A new website called HitPiece purports to offer NFTs for a massive swath of music catalogs for which it reportedly has no permission or ownership. The company immediately caused an uproar across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with artists, managers, and labels calling for the removal of their content from the site.
The website briefly suffered a 404 error, but was back up and functional as of posting this article. As of publication, HitPiece has not responded to a request for comment via Twitter direct message. Edit: the website's home page has been replaced simply with the company's logo and the message "We Started The Conversation And We're Listening."
However, in response to the uproar, HitPiece posted on social media, "Clearly we have struck a nerve and are eager to create the ideal experience for music fans. To be clear, artists get paid when digital goods are sold on HitPiece. Like all beta products, we are continuing to listen to all user feedback and are committed to evolving the product to fit the needs of artists, labels, and fans alike."
That post immediately generated hundreds of more comments from artists demanding their music be removed. In response to one of the comments, HitPiece then responded asking people to send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is gaslighting. And a bad faith statement. If you were really legit, you would have made an attempt to contact us. No email. No DM on our social media. Nothing. I only knew about this because of a fellow artist and a few of my fans.— Tombstone (@Tombstone969) February 2, 2022
What HitPiece Is Doing
HitPiece apparently plugged into Spotify's API to pull all of their available artist data. From there, the company is allegedly offering artist songs as NFTs for fans to purchase via auction. The company says that artists will receive money from the sale of the NFTs, but how that transactions takes place or how much it's worth is unclear.
Managers and artists immediately raised questions around the legality of attempting to sell something the website doesn't own. The company's Frequently Asked Questions section is fairly ambiguous, with questions like "What utility does owning an NFT give me?" answered with, "Artists provide NFT owners with access and experiences."
As of publication, the "artist registration" section of the website was a dead link.
HitPiece lists more than 700 ongoing "auctions" for NFTs, many of which "started" months ago and have since been usurped by people seeking to disrupt the site. For instance, one bid for a John Lennon NFT is listed at $21,474,836.47 by user "nftsarescams."
Is What HitPiece Is Doing Legal?
Almost certainly, no. The company is co-founded by Rory Felton, who lists his time with the company as beginning in 2020. On LinkedIn, the company is listed as having four employees with its headquarters in Provo, Utah.
Prior to co-founding HitPiece, Felton ran a company called Feltone for seven years.
The company lists many activities among its core offerings, including being a record label, artist services company, startup investor, festival promoter, and as working with NFTs and blockchain. Felton also ran a record company and music publishing company called The Militia Group from 2000-2012 before it was acquired by Sony Music.
In other words, based on his prior experience, Felton almost certainly knows conducting music NFT auctions without the permission of rights holders is not legal. And if the swift response from artists and managers is any indication, he also knows it's not currying the company any favor, either.
There's no clarification on whether any of these alleged NFTs have even been properly minted. As of now, none of these auctions are purportedly linked to wallets, either, which means it's unclear if any money has actually exchanged hands between somebody attempting to buy an NFT listed on HitPiece.
We'll keep you updated as this story develops.