?Music sellers have had it tough, but it's not all doom and gloom as more tangible products such as vinyls and the gifting market picks up, says freelance music journalist Adam Webb With 105 Fopp stores closing their doors and HMV announcing a 73% slide in profits for 2006, the high street music specialists reached their lowest point in June and July. The supermarkets didn't fare any better. Tesco declared a slow down in non-food goods, singling out CDs. And, at the same time, Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells' and Prince's new album, 'Planet Earth', were given away controversially with the Mail On Sunday. HMV CEO Simon Fox, who initially described the latter move as "absolute madness", did a last-minute u-turn and stocked the paper. The Mail shifted some 600,000 extra copies - a victory for Associated Newspapers and the Purple icon, but it was another embarrassment for selling physical formats. The CD is looking more like a cheap piece of plastic. The overall market's free fall has been confirmed by statistics from international music industry association, the IFPI, which revealed that physical sales fell 11% in 2006. And UK CD sales were down 10% in the first half of 2007. Digital music sales are yet to make up the shortfall. In what is a high-volume, low-margin business, iTunes has locked out the likes of HMV, Virgin and Woolworths and, as with online auctions houses and booksellers, there only needs to be one mainstream download store. But it's not all doom and gloom. Fopp was a profitable business - even on closure - but overstretched itself by purchasing the ailing chain Music Zone in February. And HMV, though desperate for a viable digital strategy, has experienced a pick-up in sales. Ironically, the ubiquity of digital formats has resulted in demand for well-packaged and more tangible products. For instance, seven-inch singles have undergone a resurgence. The gifting market also remains strong, with Take That, Ray Quinn, Ben Mills, Simply Red and Russell Watson making up the Mother's Day Top five. Valentine's Day, Easter, the BRIT Awards and the Mercury Music Prize nominations also remain significant sales drivers. As consumers migrate online, there will no doubt be more casualties to come, but the future for physical music sales lies in treating the core product with respect, even in a declining market.