Lick My Label

On Dream Theater’s Decision To Re-Sign with Roadrunner Records Warner Music Group

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Dream Theater 2012

According to a press release, Dream Theater have re-signed with Roadrunner Records. This after having released three successful albums on the label, but all before both the first and second rounds of Roadrunner layoffs earlier this year at the behest of their corporate overlords at Warner Music Group.

Look: the truth of the matter is that Dream Theater are one of those bands with such devoted and singular fans that it really doesn’t matter what label they’re on so long as that label has at least some understanding of the metal market. It’d be pretty difficult for any label to fuck up a Dream Theater album, seeing as DT fans willingly buy whatever the band puts out (they don’t seem to have minded the band’s mediocre cruise-control output of the past four albums). But, as it happens, Dream Theater are one of the remaining Roadrunner acts for whom staying with the label makes sense; whereas Roadrunner is going to have an incredibly difficult time breaking any new acts with their current A&R, infrastructure and staff, Dream Theater fit quite nicely into the wheelhouse of established metal acts that Roadrunner is best suited to promote. I’d expect Opeth to make a similar decision whenever their current deal expires.

On the other hand, it’s somewhat ironic that Dream Theater have essentially ended up back where they started under the Warner Music umbrella. Dream Theater released seven albums for Warner starting in 1992 with Images and Words; they were shifted from Atco to EastWest to Elektra and eventually to Atlantic when each successive label was merged into the next. And now the same system will be working their next several albums, although surely all of the names have changed by now.

On the OTHER other hand, it’s possible that remaining within Warner’s system is Dream Theater’s preference. Warner signed the deal to acquire Roadrunner in late 2006, whereas DT’s first album with Roadrunner didn’t come out until June 2007. I don’t know when DT’s deal with RR was inked, or, if it was done before the Warner acquisition, whether the band had knowledge of the pending deal. But, after all, the Warner system did break Dream Theater and is responsible for their career. Maybe DT likes the big label treatment.

In any case, none of this overthinking about record labels should effect Dream Theater’s music much if at all. Expect Dream Theater to continue being Dream Theater. Hopefully this next album will be a little more exciting than the last four. According to the press release announcing the label signing, they’re headed back into the studio soon and are planning a new album release in 2013.

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