Darklight contributor Verity Babbs asks the question; is Clubhouse opening a door to the next generation art world; a place to discuss and form the future of art? Or is it just a continuation of the same addictive model of social media, shiftshaping to steal our attention away from Instagram and TikTok?
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Clubhouse is made up of clubs and rooms, in which non-recorded conversations happen between users. It’s sort of like Discord and sort of like LinkedIn: a kind of interactive radio. The invite-only audio communications app is rapidly gaining popularity in the UK and Europe following its launch in the US at the end of 2020. The rooms suggested for you are affected by who you follow, and you can have alerts set to let you know when and where certain users are speaking. It might well be the future of networking.
Right now, most rooms are filled with American businessmen shouting about how to make 7 figures in your sleep, talking about Elon Musk, and generally masturbating each others’ egos. But as Clubhouse grows in numbers across the globe, more and more spaces for arts & culture discussions are opening up.
Like most new users, I’ve been using the app for far too many hours a day. It’s addictive to find niche rooms, join in with conversations and follow anyone and everyone with the word art in their biography. Over the last three days, I’ve spoken in rooms about new art trends, art investment, and joined a discussion at midnight filled with American divorcées talking about “re-finding your light.” I’ve spoken to some brilliant people. The more the app grows means the more conversations you can join in with at any time of day: when UK Clubhouse goes to bed, Australian Clubhouse is hosting their morning sessions.
“It’s addictive to find niche rooms, join in with conversations and follow anyone and everyone with the word art in their biography.”
Clubhouse doesn’t support any kind of chat function, meaning all networking [that goes beyond simply following each other] has to happen off-app. In your bio there is a dedicated space for your Twitter or Instagram handle, which users can jump to without closing the Clubhouse app. This requirement to follow-up outside of the app encourages deeper connections and conversations, often to schedule co-hosting a room with each other in the future. Over the past two weeks of engaging actively with Clubhouse I’ve gained over 200 Instagram followers.
While an audio-only platform might not sound like the best fit for the visual art industry, it actually encourages a real freedom of communication and an authenticity that is so often lost over email or DM. Rather than just knowing what someone does and where they work I’ve now heard them talk about the things that are important to them, relaxed in the knowledge that no one is judging their appearance. It feels like a much more genuine networking experience than cold emailing “I’m ___ I work for ___ and I’d love to connect about ___” to a voiceless profile picture. “I was in the audience for your recent room and I loved the points you were making” is a much more effective and easier intro for networking. I’d take this over LinkedIn messaging any day.
Don’t get me wrong – some of the art discussions are full of unbearable egotists. There’s a lot of talk about investing in art which feels completely soulless and self-promotion of work that is mediocre, at best. I have to turn some rooms off, before I decide to pack-in working in the art world altogether, or roll my eyes permanently into the back of my head. That’s the thing with every industry though: whether digital or online, some people are all confidence and no substance.
“I have to turn some rooms off, before I decide to pack-in working in the art world altogether, or roll my eyes permanently into the back of my head.”
Rooms come and go; most running for around an hour, some open for days-on-end. The exit button simply says “✌️ leave quietly” to emphasise the relaxed etiquette – people will nip in and out – leaving the room isn’t a comment on the quality of a discussion. This focus on ephemeral conversations makes Clubhouse a great platform for spontaneous ideas and exchanges. A few days ago I popped into a room set up by an artist who believed one of his followers on Instagram [also an artist] had copied one of his works and he wanted to get advice on how to respond. It was brilliant to watch him get immediate guidance. I’ve been given completely invaluable – and totally free – advice in rooms about social media presence, website copy, and online bio writing. This kind of direct feedback would normally cost you. You can even get feedback on your actual art if you set your profile photo to one of your works, or direct people towards your Instagram link.
I’ve begun to see people advertising future rooms in the same way they’d have previously promoted a webinar over Zoom. It’ll be interesting to see how major the migration away from recorded online events to Clubhouse will be. For this migration to be successful it’ll need the target market for the webinars to all be on Clubhouse, and with the current invite-only set up this could take a bit of time. I doubt that it’ll take that much time.
I think that Clubhouse has the potential to be the go-to platform for networking, panel discussions and promoting your business in a more approachable way. It’s got its flaws – it’s early days, so not everyone is on there and the search function needs a lot of work – but it’s already proving itself to be a valuable resource for art world individuals making connections in an industry that is largely about “who you know.”
VERITY BABBS IS ONE OF OUR OG CONTRIBUTORS ON DARKLIGHT ART. WRITER, INDEPENDENT CURATOR AND ARTIST LIAISON FOR RISE ART; SHE HOSTS ‘ART LAUGHS’ ON YOUTUBE, INTERVIEWING THE UK’S RISING COMEDIC STARS ABOUT THEIR FAVOURITE WORKS OF ART. HER WRITTEN WORK FOCUSES ON LONDON’S CONTEMPORARY ART SCENE AND YOU CAN FOLLOW HER ON CLUBHOUSE @VERITYBABBSART