When Marketing Makes Music: The Rise of Addison Rae’s Music Career

Less than two years ago, she was a sports broadcasting student at Louisiana State. Two nights ago, she performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. In the short time since Addison Rae achieved viral fame for her dancing videos on TikTok, she’s already modeled for several major retailers, launched a cosmetics line, started a podcast on Spotify and landed a lead role in an upcoming film. Naturally, she just had to do music next, releasing her debut single “Obsessed” and its accompanying music video on March 19, 2021. 

Even with production and writing credits from veteran hitmaker Benny Blanco, whose past work includes number-one singles from Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, the song’s lazy lyrics and tired hook do nothing to differentiate Addison’s music from that of any other young artist. But thanks to Addison’s massive social media audience, which counts over 78 million followers on TikTok and 37 million more on Instagram, it doesn’t have to. In just nine days since its release, the song has already been streamed over 12 million times on YouTube. 

Numbers, however, don’t always speak to fan response. Almost a quarter of the 800,000 reactions on YouTube are dislikes, and thousands of Twitter users have taken to The Tonight Show’s page to troll Addison’s performance, where comments have outpaced likes. A common sentiment echoed among these critics is that simply, Addison doesn’t display any real singing ability and is occupying airtime and a recording contract “belonging” to more deserving artists. As if anyone making those decisions cares. Those deserving artists can continue singing their hearts out in coffee shops, subway stations and at school talent shows, but who music industry executives care about signing are those with existing fanbases.

The formula is nothing new, especially if you grew up in the digital age. Remember how the Disney Channel saw that kids were buying up music by Hannah Montana’s Miley Cyrus, so they also made the actors playing Lily Truscott and Oliver Oken get in the studio to churn out albums? Or how during commercial breaks on Nickelodeon, they’d promote music videos by both female iCarly stars, with Miranda Cosgrove singing pop and Jennette McCurdy singing country? In recent years, the focus has shifted to pushing music by internet celebrities, with “Obsessed” being the latest in a string of music releases by prominent TikTok stars, following the likes of Dixie D’Amelio, Loren Gray and Nessa Barrett. As traditional television viewership plummets and young eyes turn towards streaming and short-form video-sharing platforms, the pop-star machine has had to tap into what kids are focused on now, which is content entirely native to the internet. The success of actress Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “Driver’s License”, which spent eight consecutive weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and has accumulated upwards of 800 million streams, was ignited by the popularity of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, the Disney Plus-exclusive series in which Rodrigo stars. 

Despite all of their online fame, however, none of these TikTokers have found success in music greater than what they’ve achieved on social media, suggesting that if the response to Addison’s music continues to be lukewarm, she may devote her time to other projects instead. Even if Addison Rae probably won’t be the next Ariana Grande, there’s nothing yet to suggest that the expansion of her makeup business couldn’t make her the next Kylie Jenner, or her upcoming film release won’t propel her acting to Riverdale-levels of notoriety. The ascension of Addison Rae has only just begun.