The HitPiece debacle, which has drawn ire from Jack Antonoff and more, shows just how meaningless these tokens are.
If you needed any more indication of just how much of an empty fraud NFTs are, look no further than the HitPiece debacle. This week, dozens of artists, from indie bands to Jack Antonoff, openly condemned the website for selling NFTs of their music without any approval or knowledge.
HitPiece allows people to “collect NFTs of your favorite songs.” “Each HitPiece NFT is a One of One NFT for each unique song recording,” the site, which has been effectively shut down, previously read. “Members build their Hitlist of their favorite songs, get on leaderboards, and receive in real life value such as access and experiences with Artists.” But there’s one major problem: the site, which offered NFTs for songs by artists from The Beatles to Taylor Swift to prominent anti-NFT musician Brian Eno, does not seem to have any legitimate licensing or permission from the artists whose music it’s pawning off its precious pieces of digital code through.
The site is “100% hosting unauthorized sales of NFTs related to Sooper Artists,” a Chicago-based record label Sooper Records tweeted. “They'll absolutely be hearing from us. Fuck this website.”
Following the strong backlash, HitPiece responded with a vague statement. “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.”
How artists exactly are getting paid, though, remains a mystery. The website now just displays a simple message: “We Started The Conversation And We’re Listening.”
HitPiece will likely be sued to oblivion, but their very existence is a microcosm of just how shaky — and meaningless — the NFT space is. As opposed to virtually any other product, physical or digital, NFTs don’t ever actually offer anything tangible or interactive that either provides intrinsic value or, most importantly in this case, indicates that it’s actually yours. Yes, the whole point of an NFT is to provide you with a singular, non-fungible code that certifies that something is yours. But in this case, considering the fact that the artist, the label, and now the defunct website that sold you the NFT are all suddenly saying that the token you bought for a song is actually unlicensed and therefore has no actual weight — well, maybe the entire conceit is meaningless.
The rise of the NFT space means we’re entering a Wild West, in which, as with the HitPiece, indicates that buyers might be paying money for something that is ultimately a scam. A symbol of this entirely new, unregulated territory, the controversy could be reminiscent of the onrush of the music pirating scene some two decades ago. Except back then, regardless of legal and moral implications, participating meant you’d actually get a song to listen to — now you just get a digital receipt.
But, as some people have said, it’s the same thing as a trading card. Except, in this case, you can’t use the card in any way (i.e. interact with the song in any particularly new way, outside of some vague leaderboard game and empty promises about “access and experience”); you find out the card is a fake (the artists are literally saying “fuck off, this isn’t real”); and also, you know, you don’t actually even have a physical card. And yet somehow, we’re still stuck fending off the rise of the planet of the apes.