– Or: How I learned to love the USB mic
Starting at the beginning of January 2022, I got it into my head that it would be fun to start a Clubhouse room. On the internet. Because there’s not nearly enough going on, right? Plenty of time to kill for socializing. Piece of cake.
Not to be confused with building a child’s play area in a tree or under a deck. That is an entirely different kind of Clubhouse. Those are not nearly as possible to accomplish on the internet. Unless it involves some kind of NFT project and weird tokens that become MLM endeavors in the long run. Not really my jam though.
This ended up being an Every-Friday-at-9:00am-Pacific kind of thing. The original plan was for it to be an experiment to see what would happen, commit to hosting it through the month of January, and then evaluate at the end what the result was.
The result was surprising for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, people showed up.
Secondly, people showed up again.
I say that twice because I’m still in a moderate to severe level of system shock. During the course of those four initial weeks of experiment, there are some things that I learned and some things that I tried and I’d like to relate some thoughts about that below.
What’s a “Clubhouse” and where do I get one?
Since I ended up getting into this whole thing late and generally I’m the last one to jump on a bandwagon, this might be a repetition of something you’re already aware of. For the three people alive who might not be aware, though, this section’s just for you.
Clubhouse is billed as a Social Audio App. A social media environment where the medium is audio-only. Just you, your microphone, maybe some ear buds, and a room full of people. These people can be folks talking from the platform of a “Stage” and sharing information or doing interviews. It can also become a forum for folks to gather and have small- or large-scale discussions. The stage is a platform upon which one speaks from or as a discussion circle. There are probably other uses for it. There are actors practicing scripts with each other, improv game rooms, discussion topics about virtually anything you can think of. Politics, health, marketing, Just glancing at the list of open rooms right now are topics that include:
- Do soft spoken people get interrupted more?
- How to build a 7 figure Amazon business with only one product (fire emoji)
- seven different NFT things in a row
- Book Marketing Hacks that Actually Work in 2022
- uhh i’m not repeating that one
- Jezrael with a Steinway
- not repeating that one either
- Illegible script font that I’m sure is wildly interesting
- Happy Manifesting Monday!
As you can see, the topics can vary from every end of every spectrum everywhere ever. Ever. With the greatest of ease you could filter through a whole mess of topics and spend your entire day there and never repeat anything. That might actually be awesome for some folks! I know of a couple here and there who use Clubhouse like a live podcast experience; jump into a room, stay muted, absorb conversations. It’s not an awful idea. Give it a shot!
Wait. Back up. USB mic???
“But wait, George,” you might be saying in a state of alarm, “you’re an audio engineer with an excruciatingly high standard of audio production, bordering on flat-out snobbery. What the heck are you doing with a USB mic?” To which I would respond: “Hey, USB mics gotta eat too.”
You would look at me confused and then walk away muttering something that sounds like “idiom” and I would try to forward you to my blog post about an idiom until I realize that wasn’t the word and then it gets awkward.
But yes. A full blown genuine USB Mic.
I am using an application to interface with Clubhouse called Clubdeck. There may be other ways of accomplishing this but for the time being it is the app that I am using during the weekly rooms. What it does is open up the opportunity to use a computer/laptop in order to use Clubhouse features. Like …. talking to people. And stuff. Makes playback of local sound easier for me, organizing things on a larger screen instead of a phone screen, and gives me some consistency in audio via a USB mic and headphones in order to increase the level of audio quality so that my square office without sound treatment doesn’t make me sound like I’m in a bathroom.
The reason for the USB mic is because of a persnickity aspect of Clubdeck: when I downloaded and started using the app, it would not recognize external audio interfaces. My preference of course would be to use an audio interface (I have a few favorites), a nice microphone (Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic in my portable rig that goes with me everywhere), and comfort in knowing those things sound great. Since – again, at the time of downloading and starting to use this app – audio interfaces would not be recognized but an all-encompassing USB mic would, that is the road I traveled down.
There is every possibility that audio interfaces work now. I haven’t tried because I’m already using the USB mic and it works. Don’t hold it against me. Or do. YOU CAN’T HURT ME!
Rumors of the Clubhouse demise are greatly exaggerated
Clubhouse has been declared as “dead” for at least a good seven months now as of the writing of this entry in late January of 2022.
Postings as of today declare that it is still -the- place to be for the audio medium social media experience.
