LONDON — Universal Music Group is further growing its footprint in Asia with the launch of RedRecords, a new joint-venture label with AirAsia Group focused on signing and developing the next generation of Asian pop stars.
The label will be based in Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles, and led by Hassan Choudhury, head of music for AirAsia Group, who takes on the role of CEO of RedRecords.
Universal’s launch of a dedicated A-pop imprint is the latest stage in the major’s ambitious expansion plans for the fast-growing music region.
In September, it opened a new Southeast Asia headquarters in Singapore supporting A&R and marketing teams in Malaysia, Indonesia, Indochina, Thailand, and the Philippines — a territory that encompasses some 700 million people.
This fall also saw the arrival of hip hop label Def Jam in Southeast Asia and a regional hub for dance label Astralwerks, both based out of the Singapore office. Local teams for B2B label distribution business Ingrooves and DIY artist-focused digital distributor Spinnup have also been established in the market, reflecting a wider strategic move towards signing and developing homegrown talent with the potential to cross international borders.
“If you look at what’s happened with K-pop and reggaeton, we see that these regional musical genres can spread globally – whether that’s with the artists themselves or partnering with artists who maybe have a broader appeal,” Adam Granite, UMG’s evp for market development, tells Billboard.
He says partnering with AirAsia Group to launch RedRecords was a natural fit given their huge reach and consumer base across Asia, coupled with CEO Tony Fernandes’ background in the music industry. Before venturing into the airline business, Fernandes was Warner Music Group’s Vice President for Southeast Asia.
“Frankly there is not many partners better than Tony Fernandes and AirAsia to be in business with,” says Granite. “First and foremost they fly around 100 million people a year and, from a music perspective, that’s a [large captive] audience. Beyond that, what Tony has is a shared vision about bringing Asian pop to not only the region, but to the rest of the world.”
In a statement announcing the launch of RedRecords, Fernandes said “life has come full circle for both myself and my AirAsia brothers, [Datuk] Kamarudin and Nadda [Buranasiri], whom I met through our early days in music.”
Having “revolutionized air travel” he said the AirAsia team was now “heading back to our musical roots to revolutionize the future of Asian pop culture and give it the world wide stage it deserves in conjunction with Universal Music."
UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge said the worldwide success of Latin and K-pop in recent years “has demonstrated that in the streaming era there are no barriers to great music regardless of language.” Grainge went on to say that the combined marketing reach and resources of AirAsia and UMG would provide the conditions to enable Asian artists to reach global audiences.
RedRecords first signing is Thai pop-artist and influencer Jannine Weigel, who has more than 600 million views and 3.3 million followers on YouTube and just under 5 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
“I’m so proud to be the first artist to sign to RedRecords,” said Weigel, “and to have the support of this amazing team helping to take my career to even greater heights.”