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Has TikTok Ruined Steve Lacy?

20 October 2022 | 3:56 pm | Parry Tritsiniotis

Not wanting your favourite artist to be commercially successful for your own personal gain is abhorrent and selfish.

A video has emerged from Steve Lacy’s current North American tour where he performs his global hit, and TikTok viral track, Bad Habit. 

The video sees the crowd sing the entire first verse and the hook of the song, completely acapella alongside Lacy. As the second verse hits the crowd stops singing, seemingly not remembering the words. Almost instantly music elitists across the world criticised the crowd, suggesting that TikTok has somehow ruined live music. The crowd, who sung virtually every word in the first half of arguably the biggest, most commercially successful song of the year is somehow a signifier that if you discover music on TikTok, you are ruining the live music experience for the real fans. 

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“people keep saying tiktok isn’t ruining the music industry. this steve lacy song is number 1 on billboard and no one knows it and this is why songs that reached number 1 in the early 2010’s will forever be superior because they were organic hits,” on Twitter user wrote, as if every song from that era wasn’t similarly engineered by a major label to reach commercial success. The difference being, they were reaching their audience through a different medium. 

Another user tweeted, “not y’all SELLING OUT his show and not knowing the words. keeping it from people who actually listen to him.” Another said, “Tik tok girls the second the chorus ends,” with a meme image of a man without ears. This is blatant sexism in the way in which perceive the ways in which “girls” consume music over the way in which “alpha” bros dissect every lyric. That sexism is a conversation for another time. 

The assumption is that Steve Lacy’s fans, who are crowding his shows have no awareness of his back catalogue and discography and that they do not deserve to be at the shows. This is blatant elitism and gatekeeping. Not wanting your favourite artist to be commercially successful for your own personal gain is abhorrent and selfish. What people don’t see and what doesn’t go viral are the moments from Lacy’s shows that have the opposite narrative to this. Watch a video of Lacy performing his latest album’s opener Static which has not gone viral and the fans will sing every word. For everyone wanting support of the old music, the video below shows Lacy performing his breakout single Some back when he was 17/18 years old. They know every word. 

People that discover music on TikTok, pay $100 or more to see that artist live, stream their music are no less of a fan than anyone else. They are providing generational levels of wealth for an entirely self-created artist like Steve Lacy. 

The argument is valid if the artist’s fan base becomes gentrified and begins to act poorly in the face of the artist. Often artists who blow up off of a viral moment will be positioned from their fans as beacons of entertainment or as a stage puppet, demanding things from them or blurring the lines between performance and raw entertainment. 

In this case though, Lacy’s fans have not behaved poorly, they simply did not sing the second verse to his song. Steve Lacy is a generational talent, if his music came out 10 years previous, his viral moment would have come through a different medium. TikTok hasn’t ruined live music, there is hard evidence that there is still a deep, genuine connection between Lacy and his fans, whether new or old.