This week, we caught up with Addison Grace (@graceful.addison), a singer-songwriter who harnessed TikTok to market his music and grow his fanbase.
Grace’s music has a personal, confessional, indie-pop style. Earlier in the year, the 20-year-old artist released their debut “queer coming of age” EP titled Immaturing, which is centered around themes of growing up and entering adulthood.
Grace attracted a strong following on social media: They have hundreds of thousands of followers across Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, and Twitter; millions of listens on Spotify; and over 3.8 million followers on TikTok, where he found particular success. Their TikTok account features song and tour promos, content about their experience as a trans artist and creator, as well as the occasional funny video unrelated to his music.
Grace’s most recent videos revolve around his new EP and live performances, including being the opening act for artists like Cavetown, Tessa Violet, and Penelope Scott. Grace also recently announced his own live tour in August.
Grace spoke with Passionfruit about the evolution of his online career, why he doesn’t consider virality when writing music, why he thinks TikTok is a god-tier app for being genuine online, his advice for other artists hoping to market their work online, and dealing with the uglier side of social media.
How has your online career evolved from when you first started to now?
So much has changed! I used to just be a teenager that would just record, not even edit, videos of my original songs and covers online. I didn’t have a professional mic or editor so everything was raw and with my half broken iPhone. Nowadays I’m working with real producers, releasing music on big streaming platforms, announcing headline tours, and I feel like I can finally call myself a real singer-songwriter. I’ve always been one but now I think I have the experience and confidence to call myself one. I think that shows on my social media as well—the confidence I’ve grown. I went from being an awkward inexperienced “influencer” that wants to do music to a full grown artist who uses social media as a way to connect and share.
How would you describe your musical style?
I like to think my music style always differs. I don’t mean that in a “I’m so unique and different from everyone” way, I just think I never fully know what I’ll end up making until it’s made. Overall I’ll always fall into the indie-pop realm but I’ve always been told the big similarity between all of my music is my voice and my writing. My friends and family like to joke that someone could sing my songs and you’d be able to tell it’s my song. Or the same otherwise, I could sing something I didn’t write and you’d be able to tell I didn’t write it. I think it’s cute and a compliment that “Addison Grace’s music” is just that—Addison Grace’s music!
How has social media informed the type of music you create?
I think I’m a lot more honest in my music because of social media. I don’t like the idea of writing a “TikTok viral” song or anything of the sort because it just feels shallow to me. I think social media is beautiful and amazing but it can also be so infuriating and fake. I think because of that I’ll always write about something that’s true and meaningful to me.
Why do you think you’ve seen such massive growth on TikTok in particular (as opposed to other apps)?
I think TikTok is just the god of social media right now—just how Youtube and Vine used to be. I think I joined at the right time, when it was still “weird” to have TikTok. I hate editing and TikTok allowed me to do that in the easiest and quickest way possible! I loved not having to sit down at my computer for hours just to upload something. It allowed me to be the most genuine version of myself in the quickest way possible. Rather than just being “someone who sings” it let me be Addison Grace in his “full unapologetic form.” People seem to really like that.
How has live performing gone since you’ve grown in popularity online? What have you learned about how online fandom translates to in-person events?
I was absolutely terrified when I first started live performing. I remember calling my mom in the bathroom and just sobbing because I didn’t know what I was doing. I had played in coffee shops before but actual music venues are a whole different beast. Once I got past all the hard stuff though, I learned I absolutely adore live performance! I love seeing people in real time and not just on a screen. I love hearing them sing my songs, joke with me, and cheer about even the littlest of things. I always emphasize that I want to be the truest form of myself and live performance really lets me do that. There’s no editing, there’s no filter, it’s just so raw and exciting. I think it reminds me that those “numbers” I see everyday are real people who adore what I make just as much as I do. I could cry about how much it means to me!
What piece of advice would you give an aspiring artist who wants to use TikTok to market their music?
Don’t fall into the trap of “doing what’s popular”! You are enough just as you are and TikTok is simply a tool to share that with others. The right people will find you if you let yourself just be you on there. Also—people want to know who you are! So now and again, take a break from constant promotion or playing and just make a genuine video about something funny that happened or a thought you had. The more people know who they’re listening to the more excited they’ll be to listen. Just don’t be fake.
What are your most treasured social media tools? (for example, this could be in-app features, softwares, or equipment)
I really love the Shure MV51 mic I use! It’s amazing for when I want to make a quick cover video or sing on any of my social media. Ring lights (with dimming features) are also a god send when the sun just won’t cooperate for a video. I also think the “green screen” filters are my best friend because of how much I use them.
What’s one thing you do to stay in touch with your fans?
I try to always look at my mentions or my tagged stories/posts! I may not get to everything but I genuinely do my best to respond to it all because I genuinely love seeing it. I like to joke specifically that Twitter is my secret club because it has my smallest following and it makes it the easiest app to “talk to me” on—I’m more likely to see things on there. I also adore live-streaming and try to do as much as I can on Twitch, whether it’s singing, chatting, or me trying to beat Kirby levels. Live-streaming really is the closest interaction I can get with them- just under in person performances.
What has been the most difficult part of being a creator?
I don’t like that some people are just awful to you. I hate that I’ve been sexualized by predatory people or “blasted” by people that just don’t like me for whatever reason. I also think “cancel culture” has turned into something dangerous and disgusting rather than what it should be used for. Some people online are so quick to think you’re a horrible person for a completely ignorant mistake you made! I think I’m incredibly lucky to have a following that knows I’m a 21-year-old that still has things to learn and genuinely wants to be the best person I can be. I think more people just need to realize that some people genuinely don’t deserve a platform and other people are good humans who sometimes make/made stupid mistakes.
What advice would you give to other creators dealing with those same challenges?
If you’re genuine online, you’ll create and find a genuine audience. If you make an ignorant mistake with a genuine audience you’ll receive good criticism, advice, and acceptance (that is if you make sure to correct yourself, apologize, and learn from what you did). Also—just ignore the creeps and unnecessary hate. The block button is your best friend if someone refuses to contribute to your social media/audience being a safe space! Don’t be scared to reach out and ask for help if things get too out of hand.
Thank you, Addison, for talking with us!
Are you an artist using social media to develop your career? Shoot us an email to [email protected] for a chance to get featured in an upcoming newsletter.