Have you ever wanted to sit in on a conference call but think it might be rude to hack into some corporate Zoom meeting? Do you miss the good old days of talking on the phone instead of DMing, Discording, and texting? While I think both of those things sound absolutely awful (I don’t think I’ve made a phone call that I wasn’t forced to make since elementary school), fans of the exclusive Clubhouse app tend to disagree.
Welcome to the Club(house)
Deemed “Part talkback radio, part conference call, part Houseparty” by The Guardian, Clubhouse is an audio-chat-based platform that launched right when COVID loneliness really started kicking in, in April of last year. Since then, it’s experienced some stellar growth. It currently boasts 10.1 million users, up from 600,000 back in December 2020. It sits at #5 in the app store under the Social Networking category, with an estimated value of $1 billion.
Early users included the likes of Drake, the Zuck, Elon Musk, and Oprah. More recently, MC Hammer has been dropping knowledge about cryptocurrency, and Kevin Hart is hosting a grown-up version of a debate club. With invite-only exclusivity and no tools with which to record the audio, it’s served as a platform for celebs to share their thoughts without fear of being decontextualized for the clickbait.
Once you’re in the app, you’re invited to choose topics, interests, and the like to get personalized recommendations for conversations to hop in on.
The format has been described as “a podcast with audience participation; the 2021 version of AOL’s Instant Messager; and an old-fashioned party line.” Typically, a topic is divided into two rooms: one for the speakers and one for the listeners. Folks can chime in at the Clubhouse-hired moderator’s approval and be kicked out for breaking social norms.
Want to Join? You’ll Have to Wait.
In addition to only being available to iOS devices, Clubhouse is invitation only. At its user-base foundations are Silicon Valley techies and their ilk. Since the launch, the degrees of separation between the highbrow elite and everyday Joes who have access to the audio-party has slowly decreased.
If you download the app today, with no invite in hand, you’ll be placed on a waiting list. But if you’re ready to hop on sooner than that, start asking around. Friends who are active on the app get codes to share, and they may be willing to slide one your way. If you’re fresh out of friends, or at least the ones who are already users, you can take a classic approach and buy your way in. Just look for “Clubhouse app invites” on eBay, and you’ll find plenty of offers ranging in price from $2.99 to $2,500.
For our dear readers who prefer to practice a little patience, your time is coming. A January blog post on the Clubhouse website says that their primary focus right now is expanding the accessibility with the investments that seem to keep pouring in:
“Our focus now is on opening up Clubhouse to the whole world. With that goal in mind for 2021, we have secured a new round in funding, led by Andrew Chen at a16z, who also led our Series A. It’s always been important to us to have investors who care deeply about diversity and who will work hard to help us make Clubhouse a welcoming and inclusive community. We now have over 180 investors in Clubhouse—large and small, spanning many different races, genders, and areas of expertise, and including many members of our early community.”
Is Clubhouse Worth Your Attention? Probably.
Clubhouse is a novel idea, but the kind of novel that has staying power. It has enormous perceived value by both the public and investors. It offers a place to say what you want freely, without the permanency of platforms like Instagram and Facebook. And while Clubhouse wants to encourage free-speech, they recognize that a few bad apples can rot the basket and are helping alleviate the problem by keeping their moderation low-pressure, unless things take a turn for the truly horrendous.
Think you can snag an early-access invitation? Then, give Clubhouse a try.
If you love it, you get to say that you were part of a pretty exclusive club. If it’s not for you, you can say that you were an early critic of a popular thing.
Look at you, being all well-informed about pop culture phenomenons!