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Japanese girl band AKB48 called a sweatshop

4 years ago34.2K views

Japanese mega group AKB48, whose members include popular singers Yuko Oshima (大島優子), Minami Takahashi (高橋南), Yuki Kashiwagi (柏木由紀) and Mayu Watanabe (渡邊麻友), has been accused of being a sweatshop and underpaying its performers.

AKB48 was the highest-earning Japanese girl band in 2013. Their concerts were packed with fans, and their CDs and DVDs made more than US$124 million. They generated even more revenue from numerous endorsements and TV appearances.

Despite a busy year and the huge income the band has made, these young girls are taking in a relatively small portion of the AKB48's total earnings. According to a Japanese weekly tabloid magazine, AKB48 members are paid monthly and don't share any of the US$124 million in royalties from their CDs and DVDs.

So where did the money go? Producer Yasushi Akimoto took 30 percent of all royalties and fees from endorsements and TV appearances, which totaled around US$47 million. Much of the remaining revenue went to the members' many talent agencies, leaving only a tiny part of the profits for the singers.

Each member's monthly salary is based on her popularity. The most popular members of AKB48, such as Yuko Oshima, Minami Takahashi, Yuki Kashiwagi and Mayu Watanabe, are paid up to US$9,600 per month, while performers standing in the back rows are paid way less, between US$1,600 and US$2,600 per month.

Perhaps low income is the main reason why some members release gravure photo albums to earn money on the side, and why AKB48's biggest star, 25-year-old Yuko Oshima, just announced her graduation from the mega group on the Japanese New Year's TV program Red and White Song Battle. She will surely earn a bigger portion of the revenue she generates after going solo.

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