Business News Industry People Labels & Publishers

John Preston dies

By | Published on Wednesday 22 November 2017

John Preston

British music industry veteran John Preston has died, following a short illness, it was announced yesterday. He was 67.

Preston began his career working at a chain of record shops in Scotland before gaining his first record label job in artist development at EMI in 1977. He then went on to hold a number of senior positions at various record labels, including Polydor, RCA and BMG, during their late 20th century boom.

He left the music industry in 1998 in order to train in boat building, he and his wife building their own boat in order to sail around Europe over a period of seven years. But he retained some links to music, in particular working on the development of Dave Stewart’s Hospital private members’ club in London.

Preston had previously worked with Stewart and Annie Lennox on The Eurythmics during his time in the record industry, alongside a plethora of other artists, including Kate Bush and Take That. He was also the first record company chairman to promote women to the role of Managing Director at a label – Lisa Anderson at RCA and Diana Graham at Arista. Several notable male executives, including Simon Cowell, Hugh Goldsmith, David Joseph, Jeremy Marsh and Korda Marshall, also worked under Preston early in their careers.

Various former colleagues and artists issued tributes in the wake of the news of Preston’s death yesterday. “It’s very challenging to write about John in the past tense”, said Lennox. “His passing seems premature and untimely. John had a deep passion for music. His heart and soul remained intact. He was a thoroughly good man – a rare diamond. Dave and I appreciated everything he did, for and with us”.

Stewart himself added: “In addition to being an amazing business leader, John Preston became one of my great friends. The thing about John is that he understood artists. Artists felt akin to him even though he was a CEO and steered a big ship. He had a gentle side to him that was actually quite rare in such a tough business. This is a really sad moment for me”.

Alison Wenham, CEO of the World Independent Network, who became another female executive to work under Preston when her Corsair label joined BMG, said: “John was one of the industry’s giants. He was an inspirational boss, a scrupulously fair man with an infectious energy which made him a joy to be around. He brought an intellectual rigour to the industry and was crucial in steering us successfully through the MMC enquiry into CD pricing. His untimely death is such a loss”.

Meanwhile, BPI chief exec Geoff Taylor commented: “John was a luminary who contributed hugely to our industry – leading some of its most dynamic record labels with his pioneering approach at a time of remarkable growth and success for the industry. In the process he helped to launch and develop the careers of iconic artists and talented young music executives. We will also always be grateful for the direction he helped to give the BPI as its Chairman and as a Council member, and for his important work as a valued trustee of The BRIT Trust in the charity’s formative years. He will be greatly missed”.