No matter what your favorite idols say about your love and devotion, your strongest contribution to them continues to be your wallet. Whether you’re purchasing their records or their concert tickets, it’s your dollars and yen that make the real difference.
It’s something everyone knows but doesn’t want to admit. The record companies are especially adroit at sidestepping the implication of using the fans for their money. Avex often presses multiple copies of the same release with the exact same musical content, just different covers – just limited editions masquerading as “treats” for fans. Johnny’s presses multiple versions and emphasizes that their groups reach #1 on the Oricon, with a something-single streak – as a good fan, you’d want to get all the songs and support your band, don’t you?
But your love for the artist is definitely #1. They encourage fanmail. When balloting for something, you’re limited to how many you can apply for. We appreciate your money, the record companies say, but it’s still all about how much you love the artist! Your passion, your time, your devotion – how much you buy is just a little extra.
AKB48 goes a little differently – with the senbatsu rankings. While the thought of having fans decide firsthand the direction and fate of their idols, it’s the voting method that’s interesting to me. For the girls of AKB48, it’s not about how many of your fans join the fanclub, and how many devoted hours they spend lining up for your tickets and goods – all they have to do is reach in their pockets and hand over stacks of yen. You could buy hundreds of thousands of copies of their single and make the least popular girl in the company the top star, all by your own power. It’s no longer about how passionate the feelings in your heart are – it’s all about how much money you can spend.
It’s a shady business, it’s cruel to the girls, and it’s absolutely brilliant. Why ARE we limited to one vote per person, per fanclub member? It’s unfair to the fans who don’t have that much money to spend, but it motivates. A guy working in a convenience store who is a diehard fan of Ooto Aika, who’s on borderline for making it into the senbatsu single or not – well, he might just skip lunch a few days and pick up a second single to submit an extra vote.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have your money matter? If I want to pay, why can’t I buy a guaranteed good seat at an Arashi concert? Shouldn’t I be allowed in the audience for Music Station watching Ayumi perform if I actually bought multiple copies of her single? In opinion polls, shouldn’t I have more say if I’ve bought and watched the actual series the idol acted in, rather than someone who just casually caught a few episodes on tv? Idols are a business, and maybe making it a more clearcut, money-based business isn’t a bad idea.