In the last few days, countless artists have discovered that their musical discographies have been uploaded as non-fungible tokens, aka NFTs (a unique data unit that can be associated with digital files), without their knowledge to a website called HitPiece, which claims to offer “One of One NFTs for each unique song recording”. The one huge insurmountable snag? The site in question has no authority to do this, and does not own the music it’s selling. Despite that fact, they claim to be offering something with real-world value even after scores of musicians have taken to social media to call it out as bullshit.
The site isn’t simply targeting the musical mainstream either, though you can find people like Britney Spears and BTS amongst the listed NFTs, but also the underground, with DIY metal artists like Body Void, Bismuth and Order Of The Wolf all finding themselves on the site as well. Clearly none of these artists have given their blessing, and they certainly haven’t supplied HitPiece with the original master recordings, so what exactly is the site purportedly offering? The only way their assurance that every NFT is one-of-one can be true is if it is unique only in the context of their own platform – a manufactured exclusivity within an artificial system. All you’ll get is a token associated with a URL hosting the music you supposedly paid for, which has been uploaded without permission.
As you’d expect, the backlash from artists and their fans was severe, and yet even in the face of an overwhelmingly negative response, the site has retained a smug arrogance. “Hi, to clarify we are definitely not a scam” they claimed in one tweet, and later, after their site was briefly offline, their homepage was replaced with a simple message: “We Started The Conversation And We’re Listening.” Even when withdrawing somewhat they purport themselves as something innovative, as if they’ve started a vital conversation the art world needed to have. They even opened their Twitter statement with a sneering, “Clearly we have struck a nerve”.
The truth is, the art world never needed NFTs. HitPiece may have been unbelievably audacious in their attempted minting of other people’s creative works, but they’re just the latest in a string of such cases plaguing creatives. Even deceased artists have had their work stolen. Though the crypto bros and NFT advocates (that venn diagram is a circle, by the way) claim that NFTs are a valuable tool for artists, they have never hesitated to steal from them. And when they do so, they usually blame the artist in question for not minting their own work sooner, even though there are more than enough valid reasons why you wouldn’t want to.
Not only are NFTs essentially a pyramid scheme scamming fools out of their money, but they’re massively damaging to the environment, which makes their lack of tangible value all the more frustrating. The underlying blockchain technology that supports NFTs is the same form of online ledger that enables cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, and analysis from the University of Cambridge suggests that the bitcoin network currently consumes more energy than the entirety of the Netherlands. Supporters claim that both cryptos and NFTs will eventually be made less damaging through the use of renewable energies and a change in the blockchain algorithm, but the point is that right now they’re doing tremendous harm. And even if they were made sustainable, NFTs are pretty fucking pointless. They may one day be environmentally harmless, at which point artists are free to make money from rich idiots engaging with the greater fool theory cycle, but if they continue to be a platform through which faceless companies can steal the work of others, then they’re still causing harm.
If you ever needed evidence that NFTs are a glorified scam, look no further than HitPiece. With the blatant theft, hopefully it stays dead, though NFT fraud will no doubt continue elsewhere. But now that the crypto bros have so publicly fucked up, can we finally all agree not to put up with this bullshit, and put a nail in the NFT coffin?
Words: George Parr