Benny Benassi and Bassjackers are Setting the Standard For Ghost Production, and We Love Them For It

Image via Benny Benassi
Image via Benny Benassi

Ghost production is a standard in mainstream music, and it happens more frequently as you climb the ladder.  As a practice, it’s actually not all bad.  If both parties were consistently happy with their arrangements, nobody would have anything to say in regards.  There are artists that don’t mind rolling out of bed, working on sound design in their home studio, wrapping tunes, and collecting a sizable check as the artists that they are ghosting for claim ownership of records that they never worked on.

More than a dozen times last year, I’ve been handed a record that was later sold and repackaged to be a collaborative tune with an artist that never touched the song, or sold outright with the original creator’s name removed.  And because the proper paperwork and payment took place, you will never know what those tunes are.  Everyone is walking away happy.  The only way that you would ever be alerted to someone quietly using a ghost producer is if there is a public slip-up (hey, DJ Snake), paperwork being made public, or a lack of payment.

Sadly, this lack of payment happens more often than you can imagine.  I’ve talked to dozens of producers that have had credits completely removed.  Had their work published under someone else’s name without their permission.  Had stems stolen from them.  They’re quiet because they don’t want to be seen as snitches, and don’t want to rock the boat of opportunity that might pass them by down the road.  They talk to me because they know I will speak to them without leaking specifics.  But nearly every time, they refuse to comment publicly.  I can do nothing but respect their wishes.

But this industry isn’t comprised of simply industry insiders.  And if you listen to mainstream dance music, you should get comfortable with the thought that you’re probably being mislead.  One of your favorite artists probably doesn’t make the tunes that you praise them for.  They are more human and less genius than you think.  But there are rare instances like Benny Benassi, who actually cites his cousin Alle as his ghost producer.  And goes even further by publicly using the term:

Sure, this isn’t news. Beatport actually ran a marvelous interview back in July of last year with Alle Benassi where he says that “the DJ is the musical memory of the duo and brings the club vibe into the equation while the musician plays the parts.”  These cousins are collaborators that don’t hide the moving parts to the machine, and it’s commendable.  DJs admitting to using ghost producers is becoming more commonplace, and we’re applauding this open honesty.

We’re seeing more and more mainstream artists willingly list their collaborators.  Though Chuckie‘s forthcoming single “Dirty Funkin Beats” only lists his name on the artwork, he credits Maarten Vorwerk, someone who has been cited as a ghost producer for more than a dozen acts that include Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Sandro Silva & Quintino.  Vorwerk has repeatedly declined interviews to discuss this matter, and though the industry knows that his production is actually fueling quite a bit of mainstream dance music, he stays quiet and very few DJs actually admit his involvement.  An instagram quote from Chuckie yesterday says: “My new club track “Dirty Funkin’ Beats” that I produced in collaboration with the legend Maarten Vorwerk is out at the end of January! Stay tuned! #dirtydutch #djchuckie

Vorwerk walks away with a check.  Chuckie gets to focus on spinning records.  Great music is heard by large audiences. And everyone walks away happy.  But these DJs actually admitting that they work with (or not so much with) producers that make the tunes that they’re pushing on tour is the last piece missing in order to turn ghost production into a positive business.

We also have seen honest dialogue from Bassjackers, who have an arrangement where Marlon Flohr publicly represents the brand, and Ralph van Hils produces. They don’t shy away from it, speak on it openly and publicly, and both are happy with this arrangement.  It’s a business model where both parties contribute equally in their own way, and both are happy.  Marlon doesn’t have to worry about making records, and Ralph doesn’t have to burn himself out touring on the road.

There’s debate to whether or not ghost production hurts the Producer/DJ that has the ability to both create the tunes that they’re putting their name on and play them out to massive audiences.  Is the repackaging of work taking money out of other artist’s pockets?  Possibly.  We’re also seeing producers like MAKJ frown upon the practice, more for its lack of accountability than financial reasons:

Screen Shot 2014 01 10 at 4 15 55 PM Benny Benassi and Bassjackers are Setting the Standard For Ghost Production, and We Love Them For It

Would anyone have a problem if DJs were honest and upfront about where their content came from?  And if business is beneficial to all parties involved, is ghost production really a bad thing?  Fans would no longer feel duped, producers could create on their own terms, and it would cease to be a taboo subject.  And as this market is continuing to change and evolve, it would be wonderful to be the first generation of musicians and fans to steer this ship in the right direction.

  • John SomeJerk

    At the end of the day it’s a business and not art.

    • B Lett

      No, at the end of the day, if the art is forged, then you don’t have to give them your business. The art is more important than the business, and it’s shit brained thinking to put business first. Music and art have existed long before paper currency or digital money for that matter. Let’s not pretend that whatever sells the most or whatever gets the most plays means that it has more value to society. Treat art strictly as a business, and you’re likely to have a 3 year career at the most like the rest of the artists who don’t have a vision of their own.

