In the first of a series of articles written for Quenched Music, DJ and producer DIRTY FREUD talks about his life within the industry. Here, the musician looks at the role of ghost writers.
As a young musician, I felt that ‘ghostwriting’ was a dirty pairing of words. Why would anyone want to create music for someone else to take credit for? I could not get my head around this part of the industry.
Maybe it was ego or the fear of giving music away to another artist and not getting the credit one deserves for making the track, however as a ghost writer the level of involvement is minimal so each case has to be on trial separately
Now I’m older, not so green, I have mouths to feed, and my own career dictates that I stick within particular genres, or my label would intervene with cries of ‘You can’t do that!’
I understand that change is not always easy for people, be it the incredible people who buy my music or the powers that be, who take 20% of my flesh every time I produce something commercially viable.
The art of ghost writing can allow you to release something you wouldn’t usually be able to ‘as yourself’. There are occasions when you are not entirely happy about the artist you are making a track for, so you keep your name off it, but you’ve been caught in a compromising position so you take the money and run.
You are probably reading this and thinking that I have sold out. My younger self would agree wholeheartedly, but living and breathing in the music industry you realise there are very few people you can trust, and even fewer who will put your interests ahead of their own, so in truth you do what it takes to survive.
I was speaking to an artist recently, who said to me quite plainly, ‘Do your principles pay for your mortgage, clothe your children or keep the wolves from the door, or do your own sales, boosted by the odd bit of ghost writing, keep you and your family?’ I did not respond, but the answer was etched all over my face.
Before we all reach for the pitchforks and wooden stakes, in my opinion ghost writing works best when there is a mutual respect between both parties. When egos, agents, managers and labels get involved that is when you see the whole business of ghost writing being denied like an illegitimate baby.
In my experience, people don’t really understand that a ghost writer has a base to work with from the start. In some cases the music is already finished and they are just adding their own spin, as a remixer would. It’s our job as ghost writers to come in and work on a track, regardless of how far along the music is in its production.
This is why some tracks sound like two different tracks spliced together.
There is an idea that dance music should be created by yourself, yet some of the greatest bands employ a writer to help explore the creative process, should we call their integrity a facade, no i would applaud them for a great song, but maybe that’s just me. I feel the purity is in the work rather than the act.
Ghostwriting goes on more than you know, and that the best ghost writing is the music that you never knew has been ghost written, until it is mutually viable for both parties for you to know.
Recently, some tracks I wrote for a certain artist had my name added to them. As my career is going from strength to strength at the moment, my name adds a new currency to the music I worked on for the artist in question.
It has worked well for both of us and gained me a lot of fans from a genre I never thought possible.
Now it is okay for me to make that type of music under my own alias. I have got the green light from the naysayers and the powers that be.
As a ghost writer you have to do what needs to be done, whether it’s to push your career in a certain direction, to make quick money or because you are just a fan of the artist you are writing for. In the end, some of the greatest songs have had the unmentioned and dreaded ghost writer.