Discussion in 'Working in the Industry' started by Fitz, Apr 8, 2019.

  1. Fitz

    Fitz Member

    Apr 14, 2018
    whats everyone’s opinions on Ghostwriting in 2019? I have an opportunity to be a ghostwriter for a tv/film composer. I want to pursue this avenue to build contacts and gain experience while I continue to nurture my own music.

    I’ll get on the cue sheet (I think...) and get paid per minute but how often do additional music credits ACTUALLY lead to more work of my own? Isn’t it more about making the contact and hoping to get recommended down the line?
  2. chillbot

    chillbot Sock Muppet

    Feb 6, 2014
    La Canada Flintridge, CA
    No. It's inherent in the title... GHOSTwriting.

    Every situation is different, so it could be that yours is a good opportunity for you in regards to future work. In your first paragraph you say "build contacts" which I think is incorrect... composers in general do not advertise that they are using ghostwriters and would not want you to "build contacts" because then you would be in direct competition with them. In fact they would overtly shelter you from building any contacts. In the second paragraph you say "making the contact" which is more correct... meaning "the contact" is the composer you're working for, and if the composer is high-profile enough to help you AND has some sense of morals and ethics then yes they would possibly recommend you to others down the line. Your mileage may vary, but in general hoping that ghostwriting will lead to future work is a bit of a stretch.

    Ghostwriting is about getting paid, and that's it. So make sure you get enough upfront to make it worthwhile and get on the cue sheet as well. None of this "I think" stuff, make sure you know what you're getting!

    I can tell you in LA it is generally and widely accepted the going rate is 50% of the writer's share. Not that I necessarily agree with this but it is what it is. If you are getting paid upfront it's actually pretty fair. In some lucky situations you may be able to keep 100% of the writer's IF the composer is able to keep 100% of the publishing but that's pretty rare.

    Of course I have seen plenty of situations where the ghostwriter gets 15% or less. I've even seen 5% with the other 95% being divvied up between 4 or 5 people who had nothing to do with the track. This from a major library that everyone knows. When it gets down to 5% it just seems so insulting, what's the point. And then there's the dreaded 0%... not sure if this is better or worse than the insulting 5% but at that point you are a true "ghostwriter" prostituting out your music. I would say that a good rule of thumb is, if you're getting 15%, 5%, or 0% of the writer's share, do not expect this to lead anywhere, career-wise. If you're getting 50% then at least the composer you're working for has some sense of fairness and you'll be much more likely to get something out of it down the line.
    NoamL, Jaap and Land of Missing Parts like this.
  3. goalie composer

    goalie composer Active Member

    Oct 21, 2013
    Well said.
    chillbot likes this.
  4. DerGeist

    DerGeist Active Member

    Oct 21, 2018
    Ok, dumb question. Why do people hire ghostwriters for music? Is it when a project is too big for the primary composer and they need to farm out bits? Or is it for styles outside the composers wheelhouse (need an authentic banjo part and the composer is a pianist).
  5. goalie composer

    goalie composer Active Member

    Oct 21, 2013
    In my experience, both.
  6. OP

    Fitz Member

    Apr 14, 2018
    Good reply. I only had the initial meeting but I get paid per minute of music. Plus cue sheet (we haven’t talked numbers yet). What’s a good rate per minute of music?

    I’m not using this to advance my career, per say, I already have much own projects in a major network. It’s more about experience and learning to write to this type of picture. BUT I do want to make sure I’m accurately compensated while not coming across too strong.
    goalie composer likes this.
  7. chillbot

    chillbot Sock Muppet

    Feb 6, 2014
    La Canada Flintridge, CA
    For low-end or cable, 50% of writer's + $100/minute is pretty common. Not sure if you'd call that "good". But that question comes up all the time and is impossible to answer without context. Much higher for film, a bit higher for big networks. All depends on budget.
  8. Desire Inspires

    Desire Inspires To the stars through desire....

    Jul 30, 2016
    Miami Beach
    Take the deal. Congratulations!
  9. erica-grace

    erica-grace Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2015
    Do ghostwriters actually get credit?
  10. josejherring

    josejherring Senior Member

    They often do but those credits don't really amount to much other than some tasty paychecks if you happen to ghostwrite for a big high grossing film.

    The only real benefit in ghostwriting is if you work for a kind person who is willing to help you establish yourself as a lead composer.

    The only other thing that is cool is that you can just concentrate on the music and not worry at all about dealing with directors, producers, music supervisors ect... In the limited amount that I've done ghostwriting I was surprised at how liberating it was to not have to deal with the creative team on a film. Since I was able to focus all my attention on the music and how it worked in the film most of my cues that I ended up submitting got accepted unaltered because there wasn't that obsessive communication going on with the filmmaking team.

    The other thing that was pointed out to me. My first ghostwriting gig was a nightmare. Composer ended up throwing out my cues and invalidating me and everything about me. I was complaining once to another composer who was using me for some cues and that new composer said, "if another composer doesn't like your work, it doesn't matter". He's got a point there. We are as composers somewhat on the same playing field, if one composer doesn't like your work, ghost for another one. No big deal.
    NoamL and goalie composer like this.
  11. NoamL

    NoamL Winter <3

    Jul 6, 2015
    Los Angeles
    If you're on the cue sheet I wouldn't consider you a ghost writer. You're an additional writer.

    A ghost writer is someone who writes music for a per minute flat rate and never sees any royalties. That's a situation to avoid, or at least make sure you're paid well. There's a continuum between add'l writer and ghost, of course. If you're only getting 5% of writer's you're probably really a ghost.

    Additional writers are extremely common. The main reason is the schedule. Music does not get cleared without a mockup anymore, so the score has to be produced twice, once in synth and again on stage.
    chillbot and jsheaucsb like this.
  12. jbuhler

    jbuhler Senior Member

    Jun 19, 2016
    Additional writers were extremely common in the studio era as well.

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