Brian Cosgrove is the elusive, invisible defender of Pittsburgh music. He could be standing next to you enjoying a three-band bill at a local venue, and you'd never know it. You might not even recognize his voice, since he hates talking on the phone. Yet this reticence has not stopped him from trying to make an impact.
Since October 2001, his Internet child Pittsburgh Net Radio has hurled tracks from both local and touring bands into cyberspace. Listeners have proven hard to come by -- he's had more response from far-flung locales like Qatar and Ecuador than from the Steel City. Yet Cosgrove soldiers on, even though PNR recently ceased being a "radio" station.
"I killed the 'Net-radio part of it a few months ago, because it's impossible to do anything but lose money with the way copyright royalties are structured," he laments. (PNR was originally funded by a grant.) "When WOXY.com in Cincinnati, with their following in the indie community, requires a million-dollar investor to bring them back from the dead, it doesn't fare too well for something I was operating from my apartment."
So Cosgrove restructured the site as a blog format, where different Pittsburgh personalities program their own online mixtapes. PNR posts show previews, but augments written descriptions with links to audio and YouTube videos. "The shows that you see listed in the CP or the flyers you see around town really have no other promotion. There is no radio airplay," he explains, conveniently forgetting that college radio like WRCT and WPTS still exists here.
"There is the core audience -- you see the same faces at most shows," he says. "Yet you go to art crawls and you'd swear it was a city full of youth and hipsters. They must listen to music, so it's a matter of what forum is feeding them new music. And we all know that those current forums locally aren't cutting it."
So even though he's no longer streaming, Cosgrove hopes other music-hungry Web surfers will log on to PNR and discover music they haven't heard before, then go out and experience it live. "We are linked to different music blogs, aggregators and Pittsburgh blog feeds. It's out there for people to find and use."
You can also visit www.pittsburghnetradio.com.