(Senate - June 20, 2012)

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[Page S4361]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I would like to pay tribute to Frances 
Williams Preston, a trailblazing businesswoman, a dedicated 
humanitarian, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, and a 
friend. I was saddened when she passed away on June 13.
  Frances began her career as a receptionist at a radio station in 
Nashville, TN. She quickly moved up within the music community, and in 
1958 she was hired to open a regional office for Broadcast Music Inc., 
BMI, in Nashville, representing songwriters and composers. Glass 
ceilings had no chance at constraining Frances. In 1964, she became 
Vice President of BMI, reportedly making her the first woman corporate 
executive in Tennessee. In 1986, she became CEO and remained CEO of BMI 
until 2004.
  Her work at BMI transformed not only the company, but also the 
hundreds of thousands of songwriters and composers BMI represents. She 
tripled the revenues at BMI and advocated for strong copyright 
protections to benefit artists. BMI under her tenure also helped the 
city of Nashville to blossom into the leading center for songwriters 
and the arts that it is today.
  Frances's dedication to the songwriters and her industry, and her 
passion for ensuring they could make a living in their chosen 
profession, was unrivaled. Kris Kristofferson famously dubbed her the 
``songwriter's guardian angel.''
  I worked closely with Frances and the songwriting community to ensure 
that the rights of composers are protected, but I will remember her 
most for her humanitarian efforts. She was president of the T.J. 
Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS research, and her name 
precedes the research laboratories at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer 
  I could go on at length about the various music and humanitarian 
awards and honors Frances has received, from being inducted into the 
Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992 to twice receiving the Humanitarian 
Award from the International Achievement in Arts.
  The current president of BMI probably best captured her essence by 
simply describing Frances as ``a force of nature.'' She will be missed 
by those who knew her, and remembered always by those whom she nurtured 
as songwriters and composers.
  The music industry has lost a legend and I ask unanimous consent that 
the Wall Street Journal article ``From Receptionist to Music-Royalty 
Guarantor'' by Stephen Miller be entered into the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

             [From the Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2012]

              From Receptionist to Music-Royalty Guarantor

                          (By Stephen Miller)

       Frances Preston rose from radio-station receptionist to 
     chief executive of Broadcast Music Inc., a performing-rights 
     group that helps guarantee that songwriters and music 
     publishers get paid when their songs are played on the radio 
     or in places like restaurants.
       Ms. Preston, who died Wednesday at the age of 83, founded 
     BMI's Nashville, Tenn., office and signed up thousands of 
     artists, many of whose careers she shepherded personally.
       The deals she struck helped nurture country, rock 'n' roll 
     and jazz, emerging genres that the American Society of 
     Composers, Authors and Publishers, BMI's older rival, had 
     neglected in favor of traditional pop music.
       By the time Ms. Preston retired in 2004, BMI represented 
     300,000 music composers and copyright owners and disbursed 
     more than a half-billion dollars to them annually.
       ``They never paid royalties to the songwriters for 
     performances until Frances Preston came along,'' country star 
     Eddy Arnold told The Wall Street Journal in 2004. ``She put 
     the hammer on!''
       ``A lot of them didn't realize that they could get paid for 
     having their music played,'' Ms. Preston told Amusement 
     Business magazine in 1991. She built a fanatical following 
     among Nashville's performing elite.
       Singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, whom Ms. Preston 
     signed to a $1 million songwriting deal in the 1970s, once 
     called her ``our guardian angel.''
       Raised in Nashville, Ms. Preston studied at George Peabody 
     College for Teachers. But shortly before taking a classroom 
     job, she went to work at WSM, the radio home of the Grand Ole 
     Opry, where her duties included answering Hank Williams's 
     mail. She moved on to running the station's promotions 
     department and got to know the country stars of the era.
       In 1958, she founded BMI's Nashville office--at first in 
     her parents' garage. A few years later she opened a new 
     office on fledgling Music Row. Thanks in part to BMI's 
     presence, it soon became the home to recording studios and 
     music publishers and the hub of the Nashville country scene.
       Ms. Preston moved to BMI's home office in New York City, 
     where she became chief executive in 1986. She oversaw the 
     transition to the digital age as complex new media like the 
     Internet and ringtones joined radio and television as major 
     sources of revenue. She also lobbied Congress as copyright 
     laws were changed.
       ``It's a constant fight to educate those people [that] 
     music is not just out there in the air for you to pick out 
     for free, because if the creator isn't compensated, there's 
     not going to be that music,'' she told Billboard in 2004.
       Ms. Preston was lionized in Nashville, where she was a 
     glamorous personification of the business side of the music 
     industry. When she was inducted into the Country Music Hall 
     of Fame in 1992, it dubbed her ``the most influential 
     country-music executive of her generation.''
       Always one to keep things in sensible perspective, Ms. 
     Preston was proud to be remembered as the author of a 
     Nashville motto: ``It all begins with a song.''