Tony Fernandes is evidently having a lot of fun transforming AirAsia Group into more than just an airline business. Having just launched the first fast-food chain featuring airline food last week, the group CEO unveiled at a press briefing in Kuala Lumpur on Friday a new music label, RedRecords, in partnership with Universal Music Group.

So, okay, you can’t help but ask: Isn’t this going too far off the mark in transforming an airline?

To some, it may come across as Fernandes being sentimental and going back to his roots as a music man. A music man turned airline man turned music man. He was with Warner Music Group for 12 years, from senior financial analyst to vice president for the Southeast Asia region. So he knows music.

But a recording of the press conference obtained by Skift shows there is meaning to the madness and that the move is the curtain opener for AirAsia Group to enter Asia’s events space, including organizing music festivals, and selling concert tickets or full packages that include air, hotels, and event tickets.

This space is huge particularly in Southeast Asia, with Traveloka — now a competitor of AirAsia.com — earlier this year going into it big time.

“It’s a continuation of our journey as a lifestyle platform,” said Fernandes. “Music is a large element of lifestyle. So [we’re thinking] live events, streaming, festivals — we’re toying with the name RedVibes — ticket sales. We want to change the way you see concerts, [not just buying tickets] but hotels, packages.

“It’s a whole infrastructure that we’re looking at and that will be replicated with film [content]. We want to become more relevant to your life. Your life with us now is purely buying [airline] tickets, so we hope you’ll spend more time in the day on AirAsia’s associated products, of which RedRecords is one.”

RedRecords is parked under RedBeat Ventures, a startup fund that invests in non-airline technology sectors, overseeing all of AirAsia’s digital lifestyle brands, from travel and lifestyle to logistics, fintech, marketplace and connectivity. RedBeat Ventures is led by its president Aireen Omar who, at the peak of the financial crisis in 2008, secured funding for AirAsia’s expansion plans.

Music as an Influencer

RedRecords will sign on, develop and break new Asian artists but with a focus on talent from Southeast Asia. It aims to elevate ‘A-pop’ (Asian pop) globally to new audiences throughout the region and around the world.

Its marquee first artist is Thai pop artist and influencer Jannine Weigel, who has released several singles and EPs and claims a following of more than 600 million views and 3.3 million followers on YouTube, in addition to 3.2 million followers on Facebook, 1.5 million on Instagram and more than 500,000 on TikTok. This is a huge base that AirAsia Group could potentially leverage.

Based in Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles, RedRecords will combine Universal Music’s industry leading track record in artist development with AirAsia’s regional and global marketing strength, a statement said.

The label will also provide distribution and marketing, as well as management and agency services.

RedRecords will be lead by Hassan Choudhury, AirAsia Group’s head of music who will take on the role as CEO of RedRecords.

“This announcement is incredibly important to me. It appears life has come full circle,” Fernandes said. “We are focused on transforming the airline into a global digital travel and lifestyle leader. Now we are also heading back to our musical roots to revolutionize the future of Asian pop culture and give it the worldwide stage it deserves in conjunction with Universal Music to launch RedRecords.”

Lucian Grainge, chairman & CEO, Universal Music Group, said: “The worldwide success of Latin and K-Pop has demonstrated that in the streaming era there are no barriers to great music regardless of language. Together with the combined strategic marketing reach and resources of AirAsia and UMG, we can provide Asian artists an exciting opportunity to truly go global.”

Universal Music Group’s executive vice president, market development, Adam Granite, said the region is filled with new talent that has the potential to reach almost 700 million people across Southeast Asia alone and where music is increasingly driven by a young, social and mobile-driven audience.

“Together we are confident that the team at RedRecords will help introduce A-pop to a new global audience, ready to embrace new talent from throughout Asia.”

Earlier this year, the group announced a strategic expansion of operations within the region with the launch of a new regional headquarters in Singapore.

Photo Credit: RedRecords' marquee first artist is Thai pop-artist and influencer Jannine Weigel. AirAsia Group