Audio creators are a new kind of influencer, born of the meteoric rise of the audio-only chat app Clubhouse. Together, they are pulling in millions of weekly listeners and building online followings. Now, with Clubhouse booming and other social apps, like Twitter, taking cues from its success, they are banding together and working with big brands.
Audio Collective is one outgrowth of the audio boom. The company, which announced its formation on Thursday, will offer event planning, brand consulting, and support and community for creators working in the field. Its founders also plan to lobby Clubhouse for stronger moderation policies, better insights and performance metrics, and monetization tools.
The company’s 40 founding members are creators themselves; they host talk shows, meet-ups, discussion groups and other high-profile events and command many millions of followers. Unlike podcasters, who produce edited shows, they perform for a live, interactive audience, much like streamers.
The Audio Collective’s work will build on Clubhouse’s internal Creator Pilot Program, which was announced in December and is aimed at elevating the app’s power users. It will also offer services that the platform does not currently provide, such as helping brands produce events and matching them with creators on Clubhouse.
This comes as Clubhouse approaches the end of an explosive first year. According to the analytics firm Apptopia, the app has been downloaded more than 4.7 million times since its introduction last April. The company raised more than $100 million in funding in January, placing its valuation at $1 billion. In light of Clubhouse’s quick rise, companies like Twitter and Facebook are racing to replicate the success of its audio-only format on their own platforms. (A representative from Clubhouse did not respond to a request for comment.)
Industry experts see interactive audio as an exciting area that will produce a new wave of stars — and a whole new slate of considerations. “Never before have so many brands, entrepreneurs, influencers and regular folks had instant access to their most devoted audience,” said Adam Davidson, the author of “The Passion Economy.” “Like any transformational medium, it offers new opportunities, and new terrifying pitfalls, and requires a thoughtful, steady guide. The Audio Collective is exactly that guide.”
“Clubhouse will create the most powerful and impactful influencers of our time because voice is the most powerful tool to communicate people have,” said Farokh Sarmad, 26, an entrepreneur and audio creator in Montreal who is not part of the Audio Collective but has begun forming his own collaborative groups on Clubhouse.
Talent scouts, agents and marketing executives are looking to Clubhouse to find undiscovered creators and opportunities. “We’ve been able to partner creators we met on Clubhouse immediately with Fortune 10 brands,” said Lindsay Fultz, senior vice president of partnerships at Whalar, an influencer marketing agency. Creators in the Audio Collective have worked with brands like Showtime, Milk Bar and Cash App.
“Every single one of us is getting multiple requests from brands, agencies, studios, organizations,” said Francesca Hogi, 46, a creator in Los Angeles with over 323,000 followers on Clubhouse. “We’re getting approached by other creators who see we’re able to build community and innovate, and they want to partner with us.”
Audio Collective’s founding members produce all kinds of content. Mir Harris produced a performance of the Disney musical “The Lion King” on Clubhouse. Leiti Hsu runs a popular dinner party variety show. Kat Cole, a former business executive, hosts rooms focused on leadership.
Rembrandt Flores, a founder of AgentC, a talent and brand agency for Clubhouse creators, said his phone had been “ringing off the hook” since launching his agency less than a week ago. “It reminds me of the days when Instagram just came out, all these agencies were born from that,” he said. “Now there’s this new medium. We have fatigue over photos and videos, so it’s quite refreshing that you don’t have to worry about that on Clubhouse. It’s so liberating. This new crop of influencers are going to rule the roost.”
As Clubhouse continues to add millions of users by the month, it has contended with complaints about hate speech, harassment and misinformation. “One of the things we’re committed to as a collective is to help set the tone of the Clubhouse community,” Ms. Hogi said. The group plans to push the company for thoughtful moderation and safety tools.
“We want people to have safe and good experiences on the platform and we continue to be the fiercest advocates for more better stronger trust and safety tools,” said Catherine Connors, 49, an audio creator in Los Angeles.
Some creators feel that the app is underselling them. When a person signs up for Clubhouse, they are prompted to follow the app’s suggested users; many of those users are investors in the app and their close associates. Audio Collective’s aim is to help elevate creative voices.
Mr. Sarmad said other collaborative groups and collectives were popping up on Clubhouse, especially among younger users. “The same way Viners got together, and Instagrammers got together to grow and collaborate seven years ago, it’s happening behind the scenes on Clubhouse,” he said.
“We’re trying to build alliances together to dominate the app in a good way,” he added. “Everything people see in the rooms is an outcome of what’s happened days before in the back channels. Everybody’s forming collab groups.”
Creators from Audio Collective say they view themselves as part of a larger shift toward independent work, following in the footsteps of Instagram influencers, YouTubers, TikTok stars and Twitch streamers. “We see ourselves as building onto the broader media and creator landscape,” Ms. Connors said.
“Part of what we want to do is not just create a model of how audio can be transformed,” she said, “but also make a push forward for creator-driven culture so that this culture isn’t being shaped by the platforms and technologists, but the artists and creatives and talent.”
www.nytimes.com 2021-03-04 14:15:04