Jazz Live 15th anniversary image courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Can the Steel City turn itself into the Music City? A new initiative is heading in that direction.

At a press conference today, the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation (PDCDC) announced a project drawing attention to 10 venues for live music as part of the Music City Downtown Program.

Many of the sites are already established clubs and restaurants Downtown that will now offer live music as part of the project, but several new spaces currently under construction will also be part of the network.

Some of the spaces on the list, like the Omni William Penn Hotel and the August Wilson Center, already have a steady rotation of live acts.

The initiative, more than three years in the making, is the latest effort from the PDCDC and their community partners to spur economic growth and activity in Downtown Pittsburgh, which has lost many anchor businesses over the last several decades.

While booking acts and paying musicians would remain the responsibility of the specific venues, the PDCDC and partners will provide a network of support and promotion. In addition, live streams and videos of all shows will be posted on the PDCDC’s forthcoming YouTube channel, the Downtown Activity Network (DAN).

As most of the venues are small spaces, PDCDC Executive Director John Valentine said many of the shows would probably be in the jazz and acoustic tradition, though he stressed that partner venues will have freedom in terms of curating musical acts and presenting genres and styles. To assist the process of finding interesting acts, the organization has also hired Kevin Safter, who ran and booked shows for James Street Gastropub in the North Side until 2016.

“We think that Downtown Pittsburgh has the potential to be a great music destination and this is step one of that process,” Valentine said. The project is a collaboration between PDCDC, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and VISITPittsburgh.

During a PDCDC forum earlier this week, Don Carter of the Remaking Cities Institute at CMU, who sits on the board of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, said the venues would focus on showcasing local culture rather than luring outside talent.

“It’s not just about visiting acts like Bruno Mars,” says Carter. “I’m talking about local musicians in the Pittsburgh area.”

Speaking to the assembled reporters at the August Wilson Center on Wednesday morning, Valentine said a recent, unexpected property sale meant they would only be announcing the names of nine properties. But he promised the final venue would be revealed in the coming weeks.

According to Valentine, the PDCDC will also organize themed music festivals taking place across several locations. Already planned for this year is The Female Revolution, which will showcase women singer-songwriters.

Here’s a list of the venues. Stay tuned to NEXTpittsburgh for more updates:

The August Wilson Center on Liberty Avenue

The Backstage Bar on Penn Avenue

Market Street Grocery‘s second-floor expansion (opening in February) at 435 Market Street

The Metropolitan Club on the Square, opening in the former site of Perle in Market Square

Molinaro’s, in Market Square.

Speakeasy inside the Omni William Penn Hotel

The Wine Cellar on Smallman Street

Wolfie’s Pub, which will be on the site of the former Pirata on Forbes Avenue

An as-of-yet unnamed pop-up bar in the location of old Pizza Vesuvio on East Carson Street.

And one final venue, to be announced in the coming weeks.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.