Clubhouse: the invite-only app everyone’s talking about

Suzannah Ramsdale
·5 min read
 (Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

Cancel culture, woke wars, fake news, performative activism... social media has become less social and more soul-sucking.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are the latest high profile names to shun the socials. Meghan Markle was apparently the most trolled person in the world in 2019, an experience she described as ‘almost unsurvivable’ and, according to reports, she and Harry have no plans to revive their platforms. But perhaps Clubhouse would suit them better?

A new invite-only ‘drop-in audio chat’ app, Clubhouse is the next big thing with the cool set. Think of it as a digital Soho House meets Raya. Here’s everything you need to know (while you wait patiently for your invite).

What is Clubhouse?

It was launched in spring 2020, at the height of the pandemic, by Silicon Valley types Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. The idea a spokesperson told us is to create “a social experience that is focused on connection, learning, and authentic conversations, where people close the app feeling better than they did when they opened it, because they have deepened friendships, met new people and learned.

"The focus is on dialogue and connection, rather than likes or followers.”

Imagine if Ted Talks, Soho House and your favourite podcast platform all had a lovechild, it would be something like this, except on Clubhouse you can be part of the conversation too. A merciful break from our current camera-on, top-up dressing Zoom lives, it’s audio-only because they say: “Voice adds texture and fidelity to conversations that can be lacking in other venues. The intonation, inflection, and emotion that are conveyed through voice allow people to pick up on nuance and empathise with each other.”

Clubhouse
Clubhouse

What’s the vibe?

It’s networking on heat. Big name celebrities, CEOs, entrepreneurs, musicians and Hollywood types are all on here and they’ve been getting stuck in. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the same ‘room’ as Oprah Winfrey, Drake or Kanye West. When I first joined, the among the first members it suggested I follow were Tiffany Haddish, Scooter Braun and MC Hammer. I of course obliged.

Jared Leto, John Mayer, Swizz Beatz, Ashton Kutcher and Jodie Turner Smith are all members too. Late last year actor Kevin Hart took part in a conversation in a room entitled: ‘Is Kevin Hart funny??’ about whether he was, in fact, funny. Afterwards he tweeted: “Had an amazing conversation in the Clubhouse app today… Real talks with real people… this is the direction that social media is now going to. Pretty dope.”

In other rooms you might find fashion designer Virgil Abloh talking about his inspiration or film director Ava Duvernay debating movies. There are virtual comedy clubs and musical jamming sessions, dating chat rooms and career workshops. There have even been audition held for musicals Hamilton and Dream Girls.

Most recently the richest man in the world Elon Musk held a session and discussed everything from when he thinks humans will arrive on Mars (five-and-a-half years) to cryptocurrency Dogecoin.

Virgil AblohGetty Images
Virgil AblohGetty Images

How does it work, what are these rooms you speak of?

The app is simple. Once you’re in you can join any chat room you fancy. There will be some scheduled events with arranged speakers (these can be found in the app’s events calendar) as well as impromptu discussions. You can keep your microphone on mute or join in the conversation if you wish (once you’ve been approved by the room moderator).

Not into it? Just quietly leave the room and find another event that piques your interest. Really loved the discussion? You can create a room of your own and invite people to join you to take it to the next level. You can also chat privately to people. The main rules of Clubhouse: be open-minded, respectful and don’t freak out when you come across a celebrity.

It’s worth noting that there’s no functionality for users to record the audio chats. The idea is it’s a safe space for conversations and debate, free from fear that comments will return to haunt the celebrities (I mean users) in years to come.

Oh, and it’s only available on iPhones for now.

Oprah WinfreyGetty images
Oprah WinfreyGetty images

Sounds cool, how do I join?

Hold it right there. The first thing to know is that Clubhouse is invite-only. Each new member can only invite one person to join. Time to start tapping up your best connected pals.

At the moment there are around 600,000 registered users. Unlike other members’ clubs, there’s no vetting process so once you’ve been invited, you’re in - unless you do something outrageously offensive, of course. “Clubhouse does not determine who receives an invitation—the community does,” says the app.

It sounds very Hollywood, should Londoners try and haggle for an invite?

It’s definitely American-focussed at the moment and many of the chats and events take place on US time zones, but when I joined there were already about ten of my UK based friends on the app. The Clubhouse people told us: “While the Clubhouse team is based in the U.S., users are able to join from all over the world. As we continue to scale and add more users daily, Clubhouse’s presence in the UK is growing quickly and we look forward to building upon the community there that is already forming.”

See you in the club.