Facts Of The Week
Credits to Research Team: Swee Hng
Hi everyone~! Its week 5 since school started how are you all doing? Today I will share about the Japanese idol culture but I will be focussing more on underground idols otherwise known as “Chika Aidoru”.
1. Introduction to idols
In Japanese pop culture “idol” (アイ ドル pronounced Aidoru, adapted from the English word idol) is a term typically used to refer to young manufactured stars/starlets marketed to be admired for their cuteness. Idols play a wide range of roles as media personalities such as pop singers, panellists of variety programs, bit-part actors, models for magazines and advertisements. The most popular category is obviously idol singers. Most idol singers work across genres of Japanese pop music, usually in the genre that is most popular at the moment. Their songs typically do not require great singing skills as their popular appeal comes largely from the attractiveness of their public image. (Translation: Idols can’t sing 😉) The biggest idol concert festival is the Tokyo Idol Festival (TIF) which is held annually since 2010. In 2017, over 200 idol groups, about 1500 idols, performed and attracted more than 80,000 spectators.
2. Different tiers of idols
Do you know that there are a few tiers of idols? They are classified by their popularity in general.
- Starting from the top, these idols have risen to become a group widely known around the nation with their sheer exposure to publicity and marketing strategies. They are known as kokumin-teki aidoru (national idols). Even non-idol fans are likely to recognize them. They dominate the idol scene and make their existence known beyond their own boundaries. Example of such idols: AKB48
- Next, we have major idol groups who do not have as massive a fame as the national idols but are still highly popular and well-known even outside the industry. They attract enough attention to stand out as distinguished members of the idol industry. Example of such idols: SKE48, NMB48
- On the lowest end, we have what is known as chika aidoru (underground idols). These group of idols are relatively less popular compared to the mainstream idols. They focus more on live performances and close interaction rather than a mass branding. Underground idols are smaller scale groups which perform in live houses where they can reach out to their fans by getting up close and personal with them. Example of such idols: BiSH, You’ll Melt More
3. More on chika aidoru
One must sign at a production office to become an underground idol which is where they will take lessons, do recordings, plan events etc. Chika aidoru rely on social media (mainly twitter) to update fans about their latest events, CD releases and how they are getting along with life generally. They do this with text updates and picture uploads on a daily basis. Their events consist of mini gigs: some as part of larger events in collaboration with other underground idols while others as solo events at smaller venues. Their events are usually held at small venues such as rental space venue Azito in Shinjuku and live music facility untilted in Ueno. These places can hold about 100 fans. The popularity of chika aidoru spreads through word of mouth by fans or when people check their social media. Unlike the other categories of idols, there is no mainstream media option to spread information of the chika aidoru. Chika aidoru earn money through 2 ways. One is event revenue and the other is the sales of goods such as CD releases, wristbands, cheki photos (Polaroids) etc. Even with the above streams of income, you may be surprised to find out that underground idols don’t earn much. Most of their income is used to pay for their lessons monthly. Its estimated to be roughly 20,000 – 40,000 yen (250-500 SGD). They also have to buy/make costumes for their events and performances.
4. Difference between mainstream idols and underground idols
- The biggest difference would be their popularity. Mainstream idols can garner the attention of people from other countries that are not even in the idol scene whereas only a small group of people will know about certain underground idol groups. This is mainly due to how their popularity spreads.
- Another difference would be their focus. Mainstream idols focus on a broader and more general audience. Underground idols focus on a smaller group of audience and more personal interaction with their fans. It is up to one to decide which is more favourable.
- Their revenue is like night and day. Mainstream idols as much as 8 digits annually in yen whereas underground idols earn even less than a high schooler’s pocket money. This is why many underground idols have to take up other part time jobs to make up for it. Common examples include: bars, maid cafes and clubs. The human interaction helps the chika aidoru to promote themselves.
There are rare cases in which underground idols made a major debut and became professionals. Take Momoiro Clover as an example. They were once underground idols that became major idols. (They changed their group name to Momoiro Clover Z after that) Another example would be Ono Erena. She was once an underground idol but is now in the nationally known idol group, AKB48. However, these cases are very rare. So what drives chika aidoru to do what they are doing? The answer to this would be their passion for singing and dancing and a small glimmer of hope that they can make it big. With that being said, we love all idols underground or not ❣
Thank you for reading my FTW, I had a lot of fun researching this. I hope you have learnt something about underground idols and idols in general. Have a blessed week ahead 😊
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