      • Justin Hyder

        a business ? this guy is part of the problem. ghost production just means that person wasn’t talented enough to produce their own track and has to use some1 else’s track to gain recognition. its bullshit not business. mak j is right it needs to stop and artist need to just try harder to make something different instead of getting the , and i can’t even say help because its not produced by them at all but i guess getting help from other producers who in the end did the entire track. its stupid and honestly makes no sense to why they’re allowed to even do it in the first place lol. honestly just make a good song , we all know you can. or……can you?

        • John SomeJerk

          I’m not going to bother reading your reply as I’m sure it’s as poorly conceived as your sense of grammar and punctuation. I am not “part of the problem”, I treat my music as art.

          My point is that this is a BUSINESS, not an art show. I love music that the creator puts their soul into, but if you think that the majority of music being played at any “EDM” event has soul to it and is art, you’re on some shit.

        • H8er

          Why make a track when you can buy one cheap and get all the pussy in the world, for FREE!

      • John SomeJerk

        My career is just getting started, homie. And it’s because of my mentality, which is the ability to separate “art” and “commodity”. I’m going to guess you don’t make your living in the music industry.

    • H8er

      Not even that, its whoremongering

  • kaliknatikov

    Worverk didn’t produce anything for Swedish House Mafia. Their album has his name in credits because it contains “Epic”.

  • Ben Bitten

    I think there is too much expectation for people to be both great DJs and great Producers. Although there are some people that pull it off, by and large you are good at one or the other. My favorite local DJ has yet to produce a track, but regularly gets gigs on large soundstages at Burning Man, whereas my favorite local producer is….well….mediocre at best with his DJing. Ghost writing in and of itself isn’t bad, but its bad for people who cannot afford one, because it fosters the idea that you have to wear both hats, and if you don’t, you can’t get recognition.

    • NOTaSELLOUT!

      You’re the reason man… people like you. Disgusting to accept this kind of bullshit in an artistic field. DO IT YOURSELF. SPEND YOUR HOURS. COME UP WITH YOUR OWN SOUNDS. SACRIFICE YOUR LIFE TO THE MUSIC AND FUCK THE INDUSTRY!!!! GHOST WRITING IS BULLSHIT AND SO ARE YOU IF YOU SUPPORT IT!

      • H8er

        Ghost writing is ectoplasma, its a substance but of now real importance, and with names like the popguru guetta, deephouse king tiesto and dancehall queen Jayz

        Ghostwriters will continue to exist.

        Easy pickings, cheap and adequately good, just like a $10 hooker

      • Ben Bitten

        I didn’t say I support it, but I understand how the pressures of the industry can lead to it.

  • Prof. Xper

    Imagine of Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, Beethoven, etc had ghost composers….How would that make you feel?

    • Prof. Xper

      *if

    • Pete Russo

      Funny thing about that…. Mozart himself was a ghost writer.

  • DJ Wilky Way

    I think that ghost producing is a product of this assumption that DJ’s need to make their own music. Look at DJ Bl3nd, he has none of his own music but he’s one of the better live shows in the industry because he focuses on DJ’ing. I produce instrumentals but I prefer to DJ more party/EDM music. If through the grace of God my Dj’ing becomes well known, I’d rather embrace that than try to game my influence by paying to have songs produced under my name. Will I maybe start trying to make songs I’d like to play live? Sure! But I have a lot of respect for the DJ’s who love DJ’ing and stick to it, just like I have a ton of respect for producers who make bangers but don’t feel the need to start DJ to “authenticate” their music.

    TL;DR: Producers should be producers, DJ’s should be DJ’s. And if you’re both? Great! If not? Don’t fake it!

    • H8er

      Djs want it all, beeing a dj, beeing a promotor, beeing a producer, beeing a millionaire, beeing your own boss and in the end you wind up on your ass in a sling

  • Terpsi

    This happened recently with Jay Fays track Dibby Dibby. Originally released in January 2013 then suddenly around November we see DJ Fresh vs Jay Fay Feat. Ms Dynamite – Dibby Dibby Sound. Compare the two below:

    Original (January 2013)
    https://soundcloud.com/jayfay/dibby-dibby

    DJ Fresh vs Jay Fay version (November 2013)
    https://soundcloud.com/djfreshuk/dibby-dibby-sound

    Now granted there’s a little bit of extra work done and a vocal on top but the track is largely unchanged from the original which makes me think that Fresh barely did any work on it. Which is weird because I’ve followed Fresh from Bad Company through to his immense solo Drum & Bass productions through to his current commercial success and I know he’s a fantastic producer who doesn’t need to have other people write tracks for him. I guess once these producers get to a certain level they just don’t have the time to invest when they’re touring so much because lets be honest here, there must be a lot more money in touring than releasing music.

    • derp

      I believe they were on the same page with that one,
      Jay Fay was doing all sorts of promotion for it.

      • Terpsi

        I’m not saying that weren’t, I’m just saying I doubt very much Fresh did much production on it. Which is a shame because he’s a fantastic producer and let’s face it, he’ll be getting all the credit for this track, not Jay Fay.

    • H8er

      hahah just read the comments and look at the usernames, its all fake, bought comments trying to get viral and develop hype and fake fame.

