A short press conference was held today for the opening of AKB48′s official merchandise store in Singapore and their first permanent theatre outside of Japan. There was also a short photography session with Misaki Iwasa, Mika Komori and Miho Miyazaki from AKB48 who were present for the opening ceremony.
AKB48 Singapore is a project consisting of a permanent theatre, a merchandise store and a theme cafe (to be opened late June).
Members of AKB48, along with their sister groups SKE48, NMB48 and SDN48, will be performing at the theatre twice a month on a regular basis. The first public performance will be held tomorrow, May 15, and the performers consist of a mix of Team A, K and B members.
AKB48 actually performed in Singapore last year as part of AFA X. Presumably the reception was good enough for the business end to decide to establish a permanent presence in Singapore.
There was a queue of fans waiting for the official store opening today. Probably because there is a handshake session with the three girls for customers making purchases of 15 SGD or more. I didn’t have to queue because I was with the media people, but I didn’t buy anything and only took a quick look around. The store is pretty standard for an official merchandise store of its type.
Everything is located within the *SCAPE complex located behind Cineleisure. The entire building was playing AKB48 songs for the store opening.
AKB48, despite its origins, has become incredibly mainstream in Japan in the past two years thanks to aggressive marketing, perhaps even exceeding the former glory of Morning Musume. When I was in Japan last month, there were AKB48 posters put up by the Tokyo metropolitan government telling people to vote in the elections.
That said, the Asian pop market is quite a different game altogether and holding two concerts a month in Singapore seems like a rather intensive schedule to keep for an overseas location, just considering the logistics alone.
This looks like a huge strategic push to make AKB48 part of the mainstream consciousness in the overseas J-Pop market, which in recently years has grown stale, partly due to a lack of a new generation of flag-bearers, and has been severely under-performing compared to its Korean counterpart. It’s a gamble but it can potentially pay off huge for the entire industry if it establishes a new wave for similar J-Pop idol groups.
Also worth noting is that Singapore has a rather large Japanese expatriate community for its size.
Maybe one day there will be a Singapore franchise. SGP48.