Gerard Longo of Underground Music Collective: 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful…

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Gerard Longo of Underground Music Collective: 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in The Music Industry

Grit: It’s easy to look at successful musicians and entrepreneurs from the outside and aspire to their lifestyle. However, the image we have of people is often romanticized. The people you look up to have faced untold challenges to get to where they are. When those challenges arise in your story, how will you respond?

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in the music industry, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gerard Longo.

Every Underground movement needs a leader who knows what it takes to rise through adversity. Gerard Longo is that leader.

Gerard’s experiences as a scrappy, undersized football player helped him to forge a temperament rooted in hard work, determination, and a gritty, UnderDog spirit. The lessons Gerard learned throughout a decade-plus on the gridiron have served him throughout his life, beginning at age 16, when a malignant soft tissue sarcoma in his left ring finger threatened to put an end to his playing days — and much more. It was this brief, yet harrowing experience — and Gerard’s rapid, post-surgical recovery — that reinforced Gerard’s fighting spirit, and helped him understand the opportunity for impact that is provided to us by being alive.

Currently, those lessons inform Gerard’s journey as an entrepreneur. Gerard is the Founder/CEO of Underground Music Collective (UMC), a Nashville-based music publication and multimedia services company built from the ground up. UMC provides an ecosystem designed to empower independent musicians and creatives through content features, live events, educational opportunities, and much more. Since launching as a regional publication in Bethlehem, PA in 2016, UMC has partnered with regional, national, and global brands, including Universal Music Group, Red Bull, the Tennessee Titans, Creative Artists Agency, Redfin Real Estate, and countless others.

In addition, Gerard has hosted The Quinn Spinn podcast since 2013. The Quinn Spinn features conversations with musicians, creative entrepreneurs, and real humans who aspire to have a positive impact. As time goes on, more people are hearing those conversations; in 2022, The Quinn Spinn was within the top 5% of most-shared podcasts across all of Spotify.

Across many years, passions, and projects, one thing has proven to be certain: if there’s a challenge on the horizon, you can count on Gerard Longo to meet it.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in a middle-class family in Long Valley, NJ, about 50 miles outside of New York City. Despite our proximity to the Big Apple, growing up in Long Valley was the definition of small town living.

The town’s culture ran through the local high school (West Morris Central). That was where my interest in music began; I was a four-year member of the school’s choir, participated in theater productions, and a lot of my friends were in bands. I would try to make it out to their shows and support them whenever I could — most of the time, the “venue” was somebody’s garage or the school’s auditorium. I never thought anything of it at the time — it was just a good time with friends who allowed me to be myself.

Outside of music, I played football all four years in high school, and the sport became my first love. Football taught me the value of hard work and discipline, and the importance of discovering purpose. It also gave me an appreciation for the underdog. My freshman year, I joined the team at 5’10” and about 120 pounds. I remember walking into the weight room on the first day of summer practice and immediately hearing a teammate whisper, “what’s he doing here?” Throughout those four years, I spent most of my time on the bench. I was never the fastest or strongest player on the team, but two things were for certain: I would not be outworked, and my heart would not be matched. I had improved enough to where I saw first-team reps during our state championship run my senior year, and on senior night, the same teammate I mentioned earlier was the first to come over and shake my hand.

In the midst of my high school football journey, my health took a potentially devastating turn. On March 31, 2003 — at age 16 — I was diagnosed with a malignant soft tissue sarcoma in my left ring finger. Sixteen days later, on April 15, my left ring finger was amputated to eliminate the cancer from my body. This life-saving reconstructive surgery gave me a new perspective and gratitude for life; however, it also gave me the challenge of an expected 12-month recovery timetable, which put my junior football season in jeopardy.

It was then that I realized what pursuing my passions meant to me. I went to physical therapy 2–3 times per week, and even on a couple of days when I wasn’t scheduled. As a result, each check-up left my surgeon more impressed with my recovery. The original 12-month projection was soon lowered to eight months, and then from eight to six, and finally, from six to four.

I had surgery on April 15, and was cleared for full contact on August 7. It’s an experience I still point to whenever I need to remind myself of my own capabilities to overcome the odds.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

My interest in and participation in music continued throughout college. I attended Moravian College (now Moravian University) in Bethlehem, PA, and I hosted a college radio show on the school’s internet station, WRMC. I always enjoyed the weekly energy exchange with our loyal listeners — it was a core group of 10–15 people, but they’d always provide us with content for the show, and they would show up to listen every week.

After graduation, I spent some time playing semi-pro football and searching for a creative outlet. By 2013, the “real world” had its hold on me — I had a corporate job, a long-distance relationship, and little time for much else. I felt spread thin, until one August weekend, I decided to dig up some old episodes of my college radio show, The Quinn Spinn. The more I listened, the more I felt an emotional charge. I remembered what it was like to have a weekly impact on our small but loyal audience in college, and I wanted to create something of impact again.

