music industry hacks: top 5 ways to optimize your next single/album

November, 03 2022

As a performing musician, the landscape has never been better for both major label and independent artists to release their original music and gain traction.  Technology has leveled the playing field in so many ways and the purpose of this SONGLINK is to let you in on a few secrets, a.k.a. hacks, that can help you optimize your music releases.  We are going to nail down how you can best receive music reviews, get maximum airplay, and distribute and license your music, as you build your all-star team.  Once you understand the playing field, you can enjoy a lucrative career doing what you love: Sharing your music with the world.

First off, technology can be a double-edged sword.  While some challenges are easily met when you use the tools available if you don’t understand how streaming platforms work and the various workarounds in dealing with these digital jukeboxes, you may be unable to reach the critical mass needed for your career breakout.

In this post, we will look at five music industry hacks that can help optimize your next release, build a following, and gain momentum for your career.


1. The Waterfall Release Method

Haven’t heard of it?  You need to get in on this.  The “waterfall release” method is an effective technique that builds upon itself to generate a buzz for your music. A “waterfall release” is a method whereby you release a string of singles, with every single building toward your EP or album release. 

OK, you have heard of it. 
But wait.  There’s more. 

Streaming has completely changed the way your music is released.  In the past, when you released your album, it was a one-off process.  You record an album; include two or three singles; get airplay and build a buzz.  Done.  Then voila, your album is released.  Today, this is no longer necessary, and in fact, no longer works in many instances. Some call it “playing the Spotify game”.  These are how the algorithms are set up by their developers as the “beating heart” of the platform. You either learn this, and play the game, or you don’t. 


Spotify’s main revenue source comes from users upgrading to a premium subscription and through corporate advertising dollars.  A non-paying customer gets a “freemium” account that is very basic and subjects them to having to listen to loud ads interspersed with their music.

But with that unlimited premium service, Spotify gets its holy grail: the subscription fee. So Spotify wants a lot of your new music—and fast!  To keep their customers happy.

Some of Spotify’s top advertising dollars come from large corporations like McDonalds, Reebok, Jose Cuervo, and Coca Cola.  So Spotify has to make these companies happy as well.  The aforementioned companies are only happy when they know there are millions of “eyes and ears” on the service that will hear/see their ad.  And to do that –you guessed it---more new music, please.  And quickly.  “We have to keep the listeners engaged!”

So now that you know the “why”, let’s get into the “how” of the “waterfall strategy”. 

How It Works...

The waterfall method is relatively simple.  It allows you to include songs in multiple releases while benefitting from the accumulated streaming data from its inclusion in prior releases. It relies on your usage of the ISRC, which is an International Standard Recording Code that exists to function as a unique identifier for each recording.  The way to do this is by using the same ISRC code for each single and adding that single to each of your new releases. Once the data is synced up, all of the information from the first release is now transferred to the new release. Then those two songs are added to the release after that, and so on.  By the time you reach five songs, you will have an EP with one new song and the success of the prior four songs built into it, thereby gaining much more exposure along the way.  Each song builds upon the previous song gaining momentum until your entire album is released.  This method supports Spotify's need for constant content to appease its algorithm.


2. Treat Spotify Like Any Other Social Media Account

Think of it like this: Spotify is basically an audio social media platform.  It has several features within the Spotify for Artists account.  For example, you can update information like tour dates, bios, header photos, merch, and more.  Spotify is a data-driven platform.  So constantly changing and updating your profile is not only beneficial for your fan base, but it also makes the platform's algorithm happy. Like any social media platform, you need to play the algorithm game. 

The goal is to get people to come back to your music regularly.  We can’t say it often enough: Spotify wants listeners to keep coming back again and again.  To keep fans returning, you need to create a consistent, regular upload schedule. Think about alternate ways to increase the consistency of your posts to drive traffic.  Remixes, demos, acoustic versions, and live versions of your songs are quick ways to add content without increasing your writing frequency.


3. Focus Your Marketing Efforts

Your marketing strategy is a critical component for optimizing your releases.  To grow your Spotify and TikTok fanbase, all roads should lead back to the platforms.  Your Instagram bio links, email bio links, Facebook banner, YouTube description, and any links in stories should all funnel your audience to your content on the sites.

By directing your fans to these sites, you feed the platform strong organic data and streams from your audience. Be specific in your messaging and tell your fans what you want them to do. Give them clear directions and links to your content. Make it as easy as possible.


4. Utilize Trending Hashtags in Your TikTok Captions

TikTok is another platform that can work to optimize your releases and grow your fanbase. A great hack is when you use trending hashtags in your posts.  The more imaginative your hashtags are, the more likes and views you will get on your video.  Along with TikTok working with record labels, brands also partner with TikTok.  Their campaigns coordinate with the audio or a hashtag.  Using the branded hashtag will make your video more likely to be pushed to more “For You Pages”, which translates to more viewers.


5. Make Your Own Playlists on Spotify

Creating your own artist playlist is a great way to leverage Spotify.  When you use this tool to say “this is what we listen to on the road; this music was our inspiration growing up,” you give your fans and listeners information about you and the origins of your band.  It makes your audience feel like a valued member of your group, plus you can include a couple of your songs on the list.  Your own playlist gives you leverage.  If you want to support other bands, give them a leg up and put them on your playlist. This is a viable strategy for influencing the “fans also like” algorithm.

The Importance of Format... WAVS All the Way.

The format that you choose when releasing material is crucial. WAV files are lossless and uncompressed, so they lose no quality from your original recording.  MP3 files are compressed and not typically broadcast quality. 

To improve your chances of making an impression with music supervisors, always have your music in WAV format.  Ok—if you want to use MP3s, use them for web pages, web videos, or other lo-fi use on the Internet.  

But--if your goal is licensing your music on TV, getting radio airplay, or having your music featured on a DVD, or any other media requiring lossless, then uncompressed CD-quality audio files, WAV files are a necessity. Not having WAV files is a deal breaker for many music supervisors.

The takeaway is that streaming platforms like Spotify and video platforms like TikTok and YouTube have leveled the playing field for new artists.  The days of needing a major label to have a lucrative career in music have changed considerably. With a solid plan, a marketing strategy, and an understanding of the platforms available to you and how they work, you can build a career doing what you love.  And these are just a few hacks that will get you there!