Special thanks to Miles Jorgen for assistance with this piece.
As soon as I caught word that there was an actual, literal service called EDM Ghost Producer, I knew I was gonna have to give them some kind of grief. It’s bad enough to provide a platform through which the average consumer can engage in arguably the most despised practice in electronic music - they at least could have come up with a more discreet way to brand their services.
The owners of site have to be pretty out of touch with dance music if they don’t know that the terms “ghost producer” and “ghostwriter” carry especially unsavory connotations in the context of this culture. Then again, they preceded it with “EDM,” which is about on par with “Basshunter” in the grand scheme of dance music vulgarity.
Their only effort to normalize the practice in the eyes of dance music fans is the News section of the site. It pushes a pro-ghost producer narrative with headlines largely pertaining to world-famous EDM icons enlisting their services to put out their most successful songs.
In all fairness, there is something of a grey area when it comes to the dilemma of ghost producers. The prevailing attitude among most electronic music producers is that it’s perfectly acceptable for artists to send rough mixes to engineers to be mixed and mastered, but that you sacrifice artistic integrity by outsourcing any elements of arrangement and production.
Hey, I’ll even go as far as to admit that my own attitudes towards the hiring of ghost producers have become looser in recent years. When a DJ/producer achieves superstar status, they grow into a brand that’s bigger than one person alone. In some cases, it’s practically a small company. If an otherwise capable artist of such stature can’t crank out a new single every couple of months - either due to scheduling, touring, or plain old writer’s block - I don’t see the sense in putting a group of people’s livelihood in jeopardy for the integrity alone when there’s a viable means of staying competitive within reach.
Let’s make something clear, though: EDM Ghost Producer’s target market is not superstar DJs. The anonymous producers enlisted by artists at that level operate on a word-of-mouth basis and leave little to no paper trail, so EDM Ghost Producer’s ideal consumer is the sort of person who would rather pay money to take credit for somebody else’s music than learn how to make it on their own.
To be sure, although it’s more or less agreed upon that turning to ghost producers strips you of your integrity, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it also poses an ethical dilemma. However, after brainstorming a bit I set out to determine whether somebody with zero integrity - like an EDM Ghost Producer representative, for instance - might behave unethically when given an opportunity to do so.
A visit to EDMGhostProducer.com takes you to the Music Store section by default, where you can click on tiles to preview clips of sample-packy, paint-by-numbers tracks that risklessly adhere to mainstream EDM template genres like trap, future house and big room house. The next tab over takes you to Custom Tracks - and as soon as I saw the form below, I could tell right away that I would have have a lot more fun there.
And what a time we live in! EDM Ghost Producer actually encourages you to frankenstein your “custom track” together from pieces of existing music, all the way down to the timestamp of each section.
Obviously, the producers will more or less just use the songs you input as references that help dictate the general style and sound of each section; it would be illegal to synthesize a component of the new song’s arrangement that sounds identical to that of one of the reference tracks.
...But do you think I could get them to agree to plagiarize part of a track anyway?
No, I don’t think I could, because all it takes is a Google search to learn that I’ve thrown industry sleazebags under the bus in the past. Somebody else might be able to, though. Somebody who seems like they could be just out of touch enough not to realize that they’re asking EDM Ghost Producer to break the law.
...Somebody like DJ Kareem Infinity.
Don’t let that broken English in the submission form fool you - DJ Kareem Infinity (whose name was partly inspired by A-Trak’s corny former Twitter handle) is a shoe-in for this mission.
He’s an amateur DJ from Dubai, which is convenient, because the city’s Vegas-rivaling nightlife circuit makes it a vaguely believable hometown for an EDM DJ. At the same time, it’s still far enough away from all the major entertainment hubs that he could still be clueless enough about the scene to want his custom track to sound identical to the all-but-forgotten main stage miscarriage that was Blasterjaxxx and Quintino’s 2013 collaboration, “Puzzle.”
...Oh, he’s also the right man for the job because this is the thumbnail photo I chose for his United Arab Emirates Yahoo Mail account, and it will never, ever stop being funny to me as long as I live:
Anyways, a few days after submitting the form I heard back from an EDM Ghost Producer representative that claims his name is Charles.
$3,400 is actually pretty close to what I was expecting, but the unlimited edits offer is pretty generous. DJ Kareem Infinity is an artist with very specific musical needs, though, so I’d better let Charles know that I’m prepared to drop that Dubai money if he’s willing to look the other way while I misappropriate the “Puzzle” melody.
The way he worded it seemed like he might be leery of agreeing to anything that could be construed as plagiarism. I didn’t wanna give myself away - *ahem* I mean, I didn’t want Kareem to give himself away - so I opted to change the subject momentarily.
Well, at least that’s fairly respectable. Then again, owing to the role of ghost producers, they probably emphasize the importance of their anonymity policy in training above all else. Let’s go back to trying to get him to agree to plagiarism!
Whoa there, Charles, easy with the hard close!
I don’t wanna hear it from the project manager, Charles, but if I have to climb the ladder I will.
Alright, Kareem is losing patience. It’s time to turn up the heat!
Boom, got ‘em!
I know what you’re asking yourself. You’re questioning whether or not replicating the exact same melody of a song actually does constitute plagiarism in a court of law. According to the law, two conditions must be met for that to be the case.
First, the infringer must have had access, meaning that they must have heard or reasonably be presumed to have heard the song in question. Well, I did submit it after all, so if he didn’t listen to it then he wasn’t doing his job.
Second, there must be substantial similarity between the two songs. In the context in which Kareem used it, “melody” means the specific sequence of music notes in a composition. Since Charles finally confirmed in no vague way that that the custom track would have, as Kareem requested, the “exact same melody,” which means its loud, squawking synth lead would be made up of the exact same sequence of notes.
As much fun as this was, I’m not gonna shell out the $1,701 down payment just to trick EDM Ghost Producer into actually going through with plagiarism. If somebody reading this made a GoFundMe to raise the money for it I wouldn’t complain, though. I mean, he gave me a solitary “Yes” in writing, so it would be false advertisement for him to refuse at this point, right?