The next day, I bought a USB mic, designed a logo, and registered a couple of social media accounts. The Quinn Spinn was back in podcast form.

From there, the show’s tie-in to the music industry was not far behind. Back in college, I’d always host an “Indie Band of the Week” segment on the show. This time around, we would feature all independent artists–once I figured out how to find them. I figured Twitter was a good place to start. So, I logged into the new @TheQuinnSpinn handle, reached out to a bunch of artists to see if they’d like to be featured on this podcast with zero episodes, and a surprising number of them said yes! Soon after, I’d premiere the show’s first episode on September 8, 2013, and invite a bunch of my community theater friends to join as co-hosts and recurring guests. From then through the end of the show’s initial run in 2015, we hosted guests from five continents, appeared at local festivals and conventions in New Jersey, and even hosted an American Cancer Society benefit concert called Entertainment for a Cure.

All the while, the winds of change had begun to blow around the start of 2015. I had found work that would eventually take me back to my old college town of Bethlehem by mid-year. The Quinn Spinn went on hiatus while I determined its future direction and soon decided to go in that direction alone. I had also just moved to the Lehigh Valley, a region in eastern Pennsylvania with a strong local music scene, and decided that it was time to build around The Quinn Spinn. By January 2016, I was ready to launch Lehigh Valley Underground (LVU), a regional music blog that quickly gained traction in the community. From 2016 through mid-2018, LVU had won numerous local awards, secured several community partnerships, and hosted live music events throughout the Valley.

However, by mid-2018, I once again found myself in transition. I felt a pull to level up my life, personally and professionally, and concluded that I needed to relocate to a music industry town to do so. New York was enticing at first, because it was the closest major music market in a geographical sense. However, Nashville soon came calling, by way of an old high school friend who had just gotten married. They were about to buy a house in Nashville and needed a roommate, and I had just expressed to them that I felt it was time for a change. By November 2018, I made plans to join them in Nashville, re-branding LVU into Underground Music Collective and embarking on a serendipitous journey that is still evolving today.

None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many, and I hate to leave anybody out. However, I’d like to give due credit to two people in particular.

My mother was — and still is — the best friend I’ve ever had. After my brief battle with cancer, she endured her second less than a year later. My tumor was on my left ring finger, and hers was on her left wrist. We were operated upon by the same surgeon at the same hospital in Philadelphia, less than a year apart. We quite literally survived cancer together — and it gave us an extra decade-plus together before she passed suddenly in September 2015.

Mom always encouraged us in The Quinn Spinn’s formative days. She was always quick to offer an idea, assistance, and even tough love. She enjoyed the commotion that recording days would bring to her house, and we even called the basement Mom’s Basement Studios as a term of endearment. She had a sign hanging up in her kitchen that read, “May you always have the courage to take a chance.” I think of that often — and of all the chances we’ve taken through the years — as The Quinn Spinn approaches its 10th birthday this summer.

I’m also very close with my niece, Amber Rose. She’s the little sister I never had, and the daughter I hope to have one day. She had just turned 9 as I was getting ready to move to Nashville, and she was the one person that I was afraid to tell. She figured out my plan on her 9th birthday and, instead of crying, told me, “I’d be happy for you. You can do so much more music stuff there than Pennsylvania.” Her blessing lifted a huge weight off my shoulders, and remains one of the most impactful moments of this entire journey so far.

Amber is 13 now, and has remained my biggest cheerleader ever since that day. I strive to show her that she can create the life she wants, and it begins with an idea and a willingness to take the plunge.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There are too many to count from the past 10 years, but I’ll go with something recent: I got to take photos at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in February. I’m entirely self-taught, and there have been so many nights shooting at venues where the only people in attendance were me, the sound engineer, and the musicians themselves. To go from that, all the way to the Mother Church, and have the opportunity to shoot for national touring acts is hugely encouraging, and a reminder of just how far this entire platform has come.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The entire Entertainment for a Cure experience comes to mind. We entered that benefit concert with an “if you build it, they will come” mentality, but in truth, none of us had ever put on an event of that magnitude before! We hired a top-of-the-line audio company, recruited bands from all over the tri-state area to perform, and we had no idea how to raise the funds, and hadn’t built the reputation to secure sponsors.

That didn’t stop us from trying, though; my friend Adam Arnold (known to our listeners as Scotty Rock) and I would hit the streets, soliciting businesses for donations throughout northern New Jersey. Some were generous enough to give us gift cards and other raffle donations, but many of them turned us away in abrupt and hilarious fashion. In the end, it took an “anonymous” $500 donation from my mother to get us out of the red!

