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PROVO — A Utah online platform attempting to sell nonfungible tokens received a mountain of criticism after musicians accused the company of trying to profit off their work.
Numerous recording artists said on social media that HitPiece — a company listed as being based in Provo on its LinkedIn page — was attempting to sell NFTs of artists' singles and album artwork without the artists' permission, according to Pitchfork.
NFTs are unique, digital pieces of art that can be in the form of photos, videos or audio. Nonfungible tokens frequently are bought and sold for large amounts of money, and the sales can be exchanged using cryptocurrency rather than in paper currencies.
HitPiece began listing items on its website and putting files up for auction as NFTs, which prompted responses from numerous musicians saying they had not authorized the sale of their works.
Bottom feeding scavengers of late capitalism sucking the last marrow from our bones and/or running a scam on me, you, or everyone, because obviously, I didn't approve this, and apparently neither did anyone else you'll see on the site. pic.twitter.com/65qwDr8zNI— Ted Leo (@tedleo) February 1, 2022
Artists like singer and guitarist Ted Leo, Bleachers front man Jack Antonoff and record labels like Ghostly International voiced their frustrations on Twitter, saying their work was listed for sale on the HitPiece website without permission. Rap group Clipping tweeted a screenshot from the site that showed a bid on one of their songs that totaled over $21 million. Others online pointed out how the website was offering music owned by companies like Disney and Nintendo along with prominent musicians like Britney Spears, Taylor Swift and John Lennon, according to the New York Post.
In response to the backlash, HitPiece took down all bids from its website, which now only displays a message saying, "We started the conversation and we're listening." However, according to Pitchfork, the company launched a secondary website.
HitPiece also posted a statement Tuesday night on Twitter, saying, "Clearly we have struck a nerve and are very eager to create the ideal experience for music fans."
February 2, 2022
The company said that artists get paid for sales on the platform, though many artists expressed their skepticism, pointing to the fact they were never contacted by HitPiece before seeing their work for sale on the website.
"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," HitPiece said in the statement.
Messages sent to HitPiece and employees listed on its LinkedIn page were not returned Thursday.
One HitPiece executive, Rory Felton, said on the Business Builder podcast that the platform was built on Spotify's application program interface, which essentially means HitPiece could access the entire catalog of music on the music streaming service. HitPiece's LinkedIn page also indicates the company's chief creative officer is Michael Berrin, also known as MC Serch, a Queens, New York, rapper and music executive.
A search of Utah's Division of Corporations and Commercial Code shows no business is registered in the state under the name HitPiece. The company's LinkedIn page lists its primary headquarters in Provo, though no street address is listed.