Exclusive: RIAA’s Mitch Bainwol Making $2 Million Plus Annually

The RIAA can hardly be categorized as a glowing success story, yet its CEO now earns more than $2 million in annual compensation.

According to year-2008 federal tax filings shared over the weekend with Digital Music News, RIAA chief Mitch Bainwol raked an impressive $1.91 million in annual pay, with “other compensation” from the RIAA and “related organizations” offering another $123,000.

This represents a sizable increase in a short amount of time.  In year-2006, Bainwol was paid roughly $1.5 million, also according to tax filings reported two years ago by Digital Music News.  The latest taxation documents will be published early this week following certain clearances.

The discovery of the gargantuan salary follows the discovery of similar nosebleed compensation packages at SoundExchange, though the Bainwol take-home easily takes the cake.  At SoundExchange, a handful of executives were clearing $350,000 in year-2008, including now-exiting head John Simson.

One argument is that real talent requires real compensation, as determined by the price other employers – regardless of industry – are willing to pay.  The other argument is that massive salaries like these are simply too expensive for an industry in distress, and high-priced stars need not apply.  In the case of the RIAA, major labels are paying the tab, while at the same time shaving their own ranks to reduce overhead.  That includes efforts to curb legacy compensation packages like this one, borne in a totally different era.

Digging a bit deeper, others at the RIAA are also making large amounts of money.  That includes president Cary Sherman, who pulled down $1.33 million during the same period.  Other heavy-hitters were not hard to find, including Neil Turkewitz (EVP, International), who grabbed $696,000; Mitch Glazier (EVP, Government & Industry Relations), who pulled $566,000; and Steven Marks (EVP & General Counsel), who received $562,000.

On top of that, a total of seven staffers are making salaries between $200,000 and $500,000.  More details ahead.