Music industry pioneer Frances Williams Preston died peacefully of congestive heart failure on 6/13 at her home in Nashville. Preston served as President and CEO of BMI from 1986 until 2004.
The Nashville native nurtured the careers of thousands of songwriters, performers and publishers in all musical genres during her career at BMI, which spanned six decades.
Hired in 1958 to open a Southern regional office for BMI in Nashville, Preston was appointed Vice President in 1964 – reportedly, the first woman corporate executive in Tennessee, and the first fulltime performing rights organization representative in the South. She elevated the region’s abundant creative culture and helped build an economic infrastructure to support and connect art and industry. As a result, BMI’s vital base of operations in Nashville helped pave the way for the city’s future as the most important center for professional songwriting in the world. In 1985, she rose to Senior Vice President, Performing Rights, only to be named President and CEO the following year.
Born in 1928, Frances Williams began her career as a receptionist at WSM, Nashville’s iconic radio station. She rose quickly through the station’s ranks, eventually hosting her own fashion show on air.
Said NAB Joint Board Chairman Paul Karpowicz: “Frances Preston was a great friend to the broadcast community during her nearly two decades as president and CEO of BMI. She was a person of substance, grace and humanity, and her unwavering support for songwriters will be her legacy. We join our music industry friends in mourning the loss of this truly one-of-a-kind woman.”