Frances Williams Preston Dies At 83; President, CEO Of BMI
Dubbed “one of the true powerhouses of the pop music business” by Fortune magazine in 1986, the year she became BMI’s president and chief executive, Preston fought passionately for the rights of songwriters, composers and music publishers.
She was an ambitious, well-connected former Nashville radio station receptionist when the performing rights organization BMI hired her to open a southern regional office in the Tennessee capital in 1958.
By the time Frances Williams Preston retired as president and chief executive of BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) in 2004, she had been long known as one of the most successful and influential executives in the music industry and a key figure in Nashville's growth as a major music center.
Preston died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at her home in Nashville, said family spokeswoman Caroline Davis. She was 83.
Dubbed one of the true powerhouses of the pop music business" by Fortune magazine in 1986, the year she became BMI's president and chief executive, Preston fought passionately for the rights of songwriters, composers and music publishers. Kris Kristofferson once called her the songwriter's guardian angel."
As a performing rights organization, BMI collects license fees and distributes them as royalties to its members whose works are performed on radio, television, films, commercials, cable and digital outlets.
She truly felt that writers were not properly compensated, and she spent her life fighting for them," said Del Bryant, who succeeded Preston as BMI's president and chief executive. She was a well-known face on the Hill [inWashington, D.C.] and had a tremendous relationship with some of the leading legislators of her time."
Throughout her nearly 50-year career with BMI, Preston nurtured the careers of countless songwriters and singer-songwriters and served as a mentor to them.
There's still people that I keep in touch with that I signed in the early days, like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson," she told the Associated Press in 2002. That was my favorite part of the business. But you've got to get into the business of the business in order to help them."
Bryant, who joined BMI's Nashville office in 1972 as a junior executive, said Preston really defined the regional office in Nashville, which became arguably the most important office in a music community in the world."