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    AKB48 is a Japanese female idol group produced by Yasushi Akimoto.
    The pop group has achieved enormous popularity in Japan. It is also one of the highest-earning musical acts in the world, with 2011 record sales of over $200 million in Japan alone.[1] Its twelve latest consecutive singles topped the Oricon Weekly Singles Chart. In 2010, "Beginner" and "Heavy Rotation" placed, respectively, 1st and 2nd in the list of Japan's best selling singles for the year,[2] while in 2011 AKB48 occupied the whole Top 5 of the Oricon Yearly Singles Chart.[3] The band has sold over ten million records.[4] More precisely, with 11,787,000 CD single sales by January 6, 2012, according to Oricon, AKB48 holds the record for most singles sold in Japan by a female group.[5] On February 1, 2012, Japan issued a postage stamp in honor of the group.[6]
    AKB48 is named after Akihabara (Akiba for short), the area in Tokyo where, on the 8th floor of a Don Quijote store, the band's own theater is located.[7] Akimoto's idea, later advertised as "idols you can meet", was to create a theater-based idol group whose fans could see the girls live daily.[8][9] AKB48 still performs at the theater every day,[10] although, due to great demand, tickets are now distributed only via a lottery.
    AKB48 holds the Guinness World Record for being the world's "largest pop group".[11][12] Currently, it consists of four teams: Team A with 16 members, Team K and Team B with 15 each, and Team 4 with 11 members, summing up to a total of 57 girls as of February 5, 2012.[13] Additionally, there are a number of aspiring members, who are called "kenkyūsei" ("trainees").[8] Each team produces a new own concert show each theatrical season.
    Since 2005, when AKB48 was founded, Yasushi Akimoto created several more groups: SKE48, based at a theater in the Sakae area of Nagoya, SDN48, which is intended to have a more mature image, and NMB48.[8]
    Another concept, first put into action in 2009, is general elections in which fans vote to determine the member line-up who will participate in the recording of AKB48's next single.[8] In the last election, held in June–July 2011, where over a million votes were cast, 40 girls were chosen out of 152 members in AKB48, SKE48, SDN48, and NMB48.[14][15][16][17] In 2010, a new and inventive selection method appeared: the girls competed against each other in a rock-paper-scissors tournament for being on a single. The second tournament took place on September 20, 2011.[18]

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