FCC To Turn Tables on Microphones

Michael Lewan

Your favorite band is coming to town. You buy tickets. You invite friends. You make plans for an awesome night. When they take the stage you notice something off. And then it hits you—there’s no sound from the vocalists! Their wireless mics aren’t working. Visibly irate, the lead singer storms off the stage as his crew frantically looks around for a solution.

There won’t be one. Not that night. A nearby wireless device was causing too much interference for the microphones to operate effectively for a live concert.

Sound far-fetched? It’s not. Wireless microphones are the backbone of any live performance; from backstage crew cues, to booth direction, to the actual performer on the stage, wireless microphones are vital for a show’s success. But to actually work without wires the technology operates in what’s known as “white space” on the RF Spectrum—a shared, invisible field used by an array of technologies. In practice, a wireless microphone could run into interference caused by a competing device that’s using the same band of spectrum in the same approximate area. If and when that happens, it makes the microphone near inoperable and the associated performance all but ruined.

It’s a problem that could affect countless theatres, concert halls, recording studios and other performance venues across the country due to an arbitrary threshold created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Right now only large venues, defined as operating 50 or more wireless microphone devices, are able to receive wireless interference protection. With the exception of big Broadway theater productions, Vegas style performances and touring stadium concerts, chances are the venue won’t qualify.

Fortunately, the FCC could change all of that and expand protection to smaller venues. On July 13, the FCC Commissioners unanimously voted to move forward on a proposed rule that would allow venues with less than 50 devices to apply for what’s known as a Part 74 license. If that rule is finalized, and performing arts venues can acquire a Part 74 license, they would have access to a federal database that gives them protection against white space interference. 

If the FCC adopts this new rule, soon venues all across the United States will be able to use wireless microphones without the risk of interference. That means better performances, an improved audience experience, and fewer irate rock stars. 

Benefits of Membership

The Recording Academy is the preeminent organization for musicians, producers, engineers and other music professionals. Our mission is to advance artistic and technical excellence, work to ensure a vital and free creative environment, and act as an advocate on behalf of music and its makers.

Our members have access to live events all around the country, as well as 24/7 access to the GRAMMY Pro library of video and editorial content, which explores the industry and craft of music.

Learn More

Program Information

“Everyone knows that The Academy bestows the GRAMMY Awards every year for artistic achievement, but more people need to know that this organization works hard on behalf of its members to create a level economic playing field—one that promotes innovation and ensures financial viability for all music creators.” – Zac Brown, GRAMMY winner Zac Brown Band, GRAMMYs on the Hill 2016

“I've been around The Recording Academy for many years. While many know the organization for its annual GRAMMY Awards... it's really inspiring to see firsthand the Academy's efforts here in Washington and the impact and the value it has on our very own music industry.” – Clive Davis, Chief Creative Officer, Sony Music Entertainment, GRAMMYs on The Hill 2012

“I applaud NARAS for their efforts to further the cause of creator rights and hope all of us join in to help them.” -- Irving Azoff, Chairman/CEO, Azoff MSG Entertainment, Salute To Icons 2016

Program Sponsors