A new performance venue is shaking up Cincinnati’s music scene by encouraging guests to “turn off their cellphones and turn on to the music.”

The DownTowne Listening Room, located in the city’s historic Shillito building on West Seventh Street, provides concerts that are different from the average music experience. Imagine a time and space with limited distractions; no TVs, bar-room shouting or muffled sounds.

Scott Skeabeck, creator and local music-lover, brings in out-of-town original pop, folk, and acoustic rock artists who normally skip over Cincinnati and pairs them with complementary local emerging artists.

Skeabeck’s inspiration to open this kind of venue came from living in Philadelphia, where he found music spaces unlike anything he’d ever seen.

“People could come and listen to music that was truly focused on the performer,” says Skeabeck. “Artists put their heart and guts on display there and it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.”

Beforehand, Skeabeck listened to music played in bars, clubs or jam-packed concerts. However, he found that the atmosphere at distinct “listening rooms” was inviting, audiences were attentive, and music was the sole reason people attended.

After moving to Cincinnati four years ago for work, Skeabeck couldn’t find any spaces in the area that offered this kind of music environment. He decided to start one of his own, “a place where you can go out to listen to music and actually hear it.”

“I think listening to live music is a lost art,” says Skeabeck. “You don’t go to the movies and ignore the screen. But that’s what happens in live music venues every day. People ignore the artist performing as if they were background. We plan to put the performer in the foreground. We tell potential customers upfront [that] this is a place to focus in on the artist and their music.”

To create a “listening room” vibe, Skeabeck utilized the Shillito building’s clubroom, making a cozy performance space with leather couches, comfy chairs and padded high-back barstools. In addition, to keep the show personal, the room will only allow 55 guests at a time.

The performance cost is considered a donation and all proceeds go toward the headlining artist. Skeabeck promises touring acts a set amount of money, but if sales don’t cover that, he pays out of his own pocket. If the artist doesn’t have anywhere to stay, he will even offer them room and board.

Several artists have noted the effort Skeabeck has put forth toward creating this venue. September’s headliner, Alice Wallace, says she’s excited and grateful that the listening room gives her a chance to bring her music to a new market.

“Listening rooms and house concerts have become my absolute favorite settings for shows,” she says. “I truly think that listening room-style concerts allow the audience and the performers to connect in ways that are impossible at most venues.”

In the future, Skeabeck hopes touring artists will become known around the city and stop in Cincinnati every year. All in all, he says he does this for the love of the music and the chance to bring a unique listening room vibe to the Tristate.

“There are so many gifted people in this world and just because you don’t know who they are doesn’t mean they’re not a quality, talented performer.”