The Art Of Anonymity: Ghostwriting Dynamics In The Music Industry

Romano Law


Romano Law
Recently, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, have released a flurry of "diss tracks" garnering a record number of streams, solidifying their spot atop the music industry.
United States Intellectual Property
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Recently, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, have released a flurry of "diss tracks" garnering a record number of streams, solidifying their spot atop the music industry.

This controversy has sparked conversations that concern allegations of purchased lyrics and the use of ghostwriting in hip-hop – but, what is ghostwriting and what role does it play in the music industry?

What Is Ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting is when a professional writer creates content that is credited to another person. Essentially, the ghostwriter produces work under the guise of another individual or company, typically one that already has an established following or platform. This practice allows businesses and public figures to maintain a consistent content output without having to invest time into creating the work themselves. Although ghostwriters do not receive public credit for their work, they often earn higher fees due to the anonymity and the specialized skills they offer. Typically, ghostwriters are compensated with upfront payments for their anonymous contributions with fees varying from writer to writer, although in rare instances, Ghostwriters may earn a small royalty themselves.

Although a legal and common practice in various industries, ghostwriting is taboo in the hip-hop world. Ghostwriting can become problematic if it involves unethical behavior like copyright infringement or fraud, which may present legal concerns. Well written contracts and clear deal points are crucial to ensure that both the ghostwriter and the client understand and consent to the terms of their collaboration, making the process transparent and legally sound.

Who Owns The Work?

Credit and ownership largely depends on the agreement between collaborating parties. Generally, ghostwriters work under a work-for-hire agreement.

"Work made for hire" is a concept under U.S. Copyright law where an employer or commissioning party, not the creator, owns the copyright to a work created by an employee within their job scope or by an independent contractor under a written agreement. Normally, the individual who creates a work holds the copyright, but in a work made for hire situation, the commissioner or employer is considered the legal author and holds the copyright. This applies if the work is created by an employee within their scope of employment or if it is a commissioned work falling into specific categories such as contributions to a collective work, part of a motion picture, a supplementary work, or a translation, among others. This arrangement allows the commissioner to exclusively utilize and control the distribution of the work without additional permissions from the creator, providing a stable legal footing for businesses or individuals who rely on ghostwriters or other creators to produce content under these conditions.

How Does Ghostwriting Work In Other Industries?

Ghostwriting is utilized in several industries. Those that use a ghostwriter's services may include busy executives, celebrities, and other individuals who need to communicate effectively but lack the time or skills to write themselves.

In the publishing industry, ghostwriting is a crucial but often invisible force behind many bestsellers, celebrity autobiographies, and influential business books. Professional ghostwriters meticulously craft manuscripts while the credit goes to another individual, often a public figure or thought leader who lacks the time, expertise, or inclination to write. This arrangement allows for the sharing of valuable insights and stories, making ghostwriting not only a literary facilitator but also a strategic business tool that enhances personal branding and content marketing.

In the corporate world, ghostwriters can help articulate a company's vision, strategy, and thought leadership through articles for major business publications, white papers, and internal communications. Even reaching the political sphere, ghostwriters are often the architects behind impactful speeches delivered by public figures and politicians.


While ghostwriting is accepted across a range of industries, the practice can provoke accusations of inauthenticity for the likes of Drake and Kendrick Lamar. The debate reflects the evolving landscape of hip-hop and the ongoing tension between artistic integrity and commercial success within the genre.

Clearly drafted contracts and negotiations are crucial to avoid future disputes over ownership and compensation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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