Ghostproducing in popular music

Ghostwriting has always had a certain sense of allure around it. When talking about books or music, there is always the question who-wrote-what, especially when it comes to pop and R&B music. Take for example producer Max Martin. He has written songs for singers Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, and even the Backstreet Boys and Bon Jovi!

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

Ghostwriting has been accepted as a practice in the literary world – we simply don’t expect celebrities to write their own biographies. When it comes to music, however, things are a bit different. People are outraged by the idea that Rihanna might not write her own songs. Famous DJ David Guetta, for instance, have also been frequently mentioned as someone who does not write their own music.

Sounds like cheating, doesn’t it? When you think about musicians, you expect them to create their works out of love for music, rather than love for status. Let’s take David Guetta’s case a little further. Apparеntly, co-writer and producer Joachim Garraud was listed on every single track on Guetta’s first albums, yet he was not mentioned in the marketing.

Ghosting in term of music producing or writing is an elusive term. Generally, it encompasses any sort of help a DJ might receive – from the engineering through the composition up to the full-on creation of a track. This includes sound design, melody writing, drum programming, and many more.

Pop stars Pitbull and Drake are also “guilty” of relying on a ghostwriters, when it comes to their hit songs (her name is Chantal Kreviazuk). Texas-born Savan Kotecha is behind the lyrics of Maroon 5’s “One more night” and “What makes you beautiful” by One Direction. Not to mention Bonnie McKee, who is the lead role in the creation of Katy Perry’s and Taio Cruz’s songs.

A simple Internet search might lead you to thousands of names, both of ghostwriters and producers, and artists that employ their services. So, what’s the issue? It seems like the same names are responsible for the same hits by the same artists. The lyrics and catchy melodies of our favorite pop songs are crafted by people, who stay in the shadows. Why would they do that, you ask?

Well, a ghostwriter for a famous DJ might receive as much as 5% of the profit from a hit track. This doesn’t sound impressive, but remember that these numbers can reach up to 50 million dollars! And 5% of 50 million is definitely better than nothing. And these are the lowest paid ghostwriters or producers. Big names in the industry such as Max Martin surely make a living by writing artists’ hit songs and tracks.

Actually, a report by the BBC claims that up to 40% of all hip hop and rap lyrics are ghostwritten. Jay-Z refused to tell who he was writing for, since he was bound by disclosure agreement. However, thanks to the Internet, his contribution to Foxy Brown, Amil and Dr. Dre is kind of an open secret. Surely these artists can write their songs on their own – or can they?

See, the problem is that we tend to think of singer as musicians. Pop music is not only about the quality of the music – or music as an art – but also about creating a product that sells. A successful singer would have a charisma, timing and timbre of the voice that would create a distinct sound of every single song. Of course, there are still popular musicians that write their own music – these are Sia, Ne-Yo, Kesha, Ed Sheeran and many more. In this era of ghostwriting, what they do is truly amazing and worthy of admiration.

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