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Music Distribution

Waterfall Strategy

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Music Gateway Team


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waterfall release strategy

The release of a music album is an important event for any artist or band. It marks the culmination of months of hard work and dedication to the craft of making music. But it can also be a daunting task, as the success of the album largely depends on the release strategy employed. One of the most popular methods of releasing an album is the waterfall release strategy. This involves releasing the album in stages.

In this article, we will explore the waterfall release strategy in detail, how you can use it through Music Gateway and the advantages and disadvantages it can offer.

What is a waterfall release strategy?

A waterfall release strategy is a software development methodology. This is where development is divided into distinct stages, with each stage completed before the next one begins. This approach follows a linear sequential flow, with each stage flowing from the previous one and leading to the next one.

What are the benefits?

  • Establishes a timeline: The waterfall release strategy provides a timeline for the release of an album, allowing the artist to plan and prepare for each phase of the release.
  • Builds anticipation: The staggered release of singles and promotional material allows the artist to build anticipation among fans and the media, leading to greater interest and sales.
  • Allows for flexibility: The staggered release of singles and promotional material also allows the artist to adjust their strategy as needed, depending on the success of each phase of the release.
  • Increases exposure: The staggered release of singles and promotional material increases the artist’s exposure, as each phase of the release creates more buzz and interest.
  • Generates more revenue: The staggered release of singles and promotional material allows the artist to generate more revenue from the album, as fans are more likely to purchase the entire album if they have heard some of the songs.
  • Using this strategy is a great way to increase your chances of getting onto Spotify’s algorithmic playlists such as Release Radar and Discover Weekly. This strategy works so well due to Spotify’s use of artificial intelligence and powerful algorithms. This allows them to understand user trends and what releases get the most streams. By utilizing this data, they are able to analyze user behaviour in order to maximize revenue.
waterfall release strategy

Album example

Spiritbox released music for their album ‘Eternal Blue’.

First, “Holy Roller”

Second, “Constance” Single / EP

Third, “Circle With Me”

Fourth, “Secret Garden”

Fifth, “Hurt You”

Sixth, the entire album

Spiritbox used this unique approach to releasing their album. They released “Holy Roller” six times, “Constance” five times, “Circle With Me” four times, “Secret Garden” three times and “Hurt You” two times. Due to the stream counter being linked together, streams from all versions of each song were combined into one total count for the album version. This allowed them to gradually promote their album over a longer period of time.

Can I release using a waterfall strategy on Music Gateway?

Yes, Music Gateway does support the distribution of Waterfall releases and it’s currently a trending release format for artists, particularly on Spotify!

This type of delivery will allow the “latest release” on the Artist page to be replaced by multiple single bundles over time as more get released. In a waterfall release, each release will be its own product, having separate URIs. Rather than one album having tracks released on different dates, we prefer a series of single bundles being released during the campaign.

The best way to do this is:

  • Deliver release A as a Single – release A goes live.
  • Delivery of release B (Single 2 + Single 1) as an album under a new UPC—release B goes live. Please make sure track metadata + ISRC for “Single 1” is an exact match to previously delivered releases. This should be easy as you can attach the previously created and released single to your album. You can easily find an ISRC Code using the Music Gateway ISRC Finder Tool.
  • When track linking happens on release A (Single 1) and release B ( which contains Single 1) then you can issue a takedown for release A.
  • Continue this process each time you want to add a single.
  • In the example above, you should synchronise the end date/time of release A with the start date/time of release B. As the track linking process could take at least 72 hours, you must deliver B far in advance of its start date/time.

Why does Spotify not allow Pre-Release and “Instant Grat”?

Spotify doesn’t currently support pre-release or “Instant Grat” releases. An “Instant Grat” is a multi-track release where tracks go live at different dates/times throughout the campaign.

Releases delivered in this way will appear on the Artist page with only X amount of tracks live. There’ll be no indication that it’s a pre-order / pre-stream. This type of release style causes confusion for users and has led to many complaints that the release is broken. Followers receive a notification to tell them the release is live, when in fact it’s incomplete.

On the release date, the full release goes live with the remaining tracks and no further notifications are sent to followers. Not only is this a negative experience for users, but it’s also a bad marketing experience for the label and Artist.

For this reason, Spotify may take down releases in this format, which is beyond our control as a distributor. For single tracks to be available ahead of the full album release, you’ll need to deliver them as separate single releases instead.


Waterfalling or a Waterfall Release Strategy is an effective way to boost your play counts, pitch music to editors more often, and create excitement among fans about your release. So why not try it on your next release?


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