You may not be able to rub elbows with Elon Musk, Kevin Hart, Meek Mill, Tiffany Haddish and other celebrities on the regular, but you sure can hang out with them virtually.
Welcome to Clubhouse: an exclusive, invite-only, social app where people from around the world can gather and listen to speakers, from techies and celebs to entrepreneurs and the average person, and engage in conversation. Think of it as an audio-only chat room, where users can join groups with topics ranging from real estate to investing.
Since its launch in March 2020, the app steadily grown in popularity. In November, Hart found out about a “room” titled “Is Kevin Hart Funny?” and decided to drop in and weigh in on the debate. That same month, Jordin Sparks held a listening party for her new album “Cider & Hennessy.” In January, Musk appeared on the app to discuss a variety of topics from SpaceX to the pandemic and even summoned Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev to discuss the GameStop stock debacle.
The Clubhouse app: What is the allure of the invite-only social media network?
Which celebrities are on Clubhouse?
Most recently, Lupe Fiasco moderated a discussion on cancel culture Friday on Clubhouse, while Tina Knowles Lawson hosted a virtual dinner party on a week earlier.
Celebrities go on Clubhouse for many reasons. Some like MC Hammer have been on the app to talk about cryptocurrencies and “the power of storytelling.” Meek Mill also frequents the app and has been at the center of aconversation that went viral when he spoke about Black men not uplifting other Black men. Rapper 21 Savage also moderated a conversation between the “Dreams and Nightmares” rapper and DJ Akademiks in December.
Music manager Scooter Braun and Harvey Mason Jr., the interim Recording Academy president hop on the app for panel discussions on the business of music.
How does Clubhouse work?
The iPhone-only app lets you start or listen into conversations on a whole host of topics, from tech to pro sports, parenting, Black literature and so on. There are no posts, photos or videos — only people’s profile pictures, bios and their voices.
Conversations which are held in “rooms” can be intimate, like a phone call, or might include thousands of people listening to a talk by boldface names, like a conference or stage interview.
The appeal of Clubhouse is in the authenticity of speakers
What draws celebrities to Clubhouse is the authenticity of one’s voice and being able to connect directly with others, says Anthony “Thomas J.” Lampkin, who’s moderated rooms with musician Kevin Ross, J. Holiday and others, and co-founded the Social Society group on the app where he teaches about moderating.
“It’s unfiltered access from the celebrity to their fans and gives fans access to the celebrity,” says Lampkin, adding that before Clubhouse, people interested in the entertainment industry would have to shell out hundreds of dollars to sit in a cold conference room to “maybe get a one on one chance to speak with the panelists.”
Lampkin says one of his favorite people on Clubhouse is 21 Savage, who hosts “R&B Wednesdays” and plays a trivia game called “Black Jeopardy.” He’s started to have more respect for his personality based on the way the rapper and his manager navigate the app: They never take themselves seriously.
“I think that is what a lot of artists and people like that you don’t have to craft a statement or anything like that, it’s no ‘Oh these questions are off limits’ It’s kind of like, you have to be quick on your feet it’s the authenticity of your voice. People are connecting with the realness, they’re connecting with being able to have access,” Lampkin says.
How celebrities are using Clubhouse
Lampkin says when the app first launched it was mostly used by techies in Silicon Valley to connect, but as it started to open up, record label executives, managers and industry leaders saw the benefit of Clubhouse as a way to engage with audiences and fans.
“This is the new wave to interact with people given COVID. We don’t have the luxury of going to live concerts anymore and have panel discussions, where there’s no SXSW or things that will be able to engage people on that level,” Lampkin says, noting that it’s also a lot simpler of a process to have listening parties or discussions on Clubhouse versus having to set one up in-person.
He adds that on Clubhouse, contrary to Instagram and Twitter, it doesn’t matter how many followers someone has or whether they’re verified or not, because most people have an opportunity to speak as the driving force of the app is in your voice.
“When you’re starting out on Clubhouse, you may see artists who might have two million followers on Instagram, but they might not even be breaking 2,000 on Clubhouse,” Lampkin says. “So you’re starting to really see who they are and how they interact, when they don’t have an audience that they have on the other social media platforms, so it’s a lot more humble when they’re interacting.”
Clubhouse member Julie Wenah, whose image was the app’s third icon last fall, says some celebs may prefer using the app just to listen to the conversations.
Wenah says last month during a “Freestyle Friday,” one of the many Clubhouse rooms she moderates, there was an ode to the music of longtime underground rapper Jay Electronica.
As an enlightening discussion about his songs and lyrics among the more than 100 members consisting of fans and those who know and work with him went on for about six hours, the elusive rapper somehow got wind about it, and actually entered the room, Wenah says.
He didn’t say a word, she says. “He just came and took it all in.”