As a young musician, I felt that ‘ghostwriting’ was a dirty pairing of words. Why would anyone want to create music for someone else to take credit? I could not get my head around this part of the industry. Maybe it was ego or the fear of giving music away to another artist and not getting the credit you deserve, but as a ghostwriter the level of involvement is minimal, so each case has to be on trial separately.

Now I’m older, not so green, I have mouths to feed, and my own career dictates that I stick within particular genres, or my label would intervene with cries of ‘You can’t do that!’ I understand that change is not always easy for people, be it the incredible people who buy my music or the powers that be, who take 20% of my flesh every time I produce something commercially viable.

The art of ghostwriting can allow you to release something you wouldn’t usually be able to ‘as yourself’. There are occasions when you are not entirely happy about the artist you are making a track for, so you keep your name off it, but you’ve been caught in a compromising position so you take the money and run.

You are probably reading this and thinking that I have sold out. My younger self would agree wholeheartedly, but living and breathing in the music industry you realise there are very few people you can trust, and even fewer who will put your interests ahead of their own, so in truth you do what it takes to survive.

I was speaking to an artist recently, who said to me quite plainly, “Do your principles pay for your mortgage, clothe your children or keep the wolves from the door? Or do your own sales, boosted by the odd bit of ghostwriting, keep you and your family?” I did not respond, but the answer was etched all over my face.

Before we all reach for the pitchforks and wooden stakes, in my opinion ghostwriting works best when there is a mutual respect between both parties. When egos, agents, managers and labels get involved, that is when you see the whole business of ghostwriting being denied like an illegitimate baby.

In my experience, people don’t really understand that a ghostwriter has a base to work with from the start. In some cases the music is already finished and they are just adding their own spin, as a remixer would. It’s our job as ghostwriters to come in and work on a track, regardless of how far along the music is in its production. That’s why some tracks sound like two different tracks spliced together.

There is a suggestion that dance music should be created by ‘the artist’ and no-one else, but some of the greatest musicians have employed a writer or producer to help them explore the creative process. Should we call their integrity into question? No. The purity is in the work, rather than the act.

Ghostwriting goes on more than you know, and the best ghostwriting is the music that you never knew has been ghost-written, until it is mutually viable for both parties for you to know.

Recently, some tracks I wrote for a certain artist had my name added to them. As my career is going from strength to strength at the moment, my name adds a new currency to the music I worked on for the artist in question. It has worked well for both of us and gained me a lot of fans from a genre I never thought possible. Now it’s okay for me to make that type of music under my own alias. I have been given the green light from the naysayers and the powers that be.

As a ghostwriter, you have to do what needs to be done, whether it’s to push your career in a certain direction, to make quick money or just because you are a fan of the artist you are writing for. In the end, some of the greatest songs have involved the unmentioned and dreaded ghostwriter, but the skill is in the not knowing.

DJ An-On