On a hot summer day in 1991, two brothers named Bryan and Ronald Williams started a rap label called Cash records. They were hoping that Cash Money would one day pull them out of one of New Orleans’ most miserable housing projects. None of them had any experience in running a record company, or even in the music industry. They did not own a recording studio and had no artist on their list. But what they had was a dream and the will to do whatever it takes to be successful. The Williams brothers may also have had around 100 thousand dollars in cash available to them, which could have been provided by their drug kingpin Terrence. Allegedly. But this is not the question. Fast forward 22 years and today, Cash Money Records is one of the most successful and prolific record labels in the music industry. And its two founders Bryan “Bird man“Williams and his older brother Ronald “Slim” Williams are two of the richest and more powerful people not just in hip-hop, but in all entertainment. How did two guys from the projects, with nothing but a dream, succeed? Their story is quite incredible …
Cash Money Records was born
When the Williams brothers founded Cash Money Records in 1991, New Orleans’ underground hip-hop scene was just starting to catch fire. A trend called “bounce music” was exploding across Louisiana thanks to artists like DJ Irv and TT Tucker. The opportunity for an ambitious entrepreneurial couple was ripe. To start Cash Money Records (CMR), the Williams brothers first contacted their father, who owned a popular local bar / nightclub. Unfortunately, a few thousand dollars from their father was not enough to get Cash Money off the ground. The real money that started CMR came from their half-brother Terrence Williams who was the founder of a notorious drug group called the Hot Boys (not to be confused with the Cash Money rap group of the same name who came up years later). Ronald and Bryan chose the name “Cash Money Records” in reference to the recently released movie “New Jack City”, in which Wesley Snipes played a wealthy New York gangster who runs a team called “Cash Money Brothers”.
With their secure start-up capital, the Williams brothers began to recruit local talent. Their first artist on the list was a 16-year-old named Kilo-G. Very quickly, they had a dozen artists including Lil Slim, Mr. Ivan, PxMxWx and UNLV In those early days, the Williams brothers organized local shows and then sold their artists’ records directly from the trunk of their cars!
One of the most fundamental events in CMR history occurred in 1993 when the label signed a talented DJ / producer named Fresh manna. Before Mannie Fresh came along, the lyrics and sound of Cash Money were very raw and influenced by gangster rap. On the other end of the spectrum, Manny Fresh had just spent over a decade mixing and producing pop-influenced house music beats for DJs in New York City. The combination of Manny’s friendlier beats, with the gangster image and lyrics of Cash Money, quickly became known as “Gansta Bounce”. Gansta Bounce instantly reached out to hip-hop fans all over Louisiana.
The big labels are calling you
By dint of scrambling and talent, Cash Money Records signed dozens of additional artists between 1994 and 1997. Even more impressive, their albums sold between 25,000 and 50,000 copies without a major distribution or promotion deal. label. UNLV’s second album sold 60,000 copies. The Hot Boy $ debut album sold 300,000 copies in its first few months alone, almost exclusively in the greater New Orleans area. The Hot Boy $, which was barely old enough to drive, featured rappers Juvenile, BG, Turk and a 15-year-old of the same name. Lil wayne.
In early 1998, every major record company in the world traveled from New York to New Orleans in search of the infamous Williams Brothers. Even though Cash Money had independently sold a few hundred thousand albums, most labels were looking to sign them for a standard rookie deal. This deal typically involved a small cash advance, plus a 50/50 split of all profits made on album sales. In addition, the record company would retain ownership of all current and future master copies of the albums and publishing rights.
You can imagine the shock felt by every executive at a major record company when they heard what the Williams brothers were asking for. Birdman and Slim wanted an 80/20 pressing and distribution deal, as well as a multi-million dollar advance. It was simply unprecedented for an unsigned independent label. A pressing and distribution deal meant that Cash Money would continue to fund its own albums and therefore retain ownership of all of its masters, royalties, and publishing. Essentially, they were looking for a company that would fund their entire label with millions of dollars, in return for a meager 20% cut in profits made only when a consumer physically purchased an album. To say it was unheard of is an understatement. As Russell Simmons explained at the time, it was the kind of deal an artist like Madonna or Michael Jackson is lucky enough to get after a decade topping the charts.
Cash in cash
Surprisingly, despite their insane demands, two labels were still interested, Sony and Universal. Both companies knew they would never make much money from the deal, but Cash Money was something much bigger: Market share. Making a deal with Cash Money would give the winning record company an instant foothold in the emerging southern hip-hop market. This would allow them to court future artists and sell their current roster to people they had never successfully reached before. With this prize up for grabs, Sony and Universal have made their pitch. In the end, Universal’s bid was far too high for Sony to match. Not only did Universal comply with every request the Williams brothers made, but they made Cash Money immediately receive an advance of $ 3 million plus $ 1.5 million for every album they produce each year. . All in all, the case was worth it $ 30 million.
The magnitude of the uniqueness of this agreement cannot be understated. Imagine if after selling a few hundred thousand copies of an eBook on my own, a publisher agreed to pay me millions of dollars for 20% of my profits. Then also imagine that the publishing house agreed to reserve my place on all the big talk shows and have me exposed in a visible way in all the bookstores around the world, at their expense. It wouldn’t happen. A publishing house is more likely to pay me $ 50,000 and take 80% of my profits. In addition, they would own all my intellectual property and my resale rights …
This pressure was definitely on for Birdman and Cash Money to deliver. Fortunately, one of their first releases was a huge success. Juvenile’s 1998 debut solo album “400 Degreez” sold 4 million copies right out of the door thanks to the single “Back That Azz Up”, and put Cash Money on the world map. From then on, the Cash Money team became a machine for success. Between 2001 and 2003 alone, CMR sold over 10 million albums worldwide thanks to artists like Big Tymers (which featured Birdman himself), BG Lil Wayne, Hot Boy $ and more.
Billion dollar brand
Cash Money Records is arguably the only major label in the world to have remained consistently relevant for the past 20 consecutive years. There have been a few minor periods of weakness, but overall CMR has been able to sell millions of records every year since launching their incredible deal with Universal. Recently, Cash Money has even started aggressively diversifying its roster of artists into areas of non-rap music. They won a bidding war to represent Canadian super star Drake, they signed Kevid Rudolph, Nicki Minaj, Busta Rhymes, Limp Bizkit, Jay Sean and even Paris Hilton. Birdman has publicly stated that the ultimate goal of Cash Money is to release 100 albums per year from artists of all musical genres. Even more surprisingly, Birdman believes that Cash Money Records is set to become the number one billion dollar music brand of all time over the next five years. In total, Cash Money Records artists have sold over 150 million albums worldwide nowadays.
Thanks to the phenomenal success of Cash Money Records, Birdman is now sitting on an extremely impressive set. $ 100 million in net worth. He drives a $ 5 million Bugatti and is rarely seen without wearing at least $ 10 million in jewelry. He lives in a gorgeous $ 14.5 million mansion on Miami’s exclusive Star Island. As for Ronald “Slim” Williams, a few years ago he spent $ 7.5 million to buy the biggest house in South Florida. And the best part? He paid cash. As we all know, Lil Wayne is one of the most successful and active artists in the world today. Wayne’s net worth recently surpassed $ 150 million.
So what’s the lesson here? If you have a dream, work hard and try your luck… you could make a ton of money someday!