Community-led online radio meets live-streaming across Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces
Whether you are planning a live on filmmaking or just a live-streamed jam session, the rise of drop-in audio social spaces such as Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces across India harken back to the era of community radio
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Every night, Tamil Twitter users briefly pause work from home pressures and COVID-19 updates, then sing their heart out. No judge says, ‘Your pitching needs to be better’. All they get as feedback are hearts and 100-point emojis.
Spaces has enabled the Twitterati to converse about many things, but music is definitely the one winning hearts at the moment. Over the last few weeks, spaces dedicated to composers Ilaiyaraaja, AR Rahman, Harris Jayaraj and Deva have had many users tuned in. “It never goes wrong with music. It’s not like a debate where you pick a side. Here, you can just be yourself and unwind,” says Sindhu Ganesh (@sinofagan), a Chennai-based brand development executive, who has hosted three Spaces sessions so far.
Read More | How Twitter Spaces works
That it is audio-only makes it a winner, says Sindhu. “Listening to Ilaiyaraaja’s music on radio at night and going to sleep was my thing. I wanted to recreate that atmosphere,” adds Sindhu, who also plans sessions featuring the musical works of Karthik Raja and Kamal Haasan.
Following the club
- India-made FireSide has been launched by the team behind short video app Chingari
- Leher has drop in to audio and/or video live rooms. One can even monetise their content via subscriptions and brand collabs.
- Facebook announced in mid-April that it is currently testing Live Audio Rooms. A day after that, Reddit, the ‘front page of the Internet’, unveiled Reddit Talk. Users keen on using this can add themselves to a waitlist to get in on the early testing schemes.
- Ideal for your next job hunt or to grow your network, LinkedIn Live Audio Rooms opens up a space for networking events without needing to don a blazer, brush your hair or shake someone’s hand.
But Twitter Spaces is not the pioneer of audio drop-in platforms — Clubhouse is. Over in Los Angeles, comedian-filmmaker Kiran Deol (Sunny Side Up) calls these formats “ways to socially acceptable eavesdrop.” She recalls her recent participation in a Clubhouse Room.
Read More | Clubhouse, the US$1 billion network, explained
On May 1, she had been invited by actor Fizaa Dosani (Dear White People) to a creator-first (no network-affiliated) pilot première of ‘Facial Recognition Comedy’ which had an audience of around 650 people. Here, the actors created skits around stereotypes about Indian appearances and how they relate to facial recognition technology.
Drop-in audio platform Clubhouse, launched by Alpha Exploration Co in March 2020, observed a flocking of people as ‘screen fatigue’ picked up.
The platform offers different interest-based Clubs to follow, such as ‘Startup Club’ which has more than 4,79,000 members or ‘What Are You Reading’ which has more than 90,900 members. Each of these Clubs joined will set up Rooms (audio chatrooms) that host informal fireside chats, panel discussions, or performances. You can even start your own Club or your own Room.
Clubhouse has been holding appeal for tech circles, motivational speakers and influencers but it has opened up avenues for filmmakers and comedians, agrees Deol. She explains, “Comedy, especially with the pandemic, has been able to connect people and these audio platforms can have so many people in their spaces. If you think about that in real-time, 700 people is a massive theatre.”
Unfortunately, to the dismay of many, it was an iOS-only experience with an invite-only ‘pay-it-forward’ model where one can only join the free-to-use platform if an existing user sends an invite. However, after months of anticipation, Clubhouse also opened to Android users globally this past week, widening the audience reach for such projects and ‘Facial Recognition Comedy’ was keen to include Android-toting creators too.
Read More | Kiran Deol directing and starring in thought-provoking short film ‘I Would Never’
Why does Clubhouse still hold an appeal? Deol responds, “Because it is a relatively young platform, the algorithms aren’t as curated as that of Twitter or Facebook (which have or are working on launching their own Clubhouse-like platforms). I like to be in control of what I am exploring and know I am not confined to my lane.”
However, Twitter Spaces has still garnered a crowd, despite the expected curated nature. It is worth noting Twitter, as a pre-existing platform, does not need to aggregate new users as Clubhouse does.
A good moderator for audio-only spaces, whatever the platform, is key. Deol points out a good moderator is one who periodically reintroduces the premise of what is happening so that for audiences just stepping in, it is easy to get on track. She adds that audio drop-in platforms are also a creative challenge since audience members are engaging just one sense in a wholly immersive way — so the audio content better be good.
Deol elaborates, “moderated the correct way, it can create a level of intimacy that is hard to achieve. That is the same quality you are looking to do when you’re on stage as a comedian. Plus, in audio-only, people aren’t forced to look at an image of themselves; they can detach into this conduit into a different world. With comedy, you have to leave space for laughter, so the rhythm of talking is different. A lot of it depends on how engaged your audience is as well.”
An intimate space
While Clubhouse gets the ball rolling on chats on future projects and thinkers, Twitter Spaces has been engaging elements of nostalgia.
Music lover and a senior executive in an IT firm, Ashwath Ram (@bultaulta), hosted a hit session too, called SPA, aimed to be a musical representation of the songs of Sean Roldan, Pradeep Kumar and Anirudh.
While the session saw more than 500 people turn up, the big surprise was when singer-composer Sean Roldan joined the session, and enthralled people with a few songs, including an impromptu duet of his hit ‘Adiye Azhage’ song with a female listener.
“It was a healthy platform for people to express their musicality,” says Sean, “Of late, we are used to seeing people sing in front of a camera. That reduces the mystery, which is an aspect that makes music beautiful,” says Sean who himself plans to host Spaces sessions soon, and connect with more music lovers. “As it is audio-only, it gives us a chance to relish the tune and music for what it is rather than banking on visual appeal.”
It is the nature of the platform — to listen to different voices in a short time — that works for Ashwath. “Before the pandemic, we were used to frequenting many public places, like a bus stop, or a neighbourhood shop, where we hear so many people talk. Now, because we are largely indoors, we end up listening to only the voices of family members… and this is a great place that takes you back to a time when you were surrounded by people,” he explains.
Ashwath, who plans to hold other musical spaces in the future, reasons, “We grew up trying to call ‘Pepsi Uma’ and FM stations asking for them to play our favourite songs. This trend is an extension of that. Non-trained singers also get instant validation for their efforts here.”
As more Clubhouse-like apps trickle in, Deol concludes that the experience, regardless of the platform, is universal — “it’s still intimate, it’s still about feel-good entertainment.”
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