Business News Digital

HitPiece back from the dead

By | Published on Tuesday 16 August 2022


Yeah, you thought it was dead, but HitPiece is back! The music NFT platform sparked controversy earlier this year when it unveiled its plan to allow music fans to buy non-fungible tokens linked to a plethora of artists and songs. Something none of those artists or their labels seemed to be aware of.

The NFTs were not actually linked to any actual music files, but were seemingly connected to the artwork that accompanied each featured track. That artwork also appeared on the HitPiece website having been pulled out of the Spotify platform. Artwork, of course, is also protected by copyright, and for signed artists that copyright will usually be owned or controlled by a label.

Using that artwork, therefore, would require permission from the copyright owners, ie the labels, and no such permission was sought. Artists could also argue that their trademarks and publicity rights had been infringed by the NFTs site, because HitPiece was implying that the tokens it was selling were somehow approved or endorsed by the artist behind each featured song.

As the music community became aware of HitPiece at the beginning of the year – and talk of litigation from labels and artists started to proliferate on the social networks – the NFTs site went offline, replaced with the line “we started the conversation and we’re listening”.

Nevertheless, the Recording Industry Association Of America still fired off a cease and desist letter, demanding information about all of the outfit’s activities and revenues to date. It said that the company had “been engaged in the systematic and flagrant infringement of the intellectual property rights of the record companies and their recording artists on a massive scale”.

Meanwhile, the trade group’s Chief Legal Officer Ken Doroshow added in a statement: “HitPiece appears to be little more than a scam operation designed to trade on fans’ love of music and desire to connect more closely with artists”.

Now the HitPiece platform has relaunched, promising to be “the easiest place to create and buy authentic music artist NFTs”. And all of those previous issues have now been overcome… it reckons.

In a recent interview with Input, co-founder Rory Felton insists that the overwhelming feedback when HitPiece was originally unveiled was “extremely positive” and that people were “excited about it”. He also says that he does not “agree at all with the RIAA claim” that HitPiece is a scam and adds that no legal action was ever actually launched against his start-up business.

Nonetheless, lessons have been learn. “Clearly, we failed to have the proper guardrails in place around the product, which led to the miscommunications and challenges that happened”, he says. “We made mistakes with that, and we’re looking to learn from that and build upon that”.

So, the company is now working to engage with artists to properly license their work before minting any NFTs linked to it, and its website lists ten artists that it is already working with, including Lil Gotit, ATL Jacob, Fuse808 and Matt Ox.

Meanwhile, presumably in a bid to placate the music industry lawyers who are generally concerned about the growing number of music NFT start-ups and a possible whole new wave of piracy on the blockchain, HitPiece has has also teamed up with audio identification service Audible Magic in a bid to establish the ownership of the rights in any one track or song before any NFTs are promoted or sold in relation to that music.

“We’re excited to join the rapidly growing innovative NFT, metaverse and Web3 marketplace with HitPiece to continue our commitment to protecting creator rights”, says Vance Ikezoye, President and CEO of Audible Magic, confirming that alliance. “Through our extensive music registry, music creators and related rights holders on and off HitPiece can be assured the content they own is protected; or monetised where permission has been granted”.

Adds Felton in a statement: “Following many positive conversations with artists, we’re excited to launch the official HitPiece platform to provide creators with a new way to engage with fans and build metaverse communities”.

“As someone who has seen every corner of the industry, too often creators are not in control of how and when they can release content”, he adds. “NFTs for music artists will continue to expand, and we’re grateful for partners like Audible Magic who help us ensure we have guardrails to provide an easy and secure one-stop shop for those in the music community joining the expanding world of Web3”.

The updated website promises early adopters who sign up to the revised HitPiece service their “very own music lounge where you’ll be able to share to your NFTs in an immersive listening room”. And who wouldn’t want that? You can check out the revamped site here.

This story is discussed on this edition of our Setlist podcast.