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What is Clubhouse?

What is Clubhouse?
(Image credit: Sopa Images at Getty)

What is Clubhouse and how can it be used by creatives? The audio-chat app is often described as the world’s most exclusive social media platform due to its celebrity users and invitation-only model. Nonetheless, it's becoming more widely known beyond its still very select membership thanks to appearances from Elon Musk and Bill Gates. 

Launched in March 2020, the app has started to expand more rapidly this year, powering past 13 million downloads on Apple’s App Store (for more top apps, here's our pick of the best iPad Pro apps). With an Android version now available in beta in the US, the expansion is set to continue. However, unless you’ve received an invitation to join, you're probably still wondering, just what is Clubhouse?

See our guide to the top social media platforms for artists and designers for more on other social networks. But first, what is Clubhouse? If you’re still waiting for your invitation, read on to learn what the Clubhouse app is all about and how it can be used by creatives.

What is Clubhouse?

What is Clubhouse?

What is Clubhouse? Clubhouse allows you to follow people, clubs and conversation topics (Image credit: Alpha Exploration Co.)

So, what is Clubhouse? Well, it's an invitation-only social media platform based entirely on live audio content. It was developed by Stamford graduates Paul Davison and Rohan Seth and is run by their company Alpha Exploration Co. Describing itself as a “drop-in audio chat”, it turns the trend for visual social media content on its head. In fact, there’s no imagery at all other than each user’s profile picture. There's no website either – the platform is available solely via the Clubhouse mobile app.

The app allows you to jump in and out of other people’s conversations and ask to join in yourself. It’s been described as a cross between podcasts and video conferences, but there’s no studio setup, and no editing, effects or transitions. Participants speak via the app on their phones and can’t see each other, so it’s a bit more like listening in on a phone conversation. Clubhouse says it “allows people everywhere to talk, tell stories, develop ideas, deepen friendships, and meet interesting new people around the world." Providing you have an invite that is.

How does the Clubhouse app work?

What is Clubhouse?

Your Hallway will show you active conversation rooms you can join (Image credit: Alpha Exploration Co.)

For those who have access, the Clubhouse app offers a list of themes divided into conversation topics covering everything from sports, world affairs, faith and identity to tech, crypto art and UX design. You can follow topics and also people and clubs who share your interests. Clubhouse’s equivalent of a feed is the Hallway. There you’ll find a list of active conversation rooms based on the people, clubs, and topics you follow.

Conversations can range from casual one-on-ones between friends to group discussions, more formal talk show-style interviews and even live music performances. They’re usually named around the topic being discussed. When you enter a room, you’ll see the speakers and moderators listed on the “stage” at the top of the screen. Others in the room are named below. Anyone in the room can "raise a hand" if they wish to speak. It’s up to the room’s creator or moderator to decide whether to grant the request. They can also invite someone onto the "stage" as a speaker if someone interesting enters the room. To leave a room, you click “leave quietly” to slip out. 

Conversation rooms last only as long as each live talk and there are no recordings available afterwards, at least not in the app itself. You can start a chat or conversation room yourself by swiping left on the Hallway screen to find a list of people online and available to talk with.

How to download the Clubhouse app

What is Clubhouse?

A beta Android version of the Clubhouse app is available in the US (Image credit: Future)

The iOS Clubhouse app for iPhone is available to download from the Apple App Store. A beta Clubhouse app for Android was launched on the Google Play store in the US this month (May 2021). It’s expected to be rolled out to other English-speaking countries and then the rest of the world. If you download the app without an invitation, you can register the username that you want to claim, but you won’t be able to access content until you’ve been invited to join by an existing user. 

How to get a Clubhouse invite 

For the moment, it’s no use simply downloading the Clubhouse app. You’ll need an invitation from an existing user to gain access – and it’s not like they can just throw invites around. Each user gets only two invites when they join, although they can earn more as they use the app. Ask around among friends and colleagues to see if anyone has an invite to offer – they’ll need your phone number so you can receive the invite by SMS. 

If you download the app in advance, you can also join a virtual waiting list. In that case, any contacts you have who are already users will be able to wave you in without having to use one of their invitations. People have also been offering invites for sale on eBay, but to avoid scams we’d suggest it’s probably better to wait it out

Who uses Clubhouse?

Part of Clubhouse’s appeal has been its celebrity membership. Flick through the channels and you might find yourself listening to the likes of Oprah, Kevin Hart, Drake, Chris Rock, Ashton Kutcher or Jared Leto. The app was quickly greeted as a kind of networking tool and something of a status symbol among CEOs from Silicon Valley and venture capital firms. It’s since been taken up in the entertainment sector – Tiffany Haddish was the first user to pass 1 million followers. But Clubhouse really broke into the mainstream earlier this year when Elon Musk made an appearance.

Will Clubhouse open to everyone?

According to the developers, it will. Just as Facebook expanded after initially being open only to US Ivy League students, it seems Clubhouse will eventually open to all. Seth and Davison have said the current exclusivity is intended to allow them to scale up slowly, giving them time to keep working on the app in preparation for larger numbers of users – hence the wait for the Android version. Rooms are currently limited to 5,000 people, but Musk’s appearance maxed that out. The developers have said they intend to build the capacity to allow them to open access to all.

What is Clubhouse?

The Clubhouse icon featuring Bomani X (Image credit: William Krause at Unsplash)

What is Clubhouse's logo? Instead of an official logo, what appears on your smartphone screen as the Clubhouse app icon is a black-and-white portrait photograph of a prominent user of the app. The image changes every few weeks and usually shows someone who’s had an impact on the platform or who Clubhouse feels an affinity with. People who have appeared to date include the musicians Bomani X (pictured) and Axel Mansoor, startup promoter Erika Batista, tech podcaster Espree Devora and visual artist Drue Kataoka. Some designers have praised the move for its uniqueness, but others say it makes it hard to find the app on their phone each time the icon changes. 

Is Clubhouse useful for creatives?

What is Clubhouse?

Designers Club is a UX Design club on Clubhouse (Image credit: Marissa Louie)

What is Clubhouse's use for creatives then? It initially seems to have the major disadvantage of no visual content, but some creatives have found it has its uses. You can use Clubhouse to network with other creatives by making contacts and joining conversation rooms. Rooms are also being used by creatives to talk about their work and to get feedback. The problem of the lack of visuals? Creatives get around that by temporarily changing their profile image to show what they’re working on. You can also simply listen in and learn from others as they discuss topics such as design techniques, supplies and marketing. Recommended clubs for creatives include Designers Club, Creative Career Warriors and The Artist Lounge.

Can you make money on Clubhouse?

There are already changes afoot to monetise content in the app. Alpha Exploration has said it doesn’t intend to introduce traditional advertising, but it has launched Clubhouse payments as a limited test. This allows users to “tip” creators they like. It’s also begun a programme dubbed Creator First, which will give select content creators a monthly payment. 

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