The Promise of Music NFTs & the Scandal of HitPiece

This piece originally appeared as as Twitter thread posted by Dequency CEO Keatly Haldeman and appears here with edits and additional narration. If you’re not following us on Twitter… how’d you even get here? We post weekly updates on Fridays to share what’s going on with our product & as well as in our broader community (located at the intersection of web3, music, and ownership rights). Subscribe to be alerted whenever a new piece goes live. Who knows, you might even catch a few typos before we panic-edit post-publish!

Piracy in the Metaverse

There’s been an uproar in our music community about what HitPiece did… and with good reason: They pirated IP that wasn’t theirs, and then sold it illegally. Now, we’re hearing public outcry from recording artists who are denouncing NFTs as the problem. Check out the coverage in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Pitchfork… etc.

The ratio on this tweet… brutal.

Are NFTs… Bad?

First, I want to set the record straight about NFTs: NFTs aren’t “bad” any more than mp3s, concert tickets, or music sales are bad. They’re a vehicle to share art, foster community, transfer rights and much more. Like any other medium, it can be abused, and this is the case with HitPiece. I know this isn’t news, but prior to NFTs, people were still ripping off music and trying to profit from work that wasn’t theirs. Examples: bootleg CDs & concert tees, counterfeit tickets, unlicensed samples & syncs, illegal unpaid downloads.

…or would you? I feel like we didn’t know about 3D printing when this anti-piracy campaign was in its heyday.

What HitPiece did was just a new method of copyright infringement. Wherever new technology exists, a new crop of scams will emerge.

“Please be patient with us as we act surprised that ripping off music wasn’t well received :/”

NFTs and our emerging appreciation of the value of digital collectibles isn’t the problem: it’s when these assets are being sold without permission. That type of piracy exists on and off the blockchain and will continue to exist wherever there are bad actors.

Optimism In the Age of Digital Confusion

I believe that NFTs hold incredible promise for artists, their audiences, and art & media collectors more broadly.

We’re living in a time of great experimentation, with music rightsowners trying out a variety of different value models with their NFTs: selling 1-of-1 digital ownership, fractional ownership, a share of streaming royalties, non-commercial licensing, or just the digital collectable without any other rights. Many artists are attaching IRL perks like concert tickets, custom remixes, exclusive Discord channels, autographs, physical vinyl, club membership and whatever else they think their fans might value.

We’re seeing new ways for musicians to engage their fans, and for fans to support the artists they love and share in their success. So, let’s call the problem what it is without unilaterally denouncing the technology that will make it possible for so many artists to profit directly off of their work. I’m calling on musicians, artists and the industry to keep an open mind and make an effort to understand the principles guiding legitimate NFT culture.

Speaking of Legit NFT Culture…

Dequency is building a marketplace to license music for NFTs and other metaverse uses. We exist because we want people to collaborate in a way that fairly and transparently assigns credit and compensation for contribution. As more art moves onto the blockchain, finding ways to enforce rights and ensure equity makes it a more viable avenue for creativity and commerce. Keep an eye on this space as we work towards releasing our beta (14 Feb! Be our Valentine?) and announcing company developments.

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