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How to Do a Waterfall Release Strategy with DistroKid

Many artists have seen their favorite artists using a relatively new release strategy called the waterfall release. However it’s not initially clear what the benefits of this strategy are and how you could even do it with your music distributor. In this article i’m going to explain what a water release strategy is, why its useful and how you can do it on DistroKid and pretty much any other distributor.

What is a Waterfall Release Strategy?

A waterfall release strategy is when a series of singles are released building up into an EP or an album as they come out. This has the effect of growing an album over time.

I think the easiest way to explain this is to show you an example, so let’s take a look at how alternative metal band Spiritbox released music for their album ‘Eternal Blue’.

First they released the ‘Holy Roller’ single.

Then the ‘Constance’ Single / EP. This included Holy Roller in addition to the new song Constance.

Then they dropped ‘Circle With Me’, which added the single Circle With Me’ on top of the two already released songs.

After that came Secret Garden…

spiritbox waterfall release

Then the ‘Hurt You’ EP…

spiritbox hurt you

Eventually they dropped the entire album ‘Eternal Blue’.

Spiritbox waterfall release strategy

Prior to Eternal Blue they also had some alternative versions of select songs, but those aren’t technically part of the waterfall release strategy per se, so we’ll skip them.

You can see the effect of this was that they were able to release Holy Roller 6 times, Constance 5 times, Circle With Me 4 times, Secret Garden 3 times, and Hurt You 2 times. The stream counter is linked though, so streams from previous releases of each song carry over to the album version and all versions in between.

Instead of dropping a full album, promoting it, and calling it a day they were able to trickle out music over a longer period of time and use each new release to help promote all previous releases.

Most artists will actually delete the old releases after the new versions come out, so all they’re left with is an album, but thats entirely up to you. The only reason I was able to show all those screenshots from Spiritbox’s Spotify page is because they haven’t deleted any of the waterfall stages.

Why Use a Waterfall Release Strategy?

One of the biggest downsides about releasing an album of new material is that you’re putting all your eggs into one basket. On Spotify you can only pitch one song from each release to editorial playlists, and that same song will go to Release Radar playlists. This has pushed most artists to adopt a single-focused strategy where they drop singles every 4-8 weeks and then eventually combine them into an album later.

While the single strategy works great, the waterfall release strategy has even more benefits. You still get the benefit of pitching each new song to editorial and having it get on Release Radar (learn more about Release Radar here), but you also get the benefit of albums where people can listen to multiple songs right in that same release.

Imagine you’re on the 4th stage of your waterfall release, so you’re dropping a new song along with 3 other songs that were previously released. When you market this release and are promoting this new song everyone will see that new song and the other 3 songs on that EP. You already marketed those previous 3 songs, but now you get to expose them to people again.

People that get this 4th new song in their Release Radar playlist may go to check out the whole release and then stream all the other songs in the release. If you sent someone to the 4th new song with Facebook Ads, they may just listen to the entire EP so you get 4 streams for the price of one.

Waterfall Release Strategy with DistroKid

This guide should work the same no matter which music distributor you use, but I personally use DistroKid. If you’re using DistroKid as well make sure your’e on at least the Musician Plus Plan so you have the ability to schedule releases and re-use ISRC codes – its required to do the waterfall release. Here’s the general process…

How to do a waterfall release:

  1. Create a release for your first song
  2. Create a two song release for your second song, re-use the ISRC for your first song. Pitch the second song to Spotify editorial.
  3. Repeat this process for each stage of the waterfall. Delete previous releases if you prefer.

The first stage of a waterfall release is just a normal release, a single that you schedule just like a regular single.

For your second stage you’re going to make a two song release, where one of the songs is new. For the older song thats on that second stage you want to grab the ISRC code from the first stage, and make sure you use the exact same song title and audio file from the first stage. Pitch the second song to Spotify Editorial playlists.

Here’s what it looks like in DistroKid for the second stage of a waterfall release plan.

For your third stage its going to be a three song release, where one of the songs is new. For the older songs on the third stage you need the ISRC codes for the two older songs and make sure you use the exact same song titles and audio files from before. Pitch the third song to Spotify editorial playlists.

Then you just repeat this process over and over again until you eventually grow your entire album.

You can use this exact same process when releasing acoustic or alternate versions of your music. Instead of just releasing that new version by itself bundle it with the original version of the song. This way when you promote that new version you’re also promoting the original version.

DistroKid waterfall release

If you wanted to delete a previous stage of the waterfall release to de-clutter your release page, just use the Edit Release button to delete any release you want.