When I was a kid, the phone sat at the end of a wire and it did two things: It made calls and received them. Today? Well, as the iPhone commercials say, “There’s an app for that.” But even with more than 200,000 available apps at last count, there’s one thing that most cell phones can’t do – tune into to FM radio the way you would on, say, a transistor radio.
That may change if broadcasters can convince Congress to require cell phone manufacturers to include an FM chip in new devices. As reported by USA Today, the issue may become a big bargaining chip in a larger conflict between broadcasters and recording rights groups who think radio stations should start paying performance royalties for the music they air.
All along, radio stations have paid to play music, and those fees go to song composers. But the recording artists and the record labels aren’t compensated on the theory that the promotional value of radio airplay is at least a fair swap. If you’re a recording artist of lesser fame than, say, Lady Gaga, you’re not getting big advances or royalties from your record label. Your big money comes from performing on tour, and you gladly let your label keep some or a majority of the profit selling your music because they did two things you couldn’t do without them: promotion and distribution.
Until now, that is.