The exclusive new audio-chat app Clubhouse is a hit with music executives, especially in hip-hop. Will it be able to keep the VIPs tuning in once the velvet rope lifts?
Tune in to the audio-only app Clubhouse on any given Wednesday and you'll find a music-business panel with the likes of Scooter Braun, Parkwood Entertainment president Steve Pamon or interim Recording Academy chief Harvey Mason Jr., like a laid-back, A-list executive conference call. You could listen along as 21 Savage plays a Black Jeopardy trivia game or discusses relationships with industry figures and fellow rapper Meek Mill, their headshot profile pictures forming a grid across the minimalist iOS app. Elsewhere there are conversations about politics, sneakers and more.
Since launching in March during the pandemic, Clubhouse has stepped in for those missing real-world conferences, VIP rooms and happy hours, captivating and capitalizing on the music industry's attention. In May, Forbes reported the company was valued at $100 million in a $12 million series A investment round from leading venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. The app is free to use, without advertisements and growing rapidly in its invite-only beta mode. Its 30,000-person user base doubled in the past month based only on referrals (the more you host or speak in chats, the more invitations you get to share).
Because of its elite participants, Clubhouse has gained a reputation as a kind of online Soho House. Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitz has a reputation as a hip-hop fan who's friendly with Nas, Kanye West and Steve Stoute (Andreessen Horowitz invested in Stoute's UnitedMasters), and early on, the firm's partners brought celebrities and high-profile executives to the platform. In April and May, Andreessen Horowitz partners invited Stoute, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Van Jones, Pamon and Apple Music's Larry Jackson. Horowitz's wife, Felicia Horowitz, who hosts regular "dinner parties" on the app, recruited Gayle King, Ryan Leslie, LL Cool J, Terry Crews and Lecrae.