AKB48 (read “A.K.B. Forty-eight”) is a Japanese girl group that has achieved such popularity in Japan that it has been characterized as a social phenomenon.
It was created in July 2005, when the producer Yasushi Akimoto held an audition for a new theater-based idol girl group. Of the 7,924 girls that applied, 24 girls were chosen to become members of the group.
The group has 91 members, ranging in age from the youngest at 13 to mid-20s. It is one of the highest-earning musical acts in the world, with 2011 record sales of over US$200 million only in Japan.
AKB48 has reached a total of 20,300,000 copies (17,597,000 singles sold, 2,703,000 albums sold), and holds the record for most singles sold in Japan by a female group.
AKB48 is named after Akihabara (“Akiba” for short), the area in Tokyo where the group’s own theater is located.
The idea of AKB48’s producer Yasushi Akimoto was to create a girl group that, unlike a regular pop group, which gives occasional concerts and that is mostly seen on TV, would have its own theater and perform there on a daily basis; the fans would always be able to go and see the girls live. Presently, AKB48 still performs at the theater everyday (as you can see in their official website schedule), although, due to great demand, tickets are now distributed only via a lottery.
AKB48 holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s “largest pop group”. The group is divided into three subgroups: Team A, presently with 21 members; Team K, also with 22 members; And team B, with 23 members. The group also includes a number of aspiring members, who are called “kenkyuusei” (“trainees”). The member lineup often changes; when girls get older, they “graduate” from the group, while new members are cast through regularly held auditions. Having several teams not only allows the group to reduce the load on its members, since a daily concert at the theater is given by only one team, but also gives AKB48 opportunity to perform in several places and even countries simultaneously.
Yasushi Akimoto is also expanding his theater-based idol group concept to other cities and even countries. He has formed SKE48 (based at a theater in the Sakae area of Nagoya), SDN48 (intended to have a more mature image), NMB48 (Namba, Osaka), HKT48 (Hakata, Fukuoka), JKT48 (Jakarta, Indonesia), TPE48 (Taipei, Taiwan), SNH48 (Shanghai, China).
In AKB48, two big selection events are held annually. One member lineup is determined by fans who vote for their favorite members in the so-called “general elections” by purchasing the group’s latest single that includes a ticket which allows the buyer to register a vote for a particular member. The other is decided in a rock-paper-scissors tournament between the members themselves. The popularity of AKB48 had been so huge that, in the 2011 election, the number of votes cast exceeded 1 million, and the single “Everyday, Kachu-sha”, that contained a voting ticket for the election, set a new Japanese all-time record for weekly sales of a CD single.
Check out some of their PV’s below!
Click the following link to have access to all the members’ profiles!