Legitimacy of HitPiece, an NFT Streaming Service, Is Under Fire
Article by: Ryan Hood
Many artists were shocked to find their entire catalogs of music up for auction on an NFT music-streaming website on Tuesday, February 1.
The site, known as HitPiece, claims users can own “One of One NFTs of all [their] favorite songs. Own a song, build a unique playlist, and join an artist’s community.”
Upon further review, it would seem HitPiece is not minting songs on the blockchain at all. The only benefits to ownership listed on their website, which has been taken down, were “access to events.” It appears HitPiece had access to Spotify’s API, which allowed HitPiece to list all of the tracks listed on Spotify for auction without having to mint the tracks on the blockchain itself. The album artwork images themselves link to a Spotify database. The only utility for NFT ownership seems to be building playlists on HitPiece.
This throws a wrench into the legality of the situation, as there is no precedent for this. What this means is that anybody who buys an NFT on HitPiece doesn’t own the song at all, rather just the access to the track on HitPiece itself. While it might not be illegal, since there is no actual redistribution of music, the company still reeks of a scam. The reason it is a potential scam is because the site advertised giving users ownership of the tracks, but the only benefit upon winning a bid is access to private HitPiece events.
Many artists took issue with this, as they had not spoken with HitPiece regarding licensing for distribution of their tracks and likenesses. Several artists and record labels issued cease and desist notices to the service, which responded to outcries saying:
“Clearly we have struck a nerve and are very 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 the artists, labels, and fans alike.”
The service was launched back in December, with pop-ups at a small series of shows in Miami. HitPiece co-founder Rory Felton is an industry professional who specializes in A&R and marketing. Michael Barrin, HitPiece’s other co-founder and the company’s COO, is a rapper and music executive who goes by the stage name MC Serch.
Both Felton and Barrin are long-time music industry executives who have worked for and partnered with giants such as Sony Music Group, and likely have strong legal and financial support for this endeavor. The duo’s strong industry ties have some concerned about what it means for artists challenging HitPiece’s practices:
It appears the site partnered with a small collection of artists for what they call an “Exclusive NFT Drop.” HitPiece also contains auctions for songs from Disney and Nintendo, among other corporate giants. HitPiece did not respond to Moon Lvnding for comment.
We will be updating the story as more information is provided.