What is it that the experts say? You gotta be first or you gotta be best.
Having said all that, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but it’s also a tactic for keeping an existing platform relevant. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn all have versions of Clubhouse apps in their platforms and one of the benefits of doing so is they have bursting user bases that are already on their platforms constantly. “You want the Clubhouse experience but better features because we’re newer and you’re already here? We got you, fam.”
Who’s fam, anyway, and why does everyone have them? Or is that a misplaced comma and they actually up and gave you a fam? In which case, the better question is “What’s a fam?” I’m so confused. There’s probably fleek involved.
Clubhouse did go through a decline of interest in March and April of last year but the platform continues to thrive with a consistent user base and participation metric. Given that the app has 1.3 million downloads in December of 2021. My hot take: it’s not gong anywhere soon barring an innovation by another platform that is impossible to ignore. A “disrupter” if you will.
Having a co-host (or two) is a REALLY GOOD THING
The idea of hosting a room on my own when I started thinking about it was terrifying. Why? Partially because my connection circle is relatively small where the target of the idea I had is: voice actors who have full time jobs who are also pursing the dream of acting with their voices in their spare time. Juggling career, maybe kids, busy lives, and still finding a way to squeeze it in.
The biggest barrier was just the idea of going solo on something. It seemed like a good idea but I had a fear that if I tried to go it alone I wouldn’t be able to consistently make it happen. One night I asked another voiceover friend of mine if she would be interested in co-hosting this bonkers idea that I was percolating and she actually said yes! Some chatting later, we had our first Clubhouse room on the first Friday of January 2022.
Very shortly after that we absorbed a third cohost into what is now a Triforce of Laughter. It has turned out to be a perfect mix and, much to my astonishment, people have been showing up. Repeatedly!
This was really important.
The team dynamic is so much more inspiring than the solo effort. For me. This does not mean that someone else should shy away from their own solo effort if that is where they have strengths. In my case, cohosting with other folks has not only made this entire thing possible but it has been an absolute BLAST getting to create ideas, bounce things off each other, yea or nay without fear, and revel in the enjoyment of putting something out there and people coming along for the ride.
So to my cohosts on this crazy adventure Roshelle Simpson and Megan Selke, THANK YOU! This never would have happened without you and I’m grateful that you put up with my lunacy and nerd-levels of nonsense.
Clubhouse has an etiquette that I was previously not aware of
It took a little homework in the initials stages of getting involved but I eventually found out that there are certain levels of etiquette and protocol that many rooms will follow in order to stay focused on a topic, let newcomers know what’s happening., or even get you on the stage without the cacophony of a third world war’s worth of background noise overwhelming everyone else who may be speaking. These things make sense. Here are some of those things that I learned.
Reset your room.
What this ultimately means is that at set intervals (every 15 minutes for an hour room?) it is a good idea to make a quick announcement of who we are and what we’re doing so that folks who jumped in without having any clue what’s going on can be brought up to speed. There are obviously a number of methods that can be utilized to do a reset. Muting everyone and saying “To reset the room, here is what we’re doing.”
Because I am an ultra nerd I thought it would be interesting to make reset jingles (see the part above where my cohosts put up with all manner of nonsense). The idea that popped into my head was to have a very very short kind of “jingle” to announce the reset and then a very quiet trailing drum beat to speak over. Maybe kinda like a radio thing. Not exactly sure how to describe it.
OR. By me I think I’ve got it! I could just upload one of them to Soundcloud and link it RIGHT HERE. That might help it make more sense. Anyway, that is the idea. For all I know, most rooms are doing something like this and I just exist in an ignorant vacuum. But it’s been fun leveraging the recording chops for something super niche and ultra dorky.
How to applaud without drowning the stage in percussive sound
This one was really cool when I saw what was happening. Especially after I found out why because it looked like the app was having a collective apoplexy. The way that folks who are on stage will applaud an individual who is speaking without actually making a sound is by rapidly unmuting and muting their microphone over and over again. When you’re not sure what that means, it looks really weird. Now that you know, seeing all the mics flashing is gratifying! So that’s something to take into consideration when observing and participating in a room.
