MR Awards Issue (July 2010)

Pictured at Grimey’s New & Pre-Loved Music counter-clockwise from front-center: Jody Williams, Clay Bradley, Beth Mason, Mark Mason, Leslie Roberts, Thomas Cain, Bradley Collins, Perry Howard and David Preston. Cover photo by Eric England.

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)
BMI’s Jody Williams & his writer relations team

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) is one of the pillars of Nashville’s songwriting business. Since opening its doors in 1939, an ambitious standard of service has guided the company. The establishment of BMI’s Nashville office was an active embodiment of that standard—a commitment to an entire region. When BMI opened its Music City outpost in 1958, it was the first performing rights organization to do so. A young woman named Frances Preston launched the new office of the burgeoning not-for-profit company. Suddenly, formerly marginalized and tragically overlooked blues, hillbilly, jazz and folk songwriters had a home where all were welcome.

For BMI, breaking new ground became the norm. Preston led the Nashville office
and ultimately, the entire company. Dubbed the “Songwriters’ Guardian Angel” by Kris Kristofferson, she was determined to pay the region’s songwriters more than lip service. Preston reshaped the performance royalty-payment paradigm. This groundbreaking method of directly paying songwriters for performances of their work was adopted by all PROs.

In the 1950s, the South spawned a cultural earthquake: rock ‘n’ roll. BMI’s Nashville office was ready. From Chuck Berry and James Brown to Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, the new breed chose the new PRO. BMI also embraced Grand Ole Opry stars like Minnie Pearl and Hank Williams. The Nashville office became what it is today: a hub of activity in the middle of a region whose artistic wealth is almost too deep—too rich—to fully grasp.

Fast forward to 1996, when the bulk of BMI operations relocated to Nashville. With more than 400 employees, BMI is the largest music industry employer on Music Row.
Del Bryant’s path to assuming the role of BMI President & CEO also ran straight through Nashville. The versatile and innovative Bryant fondly refers to Nashville as his “home base,” and when he asked Jody Williams to lead BMI’s Nashville writer/publisher staff in 2006, the anticipation throughout Music Row was palpable. A veteran song man with respected ears and infectious passion for songwriters, Williams returned to BMI with a mandate to lead and serve the creative community.
Williams welcomed the challenge, developing and recruiting a devoted, effective staff, a group whose personal ties to Nashville music history—the Country Music Hall of Fame, no less—magnify BMI’s inclusive emphasis on family. In addition to tapping Clay Bradley as Assistant Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations, Williams assembled a team that includes longtime BMI executives Thomas Cain, Mark Mason, David Preston, Perry Howard, and Bradley Collins, as well as more recent additions Beth Mason and Leslie Roberts.

Nashville has become the epicenter of American music, and BMI’s Nashville office, in turn, is a crossroads of activity. In addition to Music Row favorites including BMI No. 1 parties and the annual BMI Country and Christian Awards, BMI’s layered approach to songwriter development comprises educational, creative and promotional opportunities: the BMI Songwriters Workshop with Jason Blume; local showcases including 8 off 8th, East Side Sounds, BMI Buzz at the Basement, and BMI Presents at 12th & Porter; the Road to Bonnaroo competition; and slots and stages at premier festivals including SXSW, the Key West Songwriters Festival, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Lollapalooza, the French Quarter Festival, Folk Alliance, the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and more.

Willie Nelson and Toby Keith, Dolly Parton and Taylor Swift, Booker T. & the MGs and Cage the Elephant, Patsy Cline and Carrie Underwood, Allen Toussaint and Ben Folds, Bill Monroe and Alison Krauss, Chet Atkins and Vince Gill, the Carter Family and Lady Antebellum, Muddy Waters and Jack White, Eddy Arnold and Keith Urban, Loretta Lynn and Miranda Lambert, Allman Brothers and Zac Brown Band, Jerry Jeff Walker and Robert Earl Keen, Tammy Wynette & George Jones and Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, Wanda Jackson and Caitlin Rose, Harlan Howard and Jeffrey Steele: BMI’s Nashville family is part legacy, part present, and part future.

Today, BMI’s center of gravity remains in Nashville. And the company’s doors are still wide open.

BMI is an American performing right organization that represents more than 400,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in all genres of music and more than 6.5 million works. The U.S. corporation collects license fees from businesses that use music, which it then distributes as royalties to the musical creators and copyright owners it represents.


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