Here’s how audio-based social networks are taking the world by storm

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Social audio has its moment in the sun. It’s ironic, because apps like clubhouse which was launched last year, jump at 3am. Cryptocurrency mentorship to Pride campaigns for antakshari the circles — the “corridors” so to speak — buzz. But here’s the thing, you can dive in without the pressure to say a word and if you’re lucky, listen to real-time conversations with anyone from Karan Johar to Elon Musk! Welcome to the whole new realm of social media – an audio-based social network where like-minded people from all over the world come together in “virtual rooms” to just talk. No frills, no dressing up, no last-minute hassles of adjusting your phone to a flattering angle so your double chin isn’t visible. Here, all you need to participate is: your voice.

And this new-age way to connect with people is clearly not a flash in the pan. clubhouse, which leveraged an ambitious invite-only way to join the club, crossed 20,000 downloads in two weeks when it launched for Android in India in May. During this time, Twitter spaces joined the party the same month and Facebook announced that aside from virtual chat rooms, it was looking at a series of new audio-focused products, including one called “soundbites” where users can post short snippets. audio on their feed, much like a photo or video. Several Indian startups like Corner of the fire and Helmetalso rolled out audio-only chat apps.

But why is this trend exploding now? We have two words for you: screen fatigue. After more than a year of social distancing with people like Zoom meetings, Google Duo calls and late night WhatsApp video with best friends, psychologist Reshma Raju says, “This could be a welcome break for those who suffer from fatigue, as video forums can increase cognitive load as well as many other negative effects, such as trying to maintain eye contact which can cause anxiety. And also, finding ourselves restless and restless if we sit for long periods of time. This way, we can connect and converse without finding ourselves overstimulated or anxious. She also adds, “I think audio platforms free people from the pressure of having to show up or look a certain way and engage with others from their own level of space or comfort. “

How does the Clubhouse work?

■ You must be invited to join
■ Virtual rooms with audio conversations
■ Each room has a limit of 8,000 people

Our goal was to create a more human social media experience, where instead of posting, you could get together with other people and talk – Paul Davison &
Rohan Seth, founders of Clubhouse

Can we just talk?
For the co-founders of clubhouse, San Francisco-based Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, we find out that’s exactly what they had in mind. A Twitter post describing the journey behind the app said, “Our goal was to create a social media experience that felt more human – where instead of posting, you could get together with other people and talk. Our north star was to create something where you could close the app at the end of the session feeling better than when you opened it, because you had deepened friendships, met new people, and learned. Deeper bonds are likely to be forged where expression of thought is unrestrained by a character boundary and where emotions in all their nuances can be felt through tone of voice, instead of being diluted in an emoji. Voice support also has other advantages like language diversity. In India, where the varied scale of languages ​​is perhaps matched only by the long list of biryanis to explore – that’s a huge plus. A Twitter spokesperson told us, “We’re seeing a huge increase in #TamilSpaces. An audience of over 17,000 listeners attended a Spaces audio launch event for the film Jagame Thandhiram where they were serenaded by Anthony Daasan, Santhosh Narayan, Arivu and Dhee, while Dhanush shared his experience working with the cast. On the regional music front, he added, “AR Rahman took to Spaces to talk about his early days as producer and screenwriter of the film 99 songswhile Chinmayi Sripada recently held a The spaces concert, filled with requests from listeners.

Niladri Bose, radio professional

These platforms are not only one-way, they are very inclusive and dynamic with many discussion forums giving voice to users — Niladri Bose, radio professional

Talk about a completely different ball game than existing but non-interactive audio platforms like Spotify, youtube music and podcasts. Radio veteran and current host of The reader on the popular Bangalore station Indigo, Niladri Bose praises social audio for several reasons. “These platforms are not just one-way, they are very inclusive and dynamic with many discussion forums giving users a voice.” In terms of what conversations to listen to, it also explains how varied conversations cater to different palates. “You have a choice of a large buffet,” says Niladri.

Unlike the radio format, where channels are your menu of choice, virtual chat rooms open to the second. The best part? You can listen to all of this, while folding laundry or brushing your teeth.

What are people talking about?

■ Spirituality
■ Tinder Nights
■ Ghost stories
■ Pride campaigns

Anita Ratnam, artist

Everything under the sun
Chennai-based popular dancer Anita Ratnam who spends about an hour on social audio in the evenings was introduced to clubhouse by his son. And recently started her own Chutney Mami club, inspired by “life’s delicious blends”. So far, Ratnam has hosted sessions on topics ranging from sarees, yoga and wedding planning during the pandemic, with more serious talks like depression and anxiety for dancers in the works. Ratnam shares that his love for audio dates back to All India Radio and an old restored gramophone player from his grandfather’s house. “There’s something mysterious, open and democratic about the voice,” she says in true artistic style. “We don’t know what throat it’s coming from, what the person looks like, in fact even if we did, it wouldn’t matter,” we are told.

At over 60 years old, this performer and artistic entrepreneur tells us that she has become an ardent defender of the participation of all her friends. So there’s something to be said for simple, easy-to-use technology that doesn’t induce the anxiety of saying an Instagram Live (which also grew in popularity last year due to the lockdown). Ratnam says, “I had to push my design, retail and arts friends to join us. Once they did, they loved it. Without pressure, without judgement, without worrying about lighting or someone photobombing the session, Ratnam says the platform has been a joy for his generation to tune into.

Geoffrey Thomas, radio professional

Of course, listening is only the beginning. Former Chief Operating Officer of Chennai Live FM, Geoffrey Thomas points out that audio platforms also have “sustainable power” that video content does not have. The founder of Amaranta Entertainment, which manages creative musical talent, attributes this to the fact that connectivity and space constraints aren’t a factor. And we see it with meditation halls that go on for hours on end and singer Chinmayi’s aforementioned six-hour concert. Although this can be a drawback for panel speakers. Physician and theatre-goer Rohini Rau tells us, “It can get pretty nerve-wracking to spend hours waiting for your turn to speak.” For the non-speakers in the room (the audience), on the other hand, it’s engaging every step of the way. For example, one group even staged a live theatrical production of The Lion King with a 40-member cast, changing their DPs to match their characters!

Behram Singanporia, singer

That aside, the video-free aspect also means “more bandwidth to ensure superior audio quality,” points out Behram Singanporia, leader of Best Kept Secret. “I saw musicians directing the clubhouse through a music interface that provides a studio experience to their listeners,” he tells us. And that’s likely to be better leveraged when creators can monetize their performance with “paid spaces” (already available in the US), tip jars, and subscriptions – new features in the works for social audio app creators.

There’s a big audio upswing ahead. Get ready, talk and plug in. The future is in your ears.

Roshan Cariappa

Celebrities in conversation

Roshan Cariappa who hosts the podcast Bharatvaarta (politics, politics and culture) and The Startup Operator (investment, startups and sales) tells us that informal and long conversations without the constraints of mainstream media create opportunities for rich and insightful content. So much so, he says, that best-selling authors like Amish Tripathi and Union ministers like Smriti Irani are now prioritizing audio platforms for their media delivery. It’s no wonder, then, that everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Mark Zuckerburg to Drake has joined the discussions on social audio forums.
—Contributed by Ayesha Tabassum

Illustration credits: Amit Bandre and Soumyadip Sinha

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