Raise your hand if you’re sure
You feel confident and secure. Now you remember 1980s commercial campaigns. You have something that you would like to say. Jump into the wayback machine, experience high school all over again without the Stridex pads and forgetting your locker combination, and simply “Raise your hand.” There is a function that permits the raising of a hand in order to join the stage to speak. Pretty straightforward. Some rooms will have this function disabled as their intent for presentation could be inhibited by too many raised hands. This can be enabled or disabled by moderators. Which leads to the next very important point:
For the love of all that is holy, immediately mute your mic when brought on stage.
The microphone is live by default when you are brought onto the stage. As far as I am aware, you cannot preemptively mute your microphone via the app so you gotta be SUPER ULTRA FAST so that while you’re still singing in the shower you will not inadvertently regale everyone on stage with the sound of waterfalls and bathroom acoustics. Wait until it is your turn and and then you can regale everyone on stage with the sound of waterfalls and bathroom acoustics.
Other random thoughts
Be on topic. Make sure when joining a room that you’re involved in a way that is relevant to the folks who are all participating. Wait your turn to speak. For rooms where there is turntaking for speaking, moderators will generally call on folks to join in based on the order they were brought to the stage. Please honor that order and allow for some grace if they go out of order; the app can sometimes be wonky and shuffle people and it gets awkward.
There are probably many more points that I’m just not remembering at the moment but those are the ones that stand out in my brain.
People really seem to like to gather in an audio-only social media medium
I think there are rules about starting two words in a row with the same three letters. We crack the mold all up in this here blog. Also, a little bleach in some water will really help with mold control. Low humidity levels are essential as well. Blasted mold.
Where was I? Oh yeah. Gathering in audio social things.
This continues to surprise me. When video chat via Zoom/Google/Teams/Skype/Discord/Whatever have skyrocketed in use during the course of our pandemic remote-communication life, the idea of an audio-only social media platform seemed like it might not be the kind of thing that would fly. At least on the surface. Because you know what else continues to see a thriving life?
Sure, some folks make video versions of their podcasts or vice versa but podcasts are alive and well. Once that notion hit me like a ton of bricks, it made perfectly logical sense that an audio conversation/stage medium like Clubhouse would make sense. People really seem to like to listen without having a requirement for corresponding video. Some of us with faces made for radio prefer this medium of communication and socialization. There are probably studies done on the different levels of effectiveness in terms of the parts of the brain that engage when it’s just audio only vs the full package of audio/video and they are probably really interesting. I’m not sure I’ve had enough coffee to really dive into those today though. That might be a future blog post though because it sounds fascinating and there’s got to be more coffee out there somewhere.
So anyway, long story short: the audio medium is still working. People are still showing up and the effectiveness remains. For now.
Where does the Clubhouse adventure go from here?
Welp. For some reason, my cohosts haven’t dropped me like a hot potato yet. Even though I’m completely riding on their coattails (OH SNAP there’s another idiom to add to the list! Seriously, can you imagine literally riding on coattails? There isn’t enough fabric) they haven’t kicked me off this train quite yet. Since we’ve had peak attendance in the neighborhood of 120ish people the last couple weeks, it stands to reason that folks still find this interesting enough to come and hang out, lurking or otherwise.
All of the components seem to be in place for extending the season through the coming month and then evaluating where we’re at as things progress. One of a few things is going to happen at this point:
- Folks will keep hanging out at a consistent pace and we probably continue
- It suddenly explodes in popularity and we probably continue
- Interest tapers off -/ evolves and folks find other places to hang out and maybe we start talking about letting it go
- Everyone sees that I uploaded an actual picture of me to the Clubhouse profile and promptly and permanently exit and then we might shut it down
- Clubhouse dies the whimper of an upstart’s startup death and then, uhh, it also shuts down
If you asked me what my preference would be (which you didn’t but I’m going to answer anyway because filler), it would be nice and steady and keep things going. We have an amazing core of folks who have been hanging out with us week after week and for the time being that seems to be a worthwhile part of their lives.
Truth be told, I am probably the one getting the most out of the entire experience of everyone there. I have had the chance to talk with and learn from some astoundingly talented folks in an adjacent industry. I’ve had the opportunity to flex a really strange creative muscle and a captive audience to unleash it upon (so far nobody has told me to please be stop it). It’s part support group, part storytelling, part sharing advice. Each week I learn so much from and about a whole bunch of amazing people and I am here for that.
For so long as people are finding it worthwhile, pretty sure it’s going to keep going. I’m still amazed by it, is all.
Until next week!
-= george =-