost producing as a career. This will be our next point of discussion.
Apart from the reasons above, there are a few more aspects to ghost producing that can be appealing. The first and foremost reason is money. Depending on your skill, ghost producers can be paid significantly for their work, sometimes more than actual producers. Especially if you are a respected ghost producer, working with some huge names can earn you more than you ever could as an independent artist.
Another reason is the difficulty of being successful in the music industry. You might be a great producer, but there are hundreds of others releasing similar work to you. Up against this competition, the chances of becoming a well-known producer are unfortunately slim. Ghost producing offers a viable means to earn and work creatively within the same industry. If you are happy to not be credited for your work, this can be a much easier career path.
How To Be A Ghost Producer
There is no single best way to become a ghost producer. More often than not, it is something producers end up doing long into their career or as a side business. Despite this, there are a few things you can do to help boost your chances of becoming a successful ghost producer.
Build Your Reputation As An Independent Producer
When considering how to get into ghost producing, you first need to be confident in your ability. To be hired as a ghost producer you need to be able to prove your skill and talent. Without a portfolio this is impossible. Producing your own tracks first can be a great way to show another producer your ability. You don’t necessarily need to become a famous producer with thousands of tracks under your belt, but already having a list of work you’ve already done will help you massively enter this new career.
You also need to be used to being completely original with your work. Creativity is the be-all and end-all of ghost producing. Without the ability to produce original tracks independently, you won’t be able to do it for someone else.
Become An In-House Producer
This is going to be the best way to make it as a ghost producer. If you get signed by a big record label as an in-house producer your career will be off to a great start. This way you will always have a steady flow of work and tracks to develop. Finding the immediate work is the hardest bit, this avoids that issue.
The pay for producing for a big label will be substantial too. Knowing you will always have work and be paid well for it is the best way to become a comfortable ghost producer.
Join A Ghost Producing Platform
This is an alternative approach. There are loads of ghost producing platforms that are visited by artists. However, instead of working directly with artists, you simply upload tracks you have produced. Other artists can visit the page and then buy your song. Once the song has been bought, you no longer own it and are given no credit for it.
It is very important to remember that you cannot attempt to sell one track on multiple platforms. This is strictly prohibited. You can sell separate tracks on separate platforms, but that’s it. This means it is important to choose your platform wisely. Once your track is up, it can only ever be on that site. Research the platform first and see what type of music is typically sold there. If you want to target specific artists, find out what platforms they tend to buy from.
Freelance sites can be a great place to find work as a ghost producer. Often ads are posted looking for ghost producers to work on tracks. They might ask you to send some of your work to prove your skill, but generally, you won’t be working on hit songs. This can be good if you’re new to ghost producing, but the compensation is poor. If you spend a lot of time and effort dedicated to producing these tracks, freelance sites are unlikely going to be the place you want to find work.
How Much Do Ghost Producers Make?
By now, the role of a ghost producer may be appealing to you. You want to produce music creatively but stay out of the limelight. In this case, it really could be the perfect role for you. Even if that is true, we bet you’ve still got a burning question; how much do ghost producers make?
This depends on your skill and ability. Let’s break it down:
Entry-Level ($100-200 per track)
If you are very new to the role and don’t yet have the knowledge to produce huge tracks, you will likely be earning an entry-level wage. This is true if your tracks are not up to scratch enough to be accepted by a record label or added for streams on Spotify. Usually, this music will be used for advertising or projects rather than as standalone tracks.
Generally, you will be approached and asked to produce something specifically for the client. This is lower end ghost production, meaning you pay for what you get.
Mid-Range ($200-450 per track)
This is the usual earnings for selling pre-produced tracks on ghost platforms. You still need to have considerable skill and produce coherent tracks, but however you like. You’re less likely to have to work to a client’s specific demands.
Simply upload your tracks to a ghost producing platform and be patient. If you’re as skilled of a music producer as you think, your tracks will be purchased eventually. It is important to note the platform will take a certain percentage of the sale price of the track, usually 30%-40%.
This is probably where you want to end up. Usually, this level of ghost producer will have a history of record label releases and producing very successful music themselves. This is where the custom made song aspect comes into the role.
For this money, you won’t simply be producing tracks of your own. You’ll need to communicate with the client and translate their demands and ideas into the track. This requires amazing skill and knowledge, justifying the significantly higher cost.
Producing For An Established Artist ($1,000-10,000+)
Yep, you read those numbers right. Ghost producing for a professional artist is where the big bucks are.
We’re not just talking about any established artists though, we’re talking about famous, chart-hit, sort after musicians who already have a very successful career. They are willing to pay a big price for a ghost producer to produce a song completely on-brand to themselves. Knowing they will earn tens of thousands from this track, the cost isn’t huge in the bigger picture.
To enter a role at this level you will most likely have to work with the artist’s manager and label.
Now You Know Everything About Ghost Producers
Ghost producers have a significant place within the music industry. Maybe more significant than you knew previously. Even some of your favourite tracks might be attributed to a ghost producer, we’ll never know.
Once established, ghost producing can be a fulfilling and rewarding career if you don’t care for recognition. Maybe you’re a struggling artist who needs a more substantial income, maybe you just don’t like attention. Whatever your reasons, ghost producing could be your next career!
The music industry can be tough. That’s why we share a wealth of information to help artists with their careers. Check out How To Sell Your Music Successfully, What Is Public Domain Music & How Is It Used? and SMS Text Marketing For Indie Musicians for some useful music industry-related tips.
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