At the 2013 Winter Music Conference, Bimbo Jones’ Lee Dagger, duo Sick Individuals, and Disfunktion’s Mike Tielemans touched on this hush-hush phenomenon during panel “Re: Crafted, Re: Modeled & Re: Mixed” but quickly went onto another subject. But just as the recent EDM surge in the U.S. has turned DJs into rock stars, not on the basis of their actual DJing skills but on tracks that make it onto the radio and sell on Beatport, rumors about which big-name producers have ghost DJs began to circulate.

A forum post attempted to list the artists who do this. The most notable, out of those listed include Tiesto, Dave Dresden of Gabriel & Dresden, Paul Oakenfold, Sasha, and Paul Van Dyk. But because ghost producing hasn’t been confirmed for any of these performers, the statements don’t go beyond rumors.

Interviews, however, give a more solid idea about who might not be doing all their own production. To, Benny Benassi was more candid about who does what in the Benassi Bros. At one point, he calls cousin Alle “my producer and studio partner” and later goes onto explain that, while he has a background as a house DJ, Alle is a classically-trained musician.

But, while Benny Benassi furtively comes clean, another DJ revealed he provides the technical manpower behind David Guetta’s tracks. In, Joachim Garraud admitted the supposed sound behind “Where Them Girls At?” directly comes from him. While the interview is in French, the translated version of Garraud’s statement about Guetta is: “David is not a musician, [he] is not a technician, so he comes over with ideas, ideas samples, textures and sounds, etc., after they performs together, and it is true that it is I who am behind the machines, because they are my machines and my studio.”

How Does Ghost Production Work?

In a sense, ghost DJing is a loose concept, encompassing the engineering and composition a DJ’s track may have to full-on creation. Any “help” a producer may receive, then, qualifies as ghosting. “Whether it’s an engineer whiz kid who can finish off a good idea, a sound designer who makes incredible synth lines, or a full-fledged ghost producer there are a ton of people involved,” Alex Vickers explained in Magnetic in May 2012. “There’s a huge amount of man hours that go into a professional sounding song, there’s so many facets of production that it’s borderline impossible to be a master of everything. There’s the sound design, melody writing, drum programming, recording vocals, arrangement and any other lose ends. And there’s the mixing and mastering stage, which is just as much an art form as the production itself.”

So, Why Do DJs Do It?

Three forces seem to keep ghost production going. One, the state of electronic music makes being a producer a necessity. Touched on at WMC, a DJ needs to put out that hit to get the prime gigs – few can truly subsist as a DJ alone, unless he or she has decades of clout. Even then, if the Oakenfold and Tiesto rumors are to be believed, those skills aren’t enough, so a hit single keeps a career relevant.

But what happens when you’re a great DJ but supposedly a mediocre or technically un-savvy producer? Unless you have the connections (like Benny Benassi’s cousin), you seek out a service, which promises 100-percent discreet, pro-quality tracks. With a single, now you have a chance to compete and do your craft in the venues you want.

So, aside from production being a necessary stepping stone to a DJing career, the demand for big-name DJs puts them on the road for a good deal of the year. Although some claim to produce on the road, as all you supposedly need is a laptop and a good pair of headphones, the time doing and traveling between gigs is months away from the studio – and, essentially, away from time creating quality music and career-maintaining hits.

Social media’s hyper speed additionally influences the pace of EDM, which, really, translates to a need for producers to pump out the hits at an even greater pace than before.

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