When you really stop and think about it, the concept of idol singers is a little strange. At its core, the idea is to leverage the performers’ good looks into higher sales than they could achieve through their musical talents alone.
We realize that in face-to-face dealings, there’s very little a guy won’t do for a pretty girl, if for no reason other than to raise his chances of getting a date with her by even the tiniest fraction of a percentage. But does it really make sense for hard-core fans to try to impress their idol of choice? Regardless of how many copies of your favorite singer’s albums you buy, it’s not like she’s going to go out with you or anything.
Unless, of course, you’re talking about the idol group AeLL.
Formed in 2011, the four-member group’s name stands for Activity eco Life with Love. While AeLL’s producers seem to have only a hazy outline of how capitalization and acronyms work, they’ve got a firm grasp on marketing principles.
Ai Shinozaki, the most popular member of the unit who made a name for herself as a gurabia swimsuit model, sat down for a talk with interviewers before the start of the string of Japanese holidays collectively called Golden Week. When asked if she had any special plans, the 22-year-old responded that she’d be working, but not in front of a microphone or camera.
AeLL’s second album went on sale in early April, and fans who bought a certain number of copies were eligible for special prizes. This is a ploy that’s becoming more and more popular in the idol music industry, with the most common prize being access to events where the idols will shake hands with their supporters.
Still, handshake events are becoming old hat, and AeLL’s producers knew they’d need to do something a little more dramatic in order to attract attention to their fledgling group. To that end, they devised three unique prizes.
At the lowest rung, anyone who bought 30 copies of the new album would receive a dish cooked by AeLL’s members. As idol singers, you could debate whether they’re first and foremost models or musicians, but in any case, cooking would presumably be, at best, only their third-most proficient field.
▼ Would this toast taste any better if you knew it had been cooked by a girl with a pretty smile?
Fans who stepped up and bought 50 CDs could get something closer to the group’s raison d’etre, a one-hour karaoke session with the quartet. This seems like it’d be a lot of fun, since it would finally provide an answer as to whether or not it’s actually possible to get a perfect 100 on karaoke machines with a scoring system by having AeLL sing their own songs.
Finally, the truly devoted who bought 100 copies of the exact same disc received the privilege of going on a 90-minute date with the AeLL member of their choice (plus the group’s manager/chaperone). Shinozaki told the interviewers the album was priced at about 2,300 yen, meaning the idol date cost 230,000 yen (US$2,277) right off the bat. We’re assuming the fan would also be responsible for picking up the tab for any food or entertainment costs, as well.
▼ Does the fan have to pay for the manager, too?
That was apparently a reasonable offer, though, for nine fans made the necessary bulk purchase and asked out Miss Shinozaki above, plus the unspecified number who designated her bandmates.
“I’ve already gone on two dates. Yesterday we went to Jojoen Yugentei,” Shinozaki told the interviewers, referring to a popular Korean barbeque restaurant.
Shinozaki admitted she was worried about fulfilling her obligations, though not because of any fear of spending time with someone whose infatuation runs far beyond those of everyday fans. The consummate idol, Shinozaki said she was concerned about whether or not she’d be able to provide her supporter with a good time. “At the end, I asked, ‘How was it? Did you have fun?’ and he told me, ‘I’m totally satisfied.’”
You can’t be an idol without charisma, and if Shinozaki has so much that people are happy to spend more than 2,500 yen per minute just to sit together as her boss watches, she just might have a future in the industry.