AKB48 Leads Digital Rise

The Record Industry Association of Japan has reported that production of physical music formats rose 1 percent in 2011 to about 260 million copies – the first increase in six years.

A substantial portion of the rise came from one artist: the huge adolescent girl collective AKB48, which sold more than 5 million copies.

In addition, production of CD singles increased 23 percent to 62 million copies. However, compared with 2010, revenues decreased by 1 percent to 281 billion yen ($3.65 billion), due mainly to the relative lack of hit albums.

AKB48’s showing received a lot of attention, prompting some pundits to wonder if the entire industry was too dependent on the group.

It’s difficult to argue otherwise. AKB48’s singles accounted for 15 percent of all singles sold in Japan. In terms of revenue, the group garnered 5.4 percent of Japan’s entire music market in 2011.

The sobering fact is that, with K-pop so dominant in Japan, AKB48 seems to be the only domestic act with any growth potential.