The Recording Industry Association of America, an organisation which purports to champion the needs of struggling musicians starved of income by the evils of illegal music downloading, paid its president Cary Sherman $3,185,026 in 2009.
According to an eye-opening exposé on P2Pnet, the RIAA top dog was awarded a 240 per cent increase in his annual salary - from a none-too-paltry $1.331 million he trousered in 2008.
That's more than $1,500 an hour if he puts in a full working week, which we very much doubt he does, for an organisation which has abjectly failed to achieve anything other than dragging a series of sad scapegoats through crippling legal battles in order to scare the rest of us into avoiding the evils of copyright infringement.
The RIAA is an independent trade association sponsored in the main part by by Big Music's gang of four, Sony, Warner, EMI and Universal, so it can spend its money on whatever it sees fit. But when an organisation constantly carps on about how music piracy costs a gazillion dollars a year in lost revenue and puts thousands of people out of work, we can't help thinking that some of that cash could be better spent elsewhere.
And it's not just bloated salaries on which the organisation wastes millions of dollars which could be spent producing new music and distributing it at a reasonable price to music fans. As we reported earlier, the RIAA spent more than $16 million on legal fees pursuing file sharers in 2009 - most of whom were just normal folks indulging in a bit of P2P naughtiness rather than major distributors of counterfeit disks - being awarded less than $400,000 in damages in the process.
Quite apart from its bullying tactics in the courtroom, the RIAA has also been accused of some pretty underhanded tactics when it comes to government lobbying. At least one member of the House Judiciary Committee staff - who was implicated in sneakily amending a bill which gave the recording industry perpetual ownership rights over every piece of music ever recorded in the USA - found himself with a cushy $500,000 RIAA position just months later. But that was, as Fred Wilhelms notes, just a coincidence.
The RIAA has done nothing to prevent piracy or even stem the tide of file sharing as far as we can see, and has utterly failed to protect anything other than its own self-interest.
As we've mentioned, there's nothing wrong with a private organisation making and distributing money in any way it sees fit, but the RIAA often behaves like a duly-appointed government agency, regularly uses its wealth and power to ride roughshod over US legislation, and uses heavy-handed bullying tactics in order to maintain an unrealistic and anachronistic status quo.
The recording industry has changed beyond recognition in the past five years. New distribution methods and technology mean consumers demand to listen to music on their own terms, and the recording industry is slowly waking up and smelling the silicon.
Lazy record companies flogging overpriced albums full of fourth-rate fillers will soon find themselves on the scrap heap of history, and with any luck the bloated corpse of the RIAA won't be far behind.