In the Japanese idol singer world, sometimes the difference between love and hate can be hard to see.

This week marked the release of “Teacher Teacher,” the highly anticipated 52nd single from Japanese idol singer megagroup AKB48. Just how eager were fans to get their hands on the disc? By May 29, “Teacher Teacher” had already gone double platinum, despite the fact that it didn’t officially go on sale in stores until the next day, May 30.

▼ “Teacher Teacher”

Yes, “Teacher Teacher” managed to rack up an astounding 2,580,513 pre-sales. Some of that may be due to its blatantly suggestive title. AKB48 working with a K-pop choreographer for the video, their first time to do so with a non-Japanese dance director, also brought the song some advance buzz. Even more additional publicity was generated by up-and-coming 16-year-old AKB48 member Yui Oguri being featured for the first time as the “center,” or main focus, of the music video and packaging.

▼ Poster and packaging for “Teacher Teacher”

But undoubtedly the biggest reason for the robust sales is that bundled with each copy of “Teacher Teacher” is a ballot to vote in the upcoming AKB48 “general election.” The tallied votes are used to determine the popularity rankings for the group’s dozens of vocalists, and the higher any individual idol’s rank, the more prominently her singing and dancing will be showcased in AKB48’s future songs.

Because of that, hardcore fans consider it their solemn duty to vote for their personal favorite idol. If what’s essentially an idol poll tax sounds like an unfair system, you should know that the AKB48 general election makes no pretense of being run like an election in a modern democracy. As a matter of fact, fans are encouraged to vote multiple times, by purchasing multiple CDs, of course.

However, while there’s a benefit to fans in buying a mountain of CDs, there’s not much to be gained by keeping them all in your possession if all you really want is the ballot inside the case. That brings us to these photos shared by Twitter user @songokkun1 on May 31, just one day after the song’s official release, showing multiple trash bags filled with copies of “Teacher Teacher,” all tossed into a burnable garbage receptacle.

“This is so wasteful,” lamented @songokkun1. “Can’t the record company skip the CDs, and just sell the ballots directly?”

Other Twitter users who shared his frustration left comments such as:

“Those photos really show how worthless AKB’s CDs are compared to other artists.’”
“Terrible. This is an affront to music.”
“What they’re doing isn’t even music anymore.”

As salty as the last remark may be, it’s not entirely inaccurate. For years, idol groups have been bundling election ballots, handshake event raffle tickets, and other potential prizes with their CDs. Thanks to that, idol music continues to rake in tons of revenue from physical media sales, despite its fandom being predominantly young and tech savvy.

Idol music not being just about the music is something that even major retailers like Tower Records have largely come to accept, and many would say the large outlays from superfans purchasing piles of merchandise are the lifeblood of the industry. Because of that, promotional practices like this aren’t likely to change anytime soon, and given the largely inelastic demand for idol music, very much a love-it-or-hate-it genre, trying to unload your excess CDs on the used market isn’t always a very lucrative endeavor.

Still, it’d be nice to see superfans do something less wasteful than just throwing their CDs away, like maybe using them to tile their apartments.

Sources: Jin, Billboard Japan, Real Sound
Featured image: Twitter/@songokkun1