LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Frances Preston, a music industry pioneer and former president and chief executive of record company BMI, died on Wednesday at home in Nashville of heart failure, the label said. She was 83.
A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Preston was a driving force in music spanning six decades as she fought for songwriters’ rights and for her company’s growth in representing a diverse roster of talent.
Singer Kris Kristofferson called Preston “the songwriter’s guardian angel,” and Fortune magazine said she was “one of the true powerhouses of the pop music business.”
Born in Nashville on August 27, 1928, Preston began her career at the city’s WSM radio station. She was hired to open BMI’s southern regional office in 1958 as the first full-time performing rights representative in the Southern United States.
Preston was promoted to vice president in 1964, named president and CEO in 1986 and held that title until 2004. During her tenure, royalty payments increased for songwriters and publishers, ultimately tripling under her direction.
She was known as a staunch champion of songwriters’ rights and worked to make Nashville a viable force within the music industry. She also helped get the U.S. Copyright Amendments Act of 1992 passed to extend protection to older compositions.
Outside music, Preston was a member of the Panama Canal Study Committee and sat on the commission for the White House Record Library in the administration of President Jimmy Carter. In 1995 and 1996, she served on Vice President Al Gore’s National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council.
Preston is survived by her three sons, Kirk, David, and Donald, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Reporting by Vernell Hackett; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte; Desking by Peter Cooney