John Spencer | Crain's Philadelphia

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

John Spencer


A leader in music preservation and archiving, VeVa Sound specializes in making history's best-selling and most important music new again. VeVa has attracted big-name clients from all over the world, including artists like Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus, as well as companies and organizations like the Library of Congress, Sony Music and Virgin Records. Formerly BMS/Chace, VeVa recently expanded internationally with an office in London.

The Mistake:

One of the biggest mistakes I made came after coming up with an idea for a new business model. I presented it to some people and I didn't get a lot of feedback that there were going to be any people willing to pay for the product.

Quite frankly, why should they pay? This was back in 2002 when physical sales still had a leg in the marketplace. When I got the feedback that people might not be willing to pay, it really gave me some self-doubt.

One of the things that showed me that we had work to do was that we were receiving projects that were not easily retrievable. Because of that, we had to begin searching for answers to handle these types of projects that if you left on a shelf for a year or two, they would be gone and never able to be played back. We knew that we had to dive deep into the IT side to make sure that we could make all of these digital preservation files available.

I joined, volunteered and participated in every panel and conference available to me.

The Lesson:

It has become a firm belief of mine that you don't have any success without continuing to learn.

After this experience, I went out to ensure that I was entirely versed in everything in this field. I joined, volunteered and participated in every panel and conference available to me. I became the chair of the Grammy Producers & Engineers Wing deliverables committee, which essentially now is utilized by all labels. I got engaged with the Library of Congress, where I served on a variety of different committees. That took a lot of time and money, but I wanted to make sure that I did it to make sure that I had every answer that I possibly could for my clients not only today, but in the future.

If I had skipped that step of immersing myself into the future horizon of both IT and the music industry, I would not have had the best insight for our clients. Since we did, we are now able to provide tools to better serve our customers, and sometimes we do have to educate them as to why this is important. That is just part and parcel of trying to be ahead of the curve and making sure that what we present, what we sell and what services we offer are future-proof.

Follow VeVa Sound on Twitter at @VeVa_Sound.

Photo courtesy of John Spencer.

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