Cash Money co-CEO Ronald “Slim” Williams gave a rare public interview on Friday at the Jazz Fest’s Sync Up Nola conference in New Orleans. In an hour-long interview that ranged from the digital takeover of the industry to the birth of the Cash Money sound, Slim gave advice to up-and-coming musicians.
“I don’t know if you can build now what we built then. Times have changed,” Slim said. “It’s on the people now, if they got it in ‘em. In New Orleans, we built to last through anything. We built to last.”
Slim admitted their early days had their share of speed bumps. Those headaches turned into lessons for the upstart boss. “We started out the back of a car, packed up, trip after trip,” he shared with the crowd. “When I started out I made a mistake though – I let other people tell me what to do. You gotta listen to yourself and keep your team small, that’s one of the reasons we’ve lasted this long.”
Appearing with Vernon J. Brown, CEO of V. Brown & Co. and Cash Money’s lawyer for nearly two decades, Slim agreed that while digital sales have changed the dynamics, Cash Money still makes more money from physical sales than digital, something they’re very proud of. Don’t give up on the game: “We still look on social media for music. We still listen to CDs and demos. All that stuff is still important. If you got good packaging, people will always want to buy it, no matter what.”
Vernon Brown pointed out some good news about the industry. “It doesn’t take as much money to get in the game anymore. You can get in the game with a few thousand dollars. And big labels aren’t gonna come knocking on your door like they did 10-15 years ago. You can stay independent and make your own career.”
Williams pointed out that they still keep their finger on the pulse of their beloved hometown. “We back and forth between Miami and [New Orleans], but we know everything that’s going on in N.O. And people didn’t understand us in the beginning, even at Universal. But they learned to. When Juve’s [“Ha”] came out we printed up 50,000 flyers with his lyrics on ‘em. We felt like we gonna make’em understand us. You gotta educate people about where you’re from and make them understand you. Then they’ll support you.”
The best thing you can do, according to Slim: don’t stop trying. “Wayne has sold how many records? And he still works like he hasn’t sold one. That’s what you gotta do.”
Slim also disclosed to the crowd he was diagnosed with Marfan Disease, which caused a number of recent health scares. For this reason and others, he feels a renewed desire to give back to his community. Brown declared “In the next twelve to eighteen months you’re going to see Cash Money give back in some big ways.”