As Jaron Lanier pointed out back in the 90s (and, yes, I am aware that Mr. Lanier is something of a crank, and not always correct), the high price of CDs through to the late 90s gave the labels a huge pool of money to work with. The unit cost of making CDs shrank exponentially, but the prices they sold them to retailers didn't follow the same curve, resulting in massive profits. Some of these profits found their way into the hands of the few sane A&R people out there, allowing them to sign artists from the nascent "alternative" scenes and bring them into the marketing machine that were the major labels.
It could be argued that the CD, and it's convenience, democratized access to Hi-Fi, and it's huge profit margin greatly benefited the smaller and middle-ground musical artists by getting them major-market attention they might not have otherwise seen.
As the production costs came down, too, the independent labels were able to find a more competitive ground to work from, enabling them to offer quality goods at reasonable prices while still profiting the label enough to carry on and grow.
And, I suspect that it was mostly the Olde Men at the top of the Major Labels who failed to grasp the potential value of lossless duplication at home.
"Wanna tape an LP? Well, okay, we'll kick a little, demand a tax on the tape media, and carry on as usual. Wait: They can make a perfect duplicate of a CD? That's more troubling! What? They can copy a CD, compress it, and transmit it to the rest of the world!? This is WAR!"
disclosure: I worked for HMV Canada for five years in the early-mid 90s. I know what the costs and pricing models looked like in those days, so I know that the majors were making much bank during those years.
before the next issue arrived. Now I've got a six-month back-log of barely-skimmed issues in the bathroom, a new issue arrived yesterday, and I've received three snailmail pieces in the last two weeks BEGGING me to renew my subscription four months before it expires.
1) I would re-subscribe in a heartbeat if I could get a discounted price on ONLY an digital copy to read on my tablet. Save the trees, save the money, save the time of printing and mailing me a print copy, just give me the content (As a subscriber, I get instant online access to the current issue, which the "plebes" have to wait a full month to get (or did, maybe they're shut out permanently? I don't know.), but I still get mailed the print copy, which I'm feeling guilty about not reading at this point)
2) MacArthur needs to foreground the fact that his magazine is run as a not-for-profit enterprise, financed by a foundation that believes Harper's Monthly has a sound cultural and critical reason for being. They don't make money, they consume it. Their advertising and subscription dollars are merely helping keep it afloat: they're not critically dependent on it. In this sense, we politely say that any of MacArthur's economic points are "disingenuous".
excellent point: why don't they just let you load the disc into your machine at home, get a fingerprint from the disc and your computer, and deliver a digital copy with DRM whose key is based on the fingerprints?
but again, this all speculation based on what COULD be done, and we still have no reason to accept that this needs to be done at all, amirite?