We uncovered some sketchy moves in the industry in the past few weeks, and the response has us shaking our heads. First we had DJ Snake, who retweeted our link to his blatant copy of a remix that Breaux did months earlier. There was five hours of radio silence from both parties, then Breaux and Snake simultaneously denied that there was any issue and swept it under the carpet, saying that the upload was a mistake. A mistake that Snake retweeted before going to sleep and deleted when he woke up.
Then we saw Ookay’s credits removed as a co-producer on Diplo’s remix of Avicii’s “You Make Me.” We had screenshots of his Twitter and Facebook pages as he was just hearing about this snafu. We were immediately asked to remove the screenshots, but the iTunes link still lacks credit for Ookay‘s work on this record. And as we attempt to help right these wrongs, co-producers and ghost producers continue to fold. They are promised compensation, consideration, and don’t want to look like they’re rocking the boat. They’re scared of stopping the gravy train.
As writers, we’re consistently asked if we’re scared of the industry blacklisting us for poking at the issue. It could happen, surely. But there are countless labels and artists that appreciate the fact that we’re riding out for musicianship and upholding some sort of ethical code. There are also people that ask if our goal is to be known for drama. This issue makes up .01% of our overall content, and if you have been paying attention, we have made nearly 6000 posts in the last year that have nothing to do with ghost production whatsoever. The bottom line is the fact that we’re supposed to walk on eggshells in a business with blatant disregard to ethics is ridiculous, and it wouldn’t be an intriguing or sensitive subject if everyone was truly happy.
This is all while we have websites coming at us saying that our stories prove to be false. Our stories were correct, were covered up only after we spoke on them, and might have never been resolved had we sat idle. We also have fans of false idols scream “BLASPHEMY!” at any word that their favorite DJ might be getting some musical help behind closed doors, and everyone fails to consider that we wouldn’t tarnish our reputation by publishing speculative pieces. Even with solid evidence, everyone looks the other way, as college kids moonlighting as journalists send darts our way by facts supported only by prepared statements from PR firms.
But when you think for a minute, there are deeper issues at hand. Relatively unknown producers are fueling the popularity of those in power in the industry, and this practice is undeniably going to be the factor that busts the EDM bubble. More and more local DJs, producers, and small venues are struggling, and we’re curious if it has to do with the market pushing overpriced acts and $500 festival ticket prices with lineups that are almost identical to every other $500 festival. The distribution of these tens of billions of dollars isn’t anything close to fair or equal. The asking price for headlining DJs is skyrocketing off of the back of work they didn’t create, and it’s forcing promoters to pay opening acts next to nothing.
Sadly, even if you’re creating competitive music, it’s becoming harder and harder to land DJ gigs and press without a budget. It’s also much easier to seem relevant when you can pay websites for positioning and companies to buy fake likes and follows. Fans and promoters take these numbers as a legit measure of quality. And, of course, headlining DJs can afford to pay young and hungry producers to craft sounds for them so they can scoop the profits needed in order to stay on top. The biggest names have the biggest pockets, and it’s turning our culture into a real-life game of Monopoly.
The myth that favors or exposure is a surefire way to getting your own bookings has permeated the industry, and this is completely false. Ask any opening DJ in any city whether their spot opening or closing for a headliner actually did anything for their career. This holds true with co-production and ghost production as well. Unless a bankrolled artist is truly putting you on their team and helping push your brand, you’re walking away with a small check and a cool addition to your press kit.
In the past year, I’ve applauded Benny Benassi and Bassjackers for their openness on the subject of ghost production. I wrote an open letter to ghost producers that was unanswered. We exposed Juke Ellington for stealing other people’s records, then caught him a second time. We’re letting you know that DJ Mag has created a production school that could easily turn into a warehouse for ghost producers… with the help of Google.
We’ve also let you know that the one company in EDM that cares most about the bottom line, SFX Entertainment, recently partnered with Clear Channel. Additionally, Marcus provided marvelous quotes on his article last month, one where Beatport CEO Matthew Adell says that he does not “care what happens before the speaker. As a fan I only care what comes out of the speaker,” and another from SFX president Robert Sillerman who states “I know nothing about EDM,”…“I really don’t. Of course, I’ve listened to it and I understand its appeal. It’s borderless, it’s free, it’s energetic, it’s a party, it’s a party in your mind-and I understand that.” When you spread all of this information into a dozen articles, it’s a dozen eye-opening articles. When you look at it as one cohesive piece, it’s frightening.
So ghost producers are effectively handing their art to millionaires who give more of a fuck about business than they do about helping you, ensuring things are fair, paying it forward, or keeping this game competitive. And the irony is the amount of texts, emails, and phone calls I get from headlining artists when one of these pieces go up. They’re pointing out musicians that have changed styles completely, making quiet suggestions for ghost producers that I should reach out to, and cheering me on. But it’s behind closed doors, and means nothing until someone grows some balls and says “Nappy is right,” or the next wave of artists gets waved up. I’m sitting here fighting a battle that nobody else is sending soldiers into.
So in a couple months, I’m going to talk about one producer that slipped up, spice things up with legal documents and statements from someone in power that actually cares about this industry, ether someone’s career completely, and leave the entire subject alone. But until then, we’ll be over here wondering if the industry or it’s fans actually give a fuck about ghost production, or if they’re thinking of the potential long-term harm it’ll cause all of us. I’m done trying to right the wrongs in this business until someone else decides to stand up with me.