HitPiece, the NFT platform that stole from Artists

When virtual “trading cards” have physical retaliation.

words by: Kayla Carmicheal
Feb 16, 2022

A website called HitPiece, which aimed to be the premiere platform for purchasing music NFTs, has quietly closed after artists and labels noticed the sale of their art without consent.


On February 1st, Twitter was flooded with tweets from artists, labels, and fans alike when it was discovered that the platform, HitPiece, was auctioning music for non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.


But let’s back up a bit. What is HitPiece?


The thing about HitPiece

Little is known about HitPiece’s background, since it’s such a new company. It was founded in 2021 by Rory Felton, an entrepreneur, and Spotify investor, Jeff Burningham.


The idea of HitPiece, according to founder Felton, on the Business Builders podcast, was to create “trading cards for songs.” Consumers had the ability to purchase and trade the only edition of that song’s token: Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Eventually, consumers will have built their own music catalog to show their loved one some objectively good music.


So, not the real song, but a symbol for it. And, because the website was built on top of Spotify’s public API, HitPiece was able to take the artwork and data from the streaming service’s library.


Felton claimed that HitPiece’s artist compensation comes two ways: Royalties from the initial auction and every time the music is traded, creating a “perpetual revenue stream for artists and rights holders that’s really cool.”


The thing about copyright infringement

However, without creator approval, HitPiece is a site full of copyright infringement. Here’s why: HitPiece used all that data—the song, artist, and titles—to make money, without seeking approval from the artists. We can draw that conclusion from the way said artists went to Twitter with their concerns, which brings us back to February 1.


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Artists from Wolfgang Van Halen, Adult Mom, Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz and Sad13, to Laura Jane Grace, BTS, and Jeff Rosenstock were affected.


Amid all the criticism, HitPiece released a statement via Twitter (now deleted):


“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 website also shut down, only leaving “We Started the Conversation And We’re Listening,” in its place, at the time of this article’s writing. HitPiece has also urged that it’s not a scam.


Admittedly, it’s hard to tell whether HitPiece will return or not. And, if the former, if anything will be changed. But this incident is par for the course when it comes to just some of the dangers and concerns with NFTs to be mindful of—scams that break the law.


Additionally, musicians—especially independents or those that are part of a small indie labels—have to worry about things like this happening in the future. When it’s already hard for a lot of independent creatives to make a living from their art, watching out for their work being stolen for profit is growing in detrimental ways.


Photo via Mashable