      I dont understand why anyone would use a crapservice like SC, nothing is legit there anymore.

      • http://www.rockthedub.com/ khal

        ghost commenting is the new wave in 2014

        • H8er

          Yepp, i know started in 2013, and dont really know when its gona stop.

          I remeber when Zoundcloud was about music, good feeling and we could upload whatever we felt for or wanted, just the same wi Utube, then the healinerwhores got a sniff of the action and put a banhammer on anything that could be popular and outside of the mindset of corporate ass.

          if you wonder why i spell utube and zoundcloud or fazebook the way i do, none of those fuckers should ever get commercials or support from me ever again.

          people know what you mean anyway, but the system dont get any support!

  • DJ Todd G

    Its not an uncommon practice in other genres of music i.e. hip hop for example and back in the day there was a much more definitive line between DJs and producers….I think the main point that if it is credited properly and acknowledged then it shouldn’t really matter. I love to DJ and have no interest in producing tunes because I would rather just focus on DJing. Back in the day you went to see the DJ because of their technical skill and ability to rock a dancefloor, not because they placed a song in the charts but then again, there wasn’t the mainstream pressure that there is today. I think there has been way too much overexposure on this scene which makes DJs/producers find it necessary to have those Beatport 100 tracks at whatever means they can.

    • H8er

      Much of the facts about deejaying and what we really do or did, has gone to shit, and its gona get worse, much worse, especially when people think they can hit bigtime over night and dont have to work for it.

      Producers of hardware diliberately take the djnpart out of the equation, put in tools so even a monkey can mix, beatmatch, use effects and so on.

      Whats the real glamour of beeing a dj, when you lack all the skills?
      more then money, fake fame and groupies!

  • ElectroItalia

    Epic news… No…. We know these things for years and now it’s so normal that we do not even notice.

  • ElectroItalia

    Guys…. And ‘better not to know all the shit that’s around the edm (all edm) … All things 100 times worse than a ghost track from his cousin.

    Don’t investigated, climbs depression and live badly.

  • Such Music

    This is why I listen to DnB.

  • Jyur

    It’s not uncommon on other genres… I know.
    But in dance music, I find it awkward. When there’s people who can do both things (djing and production) really well.

    What to think about these people who jumped into the dance music bandwagon, and who are nothing but a bunch of recent-average-more-of-the-same-beatport-top-100-djs, who can’t even produce a complete track by their own??

  • You’re Wrong

    If a ghost producer is someone who secretly made a song, but you’ll never hear about him or see him, in Benny’s case it wouldn’t exactly be a GHOST producer would it?

    He’s always paired up with his brother Alle, and Alle’s even held interviews about it? You take a look at the credits on their songs, or even the ones they did for Madonna, it always says “Benny & Alle Benassi”…Alle may come up with some melodies, drops, etc, and Benny comes in with his clubbing experience and helps arrange it into a hit.

    So other than Vorwerk (who we’d never hear from/be able to see properly if he didn’t have twitter) you haven’t really mentioned any actual ghost producers…

    • http://www.rockthedub.com/ khal

      Point me to where we stated in this post that we’d be mentioning “any actual ghost producers.” Benny calling his cousin a ghost producer in the Instagram is what lead us to speaking on this situation. Hell, the main point was about the acknowledgement DJs were giving their “ghost producers” in the first place!

      • H8er

        I can call my parents or grandparents ghosts, but i dont think that would apply as they dont make musik any more.

    • H8er

      “in Benny’s case it wouldn’t exactly be a GHOST producer would it?”

      First of BB is alive so he cant be a ghost now could he, and if he would be a GP, he would be a fat GP in that case.

  • Soundcloud.com/tywhitemusic

    First of all MakJ should have nothing to say of the situation. He’s only produced for one year and has collaborated with Hardwell..now that’s what I call fishy.

  • H8er


    Benny Benassi and Bassjackers are Setting the Standard For Ghost Production, and We Love Them For It”

    NO

  • Disco Mike

    Definitely late to be commenting on this, but I’m doing it anyway…

    We created the demands that make this process occur. We ask these artists to come to every fucking city all year round, sometimes doing 200+ shows per year which a rock band could never accomplish, then we want them to somehow warp time and have weeks or months available to spend slaving away in the studio? Get real.

    As for people who start their career by using ghost producers, I’d say theres really good reason there to just disclose that from the start. If you are the brand, and the ghost producer isn’t going to step up on stage and play the track, you are essentially the conduit by which audiences get to experience that particular piece. Promoters and those who organize events will of course be aware of this, meaning that if a track that was ghost produced is a hit all I want is someone to show up in my nightclub and play those records and present that brand. The ecosystem functions just fine with this in place.

    As for being a musician, that’s slave labor and all too often a fools errand. Its admirable to do it, and it’s what I do personally because I love it, but I’m not such a fool to assume that the whole universe is supposed to revolve around those who actually sit down to write songs.

  • 3DmotionS

    thank god! we have the mau5…

  • bryan andres

    It sucks knowing that some of your favorite djs/producers , Maybe haven’t even made the songs you love wow , How heartbreaking that’s bullshit !