UPDATE: [ RIAA condemns “scam site” HitPiece in savage legal missive ]

There have been a few stirrings from the people behind controversial NFT startup HitPiece, reeling after the company took down their site with thousands upon thousands of unauthorized NFT auction listings of music tracks.

But first, here’s what we know:

HitPiece raised the ire of the music community this week when artists, labels and rights owners were appalled to find their catalogs listed on the site and apparently available to buy at auction via NFTs, the miracle technology that allows consumers to buy nothing and pretend they have something.

In response to the furor directed at the company, HitPiece posted statements on their social media accounts that seemed to minimize the situation. Claiming in replies that no NFTs were sold “without permission,” they seemed rather pleased to have “struck a nerve” and were looking forward to engaging in a conversation with musicians. The site, which apparently farmed Spotify’s API for all of its listings, was taken down in its entirety on Tuesday and replaced with the banal statement that “We Started The Conversation And We’re Listening.”

Billboard’s Kristin Robinson managed to get a series of “exclusive statements” from someone at HitPiece, though they don’t add much clarity to the situation.

The fundamental questions here are:

  1. Who the fuck is HitPiece?
  2. What the fuck do they think they’re doing?

HitPiece’s statements have been unsigned, but LinkedIn data suggests the company’s leaders include Rory Felton and Jeff Burningham (and apparently included 3rd Bass’ MC Serch in some capacity.)

Felton claims to be an entrepreneur, “record company founder,” “Billboard Top 30 and Artist Manager/Partner” according to his twitter bio, but his main public activity on the platform is trying his best to be a dimestore Elon Musk.

The company appears to have significant ties in Utah and Idaho; the local paper in Boise has covered the story here.

Jeff Burningham is founder of a private equity firm and a former Republican candidate for governor of Utah in the 2020 election who announced his candidacy with a promise to gut regulation and “get government out of your way.” He later filed a lawsuit after being left off the ballot.

That’s who they are; as for what the fuck they think they’re doing, the statements provided to Billboard don’t help us much. The story is behind Billboard’s paywall, but when asked how artists who had no idea their music was on the site were supposed to be paid, HitPiece said this is “a functionality that HitPiece is developing.” They also denied selling “any copyright music without permission” and waxed rhapsodically about the Metaverse on a day that Facebook lost $230 billion from their market cap.

Reading between the lines of all of HitPiece’s world salads and deflections, it seems that what’s happened here is that a site that was in beta release had perhaps the most disastrous product launch in history. They are technically correct that no “copyright music” was sold without permission, because nothing was sold on HitPiece at all. It was a dummy site with no functionality. It consisted of a raw scrape of Spotify’s API and a backend that was completely disabled outside of adding “auction” buttons below every track:

Why ANY company would launch a site in this condition — and their social media profiles all had links to it, with their twitter handle even being @joinhitpiece — is anyone’s guess. Common sense is that a curious artist would click one of those links and type their own name into the site’s search bar. You would hit the roof if you saw someone selling garbage NFTs without your knowledge, consent or in most cases even interest. Which is what happened.

The Billboard piece does flesh out some of the LinkedIn resumés of HitPiece’s founders and talks to a few industry insiders who use terms like “complete sham” to describe it. They also speak to an attorney who suggests that artists may have a Lanham Act claim against the company. We support this kind of journalism and it’s worth a few coins (the real kind).


Comments are closed.