We learned a lot of valuable lessons throughout the process. We came away with a healthy understanding for the discipline and planning it takes to pull off an event of that magnitude. Even so, there were plenty of positives to take away — the event itself went off without a hitch, and although there were more volunteers and musicians in attendance than actual paying ticketholders, it seemed that everyone at the event had a good experience.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Underground Music Collective itself is thriving with daily content features, including music reviews, features, and more. We recently launched a new “Wednesday Wisdom” series, where industry experts will share their experiences and insights with our audience. In addition, we’re hosting a series of educational panels throughout 2023, which focus on ways to navigate different segments of the music industry. We’re also working on plans to scale our business model on the content services end, but those plans aren’t quite ready to be announced. Stay tuned!

As far as The Quinn Spinn goes, we recently moved to two episodes per week, as we charge full steam ahead to our 10th anniversary celebrations later this year. We’ve had the chance to feature high-profile independent and major label artists, and overall, I’m proud of how far the podcast has come. We were in the top 5% of most-shared podcasts across all of Spotify in 2022!

We also have plans to host several live music events throughout 2023 under our NashLive! brand. These events provide performance opportunities and live entertainment experiences for musicians and fans alike. We’ll be announcing more lineups shortly!

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Allow yourself to fail! Overnight success is a myth, and the only way to grow is to make yourself uncomfortable, and realize that not everything will go according to plan. I have failed countless times over the past 10 years, and I used to take each failure personally. Now, I view each failure as a chance to grow, and as a change agent that points UMC’s compass toward greater alignment with our mission.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the music industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Take time to refill your cup! I had an opportunity to spend five weeks back in the Northeast last summer, including all of August and the first week of September. It was the most beautiful experience of my life; it reminded me of who I am and why pursue this purpose. I had a chance to reconnect with so many people from different phases of my journey — and even met some new ones — and it reminded me of everything I keep fighting for here in Nashville. Since then, I’ve come out swinging just about every day!

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in The Music Industry” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Grit: It’s easy to look at successful musicians and entrepreneurs from the outside and aspire to their lifestyle. However, the image we have of people is often romanticized. The people you look up to have faced untold challenges to get to where they are. When those challenges arise in your story, how will you respond?

Humility: None of us know everything, and that’s OK! Understand what you don’t know, and always be willing to learn from what others can teach you. Sometimes, those lessons will come from those more experienced than you, while in other cases, they’ll come from someone younger or perceivably less experienced. Everyone around you has wisdom to share.

The will to improve: To me, this goes hand-in-hand with humility. We all have room for improvement, whether in our knowledge or technical ability. Accept constructive feedback that builds your awareness of those areas, and identify the steps you need to take to improve within them.

Strong relationships: Success in the music industry — and truthfully, any creative industry — rests so much on the quality of your relationships. Be kind, respectful, courteous, and thoughtful toward others. In conflict, seek resolution over being “right.” Be willing to lend a hand to those in your circle, and give without expectation of anything in return. The energy you put out will reflect back toward you, so make sure it’s positive!

A service mindset: We all want to succeed, but if your goals exist for the sole purpose of individual success, you’re going to find life in the music industry to be a lonely existence. Determine your message, identify your audience, and understand the desired impact your message will have on that audience. Then, get to work finding ways to have that impact.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe Underground Music Collective to be its own movement; one that serves to level the playing field in the music industry. We strive to create opportunities for talented, hard-working creatives, regardless of genre, location, or personal circumstance. If somebody is doing good work for the right reasons (i.e.; to serve and have a positive impact) in the music industry, we want to provide them a platform.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I continually find myself saying, “the rising tide raises all boats.” The music industry is incredibly tough, and none of us can succeed on this journey alone. Especially as independent creatives, we are only as strong as the community around us. We must continue striving to help each other win, and that means finding ways to serve others through our own efforts.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Right now, I’m a huge fan of Lewis Howes and everything he’s doing at Greatness Media. I’ve read his books, and I listen to his podcast, The School of Greatness, at least a couple times per week. Lewis has built a content and multimedia empire with a service mindset, and by giving conscious achievers the tools they need to leave a positive mark on the world. I feel like I’ve already learned so much from Lewis, and would love the opportunity to learn more, face to face. In fact, one of my long-term professional goals is to be a guest on The School of Greatness. I guess I better start working on that New York Times best-seller…

How can our readers continue to follow your work online? is our central hub, but you can also follow us on Instagram and YouTube at @umcnashville. The Quinn Spinn is on Instagram at @quinnspinnofficial, and can be heard on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and more.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Gerard Longo of Underground Music Collective: 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.