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Red Igloo: Fred Woods

A musician-turned-entrepreneur takes the world of kids’ production music by storm.

Juliet Pitman



Fred Woods

Fred Woods describes himself as a “busker”. It’s something of an understatement from the man who has cornered the world’s kids’ production music market. “I don’t have formal music training, although I was a competent musician. But I also had something that many creative people lack, and that’s business sense. I realised that there was money to be made in the production music market if you just look at where the gaps are,” he says.

Targeting a niche market

That gap lay in production music, also known as “library” or “mood” music, which is written specifically for use in broadcast media. It was just before he returned home after a stint in Australia, that a friend asked Woods to take back and represent his library of kids’ music in South Africa. “I had all the connections in the music industry here already, so I brought the library back with me and started what is today Red Igloo Music,” relates Woods.

In spite of his connections, however, Woods was definitely the new kid on the block and Red Igloo was up against international big name competitors such as EMI and BMG. But he carved out a niche for his fledgling company, developing close relationships with leading music publishers and producers internationally and obtaining exclusive local rights to some of the most innovative and exciting music available. Today, Red Igloo Music is the biggest independent publisher and distributor of production music in the country, representing around 53 different international labels from the small to the very large.

A simple business model

The business model is a simple one. “You source various libraries of music, import them, distribute the CDs to broadcasters and production companies and then hope that the music gets used. As publisher you carry the cost of shipping, insurance, warehousing and distribution of the CDs and there’s no guarantee of income,” Woods explains. When music is used by a broadcaster, 50% of the royalty fees go to the composer and 50% to the publisher, in this case Red Igloo Music, which shares this portion with the companies that supply Woods with library music. “But here’s the thing,” he says. “The publisher only gets paid once for the music, even if the TV programme is aired 20 or 30 times. The composer, on the other hand, gets paid every time the music is broadcast. They are the ones who really score.”

Seeing a second gap

Woods saw a gap to increase the business’s income significantly by composing his own production music, focusing on the childrens’ market.“Initially I approached a number of libraries to do a specialist kids library but I got a lukewarm response. They all told me the same thing: that there was no money in kids’ television. But I knew this wasn’t the case – just look at all the TV channels for children in South Africa alone,” says Woods. Firm in his conviction that the kids’ production music market held untapped potential, Woods started his own production music library, Cute Music in late 2006, doing much of the composing himself.

With five CDs in hand, he set off for Midem, the musical equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival. The response was phenomenal. “By lunchtime of the first day I’d signed up six countries who wanted to use the music. By the time I came home I had signed up 18,” he says. “Why was nobody else specialising in children’s music? I don’t know. To me it was so obvious. The people who are in kids TV are making money so there was money to be made in supplying that market with music for kids TV.”

Scaling up to take on the world

Woods was now in the enviable position of being both publisher and composer, effectively doubling the business’s income. But he realised he’d need to quickly scale up his kids’ music operation if he was going to see real returns. “A library takes a long time to get going,” he explains. “You send CDs off and wait for people to use the music. It might take six months before someone uses your stuff and it’s only when the programme gets broadcast that money is earned. It can be two to three years before you see an actual return.”

Even though Cute Music is, to Woods’s knowledge, the only publisher focusing exclusively on the child market anywhere in the world, a large range is key to getting noticed internationally. To this end, Woods has added seven additional CDs to the collection, and has signed up sub-publishers in countries across the globe, which are responsible for marketing and managing the use of this music. “Fortunately, kids’ music translates well across cultures and production music even more so because it’s all instrumental. It also has a long shelf life – people have been singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star since the 1800s,”
says Woods.

Nevertheless, it’s important to keep evolving. “Children change a lot between the ages of two and 13. Cute Music originally aimed at pre-schoolers but I’ve been edging it up the age groups to cater for a wider range,” Woods says. “I think what’s been key to our success is the fact that we focus on quality. Kids know the difference between good and bad, and we make sure our stuff is
the best.”

Red Igloo
Player: Fred Woods
Est. 2003
+27 11 446 7217

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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