Obsession: Gone hands-free

Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 10:45pm

Reliable statistics do not exist for things like “wireless microphone users per capita.” But if they did, there’s no doubt Nashville would rank highly.

Since it’s no longer the 1950s, musicians rely heavily on wireless technology to bring their songs to their fans. Wireless mics rely on radio frequencies to carry voice to amplifiers. Problem is, lots of things rely on radio frequencies. Radio, obviously, but also televisions and cell phones.

Therein lies the problem.

It seems frequencies wireless mics often used were in danger of being wiped out by high-powered signals from major telecom companies. In fact, Verizon purchased the oft-employed 700-hertz signal last year.

Not to fret, connoisseurs of the headset mic (Garth Brooks, this means you). The wireless microphone issue is the latest piece of esoterica into which U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper sank his teeth, prompting the mental image of Cooper onstage, headset mic in place, touring 27 cities on the “Get Us Back in the Black: Deficit PowerPoint World Tour (featuring Lady GaGa).”

In real life, Cooper urged the Federal Communications Commission to protect certain bands of the radio spectrum for wireless use, reserving extra space in cities like Nashville, which ranks highly on the aforementioned list that does not actually exist. The FCC did so last week.

“Music is a lifeline to Nashville’s economy, and the live music industry depends more than ever on wireless microphones and other equipments to connect the artist with the audience,” Cooper said. “The FCC’s order helps guarantee that the flawless sound music fans expect will continue without interference from new consumer wireless devices.”

Cooper is well known for the depth of his knowledge on issues like the deficit and health care, but he also has a knack for solving perceived injustices on not-so-macro issues: courthouse construction, electrical co-ops and the plight of the hands-free singer.

The FCC’s decision to protect these bands has been widely praised by music industry types as the hometown rep protects their interests. And they can clap as loud and as long as they want, since their hands aren’t occupied with pesky wired microphones.