In early 2021, Clubhouse was on top of the world.
Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg were dropping into the social audio app to share their wisdom. Invites to the app were going for $400 on eBay at one point.
But what a difference a year makes. These days, Clubhouse is losing users and key execs, leading critics to argue that social audio was merely a pandemic fad, per Protocol.
… generated 19m installs between Jan. 1 and May 31, 2021. Its rapid growth fueled a rush of copycat products from tech’s biggest players:
- Twitter launched Twitter Spaces
- Meta launched Live Audio Rooms
- Spotify acquired Locker Room, a sports-focused social audio app (which eventually evolved into Spotify Live)
But in the same stretch this year, Clubhouse installs were down 80% to 3.8m. Its competitors aren’t thriving either — Twitter is shifting resources away from Spaces, and Facebook folded Live Audio Rooms into its live video product.
Perhaps more importantly…
… key Clubhouse leaders are leaving the company. One departing exec is Aarthi Ramamurthy, former head of international and co-host of “The Good Time Show,” an early success story on the platform.
In a move that doesn’t exactly ring as a vote of confidence, Ramamurthy and her husband (and co-host), a16z partner Sriram Krishnan, recently moved their show from Clubhouse to YouTube.
So what’s next?
Social audio’s popularity may be waning, but it’s not dead yet. Specifically, it seems like its future may lie in connecting niche audiences.
- Twitter recently started Super Follows Spaces, which are exclusive to a creator’s paid subscribers
- Discord, a go-to platform for niche communities, has its own social audio feature called Stage Channels
Where Clubhouse fits into the future of social audio is anyone’s guess. In March 2021, Anna Wiener wrote an article for The New Yorker titled “Clubhouse Feels Like a Party.” Going forward, the party might just be a little smaller.
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