Clubhouse took the social media landscape by storm when it launched on iOS in March 2020.
Searching for connection, early users joined the invite-only, audio social app to explore virtual “rooms” hosting all types of conversations, from relationships, to tech and investments, to aliens, to coping with mental health during the pandemic.
Since then, Clubhouse’s rise has been swift. On its one-year anniversary, downloads neared 13 million. By April 2021, Clubhouse’s Series C funding round valued the company at $4bn. The app’s boom has led platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Discord to launch social audio copycats, and has lured brands such as Pedigree and IHOP to the platform.
As Clubhouse has grown, it has also tapped into influencer culture, leading the app to launch the Creator First accelerator programme in March. The influencer network aims to help Clubhouse creators launch programming on the app and connect with brands to monetise that content. Clubhouse chose 50 creators to fund for its inaugural season, with 25 shows unveiled on Wednesday.
“We wanted to test additional formats and broaden our base of creators that Clubhouse could support,” said Stephanie Simon, head of community, creators and partnerships at Clubhouse. “We wanted to try to remove as much friction as possible for [new voices].”
Clubhouse will take a limited role in developing the programming for its pilot shows, which include “The Global Lowdown” by Alissa Miky and Michael Rosenzweig; “The Salty Vagabonds Club” by Amanda Dishman, Lauren Ettinger and Alex Parrish; and “Shift Happens” by Anthony Trucks. While the platform provides financial and production support, creators own their own intellectual property and can reproduce it if they choose.
While Clubhouse facilitates creator-brand relationships, creators ultimately call the shots on who they choose to work with.
Brands are already getting on board. For instance, luxury fashion brand Valentino reached out to Creator First in the hope of hosting a talk about audio erotica. Clubhouse connected the team with Lila Donnolo, creator of the Positively Sex programme on Clubhouse, Simon said.
But the influencer programme arrives just as faith in Clubhouse’s success is waning. Following reports that downloads declined from 9.2 million in February to 900,000 in March, many speculate Clubhouse’s moment is over. The social-audio app, however, has since launched globally on Android, garnering 2 million downloads within two weeks.
“While people are going to be going outside, they are going to continue to consume content,” Simon said. “Creators form a community and support each other, so they’re not cannibalising each other. They truly feel and act like a community which makes [their audience] much more retentive and durable.”