Aug. 18, 2023 By Jessica Militello
Astoria resident Miguel Hernandez founded Astoria Music Collective (AMC) in 2016 with a simple goal in mind: to provide a platform for upcoming artists to perform their music, get paid fairly and share their art with an audience.
Almost 10 years later, he’s worked with hundreds of artists and venues all over Astoria, as well as venues in Long Island City and Sunnyside.
“In every space they’ve been super supportive of what we do,” said Hernandez.
Before he started AMC, Hernandez worked as a property manager in Manhattan, but he was always involved in the music scene in the community and helped a band called The Green Gallows with booking their shows, including getting other acts to be part of the line up and basically being a “pit boss” at Quays in Astoria.
“It was essentially just making sure everybody got to the gigs, everybody didn’t get too drunk, it was kind of running around and making sure people got paid,” said Hernandez.
When the group disbanded, since Hernandez already had a rapport with many of the bands and singers that performed there, the owners asked him to continue being the booker, putting together open mics and shows at the bar.
“I worked with the bands that used to play with them,” said Hernandez. “And then I was just reaching out to bands that I found interesting in the neighborhood and trying to give them opportunities to play, and from there it just took off.”
Hernandez continued to branch out to other bars and venues in the area and used his relationships with bands and singers to book them and make sure they got paid for their performances. One singer that was part of the collective, Karen Adelman, even ended up as a partner with Hernandez for about a year, but due to pursuing a career as an attorney had to step down. One project they worked on a lot together was adjusting to the pandemic city shutdown by continuing to do their showcases via livestreams in order to keep artists busy and fans entertained with something positive to look forward to. According to Hernandez, during that time AMC did about 150 shows through Facebook Live.
“There was the pandemic of course, a lot of civil unrest, the Black Lives Matter movement, and then we ended up doing a live stream for Aids Walk,” said Hernandez. “We tried to be as active as possible and focus on social issues, while still giving a real opportunity to see friends play and a lot of people told me that was their sanity at the time.”
As restrictions eased a bit during that time, Hernandez remembers Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria reaching out to do an outdoor open mic that ended up turning into an all day experience filled with great performances and positive energy.
“It was a really beautiful thing, and that open mic was key to us kind of starting up again,” said Hernandez.
These days, Hernandez’s weekend is packed with open mics and performances at venues throughout the area, as well as constantly being in communication with artists and venues and putting it all together. It’s definitely a nonstop commitment, but Hernandez doesn’t feel comfortable sharing the workload with anyone else and doesn’t mind putting the time into something that matters to him.
“I decided after the property management work that I never really wanted to have a boss,” said Hernandez. “It wasn’t really until a year and a half ago that I was able to fully pay all my bills and rent, but I love what I do and I love the people I deal with, so I can’t imagine really doing anything else outside of this right now.”
As of now, artists and interested listeners can find AMC’s showcases at places like The Local Bar, Alewife Brewery, Mad Donkey, The Shillelagh Tavern, and Oliver’s, to name a few. Many of the singers and bands are of the folk, rock, jazz, blues, and punk genre, but all are welcome, and AMC is only planning to continue expanding. Hernandez also gets requests from Brooklyn and Manhattan venues and artists, but concedes that it doesn’t really match with the name of the Collective. “I like working in the neighborhood because of the community that’s in Astoria,” said Hernandez.
In the future, Hernandez would like to eventually open his own brick and mortar Astoria Music Collective, sort of a full circle through it all, but Hernandez can’t help but appreciate all he’s done so far by continuing to grow the Collective community.
“It’s really given me everything that I have and I’m not willing to trade that in for anything else. If you’re lucky enough to do something that you love for a living, even though you love it, it’s not always going to be easy.”