AKB48-2015Authors: Tim Craig and Zhang Songyu
Published July 2016.
Length: 24 pages (plus exhibits)

In 2016, impresario Yasushi Akimoto ruled Japan’s pop music world as producer of AKB48, the girl group he had formed in 2005 based on the concept “idols you can meet.” AKB48 had sold 36 million singles and 5 million albums, and was everywhere: on the covers of fashion magazines, in TV song shows, dramas, variety programs, and commercials, on posters in train stations, even in video games. But with the “graduation” of veteran members, the home market saturated with sister groups in regional cities, and the novelty of the AKB formula wearing off, how long could Akimoto keep it going?

Written to be used with Japanese Pop Music and Idols, AKB48 describes the concept, business model, and continuous innovation that have made AKB48 such a remarkable and sustained success. The case also explores the possibilities, or limits, of international expansion: Is AKB48’s appeal Japan-specific or can the group, or the model it is based on, succeed overseas as well?

Topics: Japanese music industry, Artist development and management, Female idol groups, Product development, Innovation, Cultural differences, Overseas expansion