Guitarist John Petrucci explained that doubling down on live shows was key for Dream Theater’s commercial survival, adding that the prog metal icon’s weren’t really able to rely on commercial success.
In just two years, Dream Theater will be celebrating its 40th anniversary, and they’re going as strong as ever – arguably even stronger, given DT’s Grammy win from last year – which is all the more impressive given that prog metal isn’t really a genre bristling with commercial appeal.
Speaking to Ola Englund in a recent interview, John Petrucci explained how the lack of mainstream attention (perhaps best exemplified in the fact that his band’s “Best Of” compilation is called “Greatest Hit (…And 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs)”) shaped Dream Theater’s business model (transcribed by Ultimate Guitar):
We’ve been very consistent. Since ‘Images and Words’ - we really didn’t tour on the first record – but since we did ‘Images’, [we] toured on an international level, which was really smart at the time to do that, because not every band was doing that. We weren’t really able to rely on commercial success. We had a bit of it with ‘Pull Me Under’ but the way we survived was by playing live shows.
“And so we started touring in Europe and in South America and in Asia. And that really established our fan base throughout the world. And once we did that, and then went into do ‘Awake’  – ‘Okay, that record’s coming out, we’re gonna go on tour and support that and grow the live thing. Okay, that’s over and let’s do the next one.’ It’s been consistent since.”
Dream Theater is going through a European leg of its “Top of the World” tour. You can check out upcoming shows here.