My Thoughts on the AKB48 Senbatsu (Part 1)

AKB48 32nd Single Senbatsu Sousenkyo ~Yume wa Hitori ja Mirarenai~

Winners of the AKB48 32nd Single Senbatsu Sousenkyo ~Yume wa Hitori ja Mirarenai~. (Image from Fanpop)

AKB48 senbatsu, a thinking matter

Come June 7 will be the AKB48 37th Single Senbatsu Sousenkyo (otherwise known as the AKB48 general election), an election that allows fans of the Guinness World Record holder for the largest pop group to vote for their favorite members to appear in the 37th single, scheduled for release after the election. And fans do not only get to vote for AKB48 members, but they also get to vote for the members of the sister groups, namely SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48. With all groups combined, there could be almost 300 members, with AKB48 alone having 140 girls.

What the senbatsu is about

A popularity contest held since 2009, the senbatsu election is a way to determine which members should get the most face time or screen time on singles, TV, production numbers and other public and media appearances. And who gets to decide who? The fans, of course.

The senbatsu gives fans what they want: The power to push their favorite members into the media spotlight, plus the upcoming single to be released after the event. For the management and the record company, this is a clever marketing strategy to ensure the commercial success of the band.

Fans get to vote in the senbatsu by purchasing the summer single that precedes the senbatsu single. And inside it is a voting ticket that allows the purchaser to place vote on their favorite member.

The top 80 placers get to appear in the senbatsu release, with the top 16 singing in the senbatsu song. The rest appears in a couple of coupling songs.

Some thoughts on the senbatsu

I have been a listener of AKB48 since March 2011 and of SKE48 since December 2012, and it was only last year I understood how the senbatsu works. I read a couple of online articles about this unique entertainment electoral process. And I have found a few things which disturb me.

There are news or posts about fans who buy multiple copies of AKB48’s summer single so they can vote more than once for the favorite member. There was this one middle-aged chap who bought two CDs (so meaning, two voting tickets) to vote for a member who placed among the top 16 last 2012. And one youngster who bought a box load of CDs to power vote.

So it could be said that fans who get to vote in the senbatsu are moneyed fans who can shell out lots of money to buy multiple CDs. Such a devotion, but I cannot say if it’s overspending or fanaticism.

And if this is how AKB48 singles place No. 1 on the music charts, then this is something wrong. It’s a manipulation of the music charts, which allows quantity, not quality, to rule. It’s popularity on the aspect of the number of copies sold, not of art or airplay. To purchase multiple copies just to inflate the charts is wrong, and yes, it’s a case of over-vote. Anyway, this is also how fans of the American Idol vote for the winner.

(to be continued)

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4 Comments

  1. I have less of a problem with the “buy one CD get one vote” concept. It is just another way for dedicated fans to show their support. (I know, it sounds like George Soros, “buying votes”) One CD-one vote is a way for fans to share the CDs. The extra CDs can be given to friends who do not have them, or later sold at a discount on eBay and such. I bought a CD/DVD combo of an AKB48 single for only 99 cents, which included shipping from Japan. I do feel sorry for that middle-aged chap, whoever he is : )

    • Hello, Danny. Thank you very much for reading.

      It is a great marketing concept, though I am still uneasy about it. And about your purchase, does it comes with a shipping fee?

  2. Oh, and nice photo — just before the big wave of 2013 graduations : )

  3. I bought “Sayonara Crawl” CD + DVD for 99 cents, which INCLUDED shipping from Japan. Also included photo booklet. Not bad!

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