Music is a weird industry. Just because you create a song doesn't mean that you actually own it. In fact, you could be the best-selling artist to ever live and yet only see a fraction of the profits your work generates.
That's where masters come in. The most person who owns the "masters" of a song is technically the legal owner of that song. They are the ones who can choose how it is used. Furthermore, they can also choose how the artist is compensated in terms of residuals. Famously, Taylor Swift re-recorded an entire album to claim ownership of it after she was unable to buy her own masters. Throughout history, artists have long battled to control their own music. Furthermore, there are countless examples of this being exploited by the owners of an artist's masters.
LL Cool J Testifies On Owning His Own Masters
“Yeah, I own my masters,” Cool J told the Million Dollarz Worth of Game podcast, “I got my catalog back just before 2000. And, you know, it just worked out well. So now, if you hear an LL COOL J song in a movie, or if you hear my song in a commercial, I’ve licensed that song.” LL Cool J's work can be heard just about everywhere in popular culture. However, it's not just about the money for Cool J, it's about the principle of making music.
“But that’s a blessing, you know? There but for the grace of God, you know what I’m saying? It just worked out. I got a lot of bites at the apple. And I was born to do what I’m doing. I’m not a dude that’s just doing Hip Hop because I’m doing it. You know? I was born to do it," Cool J said. While the money is likely very nice from a catalog as prolific as Cool J's, his words resonate as to why he owns his own work. It's blood, sweat, and tears on those tracks. While he isn't in the game to make money, if there is money to be made, he deserves to be the one to make it.