Organized Panel Session
In 2010, Japan led the world in sales of recorded music. That year, the idol group AKB48 had the top two spots on the Oricon Yearly Singles Chart and accounted for a significant percentage of overall CD sales. By 2011, AKB48 had all top five spots on Oricon, a record achievement that they repeated in 2012. That year, each of their top five singles sold over a million copies. Although the members of AKB48 are sometimes referred to as “national idols,” it is a core contingent of fans, not all Japanese, who purchase the bulk of their CDs. In some cases, a single person buys hundreds, even thousands, of the same CD. This presentation highlights the techniques employed by AKB48 to inspire this fan activity. Specifically, it focuses on the labor that idols perform to move fans to tune in, show up and make a purchase. Idols labor to build and maintain a relationship with fans, which is presented in terms of love, and encourage fans to act on that love and support them. While the massive CD sales that result from this are often discussed, the affective labor necessary to make this system work goes largely unnoticed. This presentation draws attention to such labor, which is key to the phenomenon of idols in contemporary Japan and beyond.