AKB48 is the brainchild of Kyoto University of Art and Design professor Yasushi Akimoto. He's been at this for a long time. He started writing and producing music in 1973 at the age of 17. In the 1980s he produced a similar girls jpop group with 52 members — Onyanko Club (Kitten Club). He ended up marrying one of the members.
AKB48 holds the Guinness World Record for being the World's biggest pop group. It consists of four teams: Team A, Team K, Team B and Team 4 with a total of 59 members.
Akimoto's concept for AKB48 was "the pop group you can meet". They perform nightly concerts at a small theatre in Akihabara (a otaku neighbourhood) in Tokyo.
The girls are constantly doing promotional work and meeting fans. The fans are also involved in voting members in and out of the teams.
AKB48 girls are constantly in competition to stay in the team and participate in the next single to be released. The top girls are spun off as solo acts or trio groups.
Akimoto seems to have plans for World domination. He has a formula that works — AKB48 has sold more than 10 million records in Japan. He plans to use the formula elsewhere:
SKE48Nagoya's version of AKB48. Their name comes from the name of the building in Nagoya where their theatre is located.
SDN48The "Saturday Night" version of AKB48 that performs adult only shows. SDN48 is based in Tokyo. The girls are older and shows are sexy.
NMB48The Osaka version of AKB48. They are named for Namba — the entertainment district of Osaka where they perform.
TPE48The Taipei, Taiwan version of AKB48.
HKT48The Fukuoka version of AKB48 that's named after the Hakata entertainment district of the city.
JKT48The Jakarta, Indonesia version of AKB48. This has been controversial since Indonesia is a primarily Muslim country.
OJS48The Oji-san (old guy) 48. All members are former police officers. The average age in the group is 61.
In addition to all of these pop groups Akimoto spins off popular members of AKB48 as solo acts and smaller teams of girls. These acts include French Kiss, no3b, Not Yet, Watarirouka Hashiritai, DiVA, Atsuko Maeda and Tomomi Itano.
With the popularity of AKB48 in Hong Kong and Singapore it would be surprising if Akimoto doesn't open a franchise there too. He's got 100s of pop stars in teams of 48 — he's aiming for 1000s.