Clubhouse is a phenomenon at the moment. The invite-only audio app is becoming popular during the lockdown and has risen up the App Store ranks. Users join clubs or rooms for live audio conversations. The experience is similar to listening to podcasts but instead, you can speak up and get involved in the conversation. When audio rooms are small listeners are able to speak when invited up by the host. The problem is when rooms get large it’s really just live digital radio. Most people don’t get to ask a question or voice their opinion.
Sound Branch is more democratic and inclusive. If Clubhouse is the synchronous social audio app then Sound Branch is its asynchronous twin. Sound Branch is audio-only but is asynchronous in nature. Whilst Clubhouse is live Sound Branch is on-demand and works by users posting voice notes and listening when they want to.
There are pros and cons to Clubhouse’s twin Sound Branch. It’s good to frame the differences between the two audio apps with the similarities between listening to live music vs playing songs on Spotify. Whilst the majority of people would find a live music experience more memorable the vast majority of people don’t attend live music events. Instead, they listen to streaming music on their chosen smartphone apps. Clubhouse is a live experience Sound Branch’s strength is it’s on-demand nature.
On Clubhouse you have people joining audio rooms from around the world. Some people join in the middle of the night others early in the morning. It’s fair to say that some people don’t join because they’re asleep. Clubhouse does not record audio so there’s no way of playing back any sessions that you miss. You can speak to people on Clubhouse using audio but you can’t share a hyperlink, add images or text. Sound Branch allows you to add images, links and text to voice messages.
Clubhouse started very exclusively with venture capitalists and various celebrities before opening up to the public. Currently, people are given a number of invites they can send on. Much of the success of Clubhouse has been born out of it scarcity and it’s exclusivity. Sound Branch is quite the opposite. There is no waitlist for Sound Branch which makes it inclusive for anyone who wants to sign up for a free account. Not only is the audio app free but it’s accessible via Alexa, Google Assistant, iOS, Android and the web. Clubhouse currently is only available on iOS. Clubhouse and Sound Branch share similar traits being united by audio but they are divided by their approach.
Sound Branch means time zones don’t matter because you can tune in when you want. You can post voice notes and everything is recorded and transcribed. Transcriptions mean that all the audio is searchable and accessible. You can even create a traditional podcast from the social audio curated from Sound Branch. This works through playlists where are you can invite other users to join in the conversation. You can re-order voice notes, delete voice notes which are inappropriate and publish to major podcasting platforms such as Apple podcasts, Spotify and Google podcasts.
Sound Branch is learning from Clubhouse and will soon launch live audio. Sound Branch started in 2016 and is the older of the two audio apps. Both apps are well suited to the pandemic and social distancing where we often find a lack of empathy online. People are tired of video calls and want the ability to multitask. Listening to audio allows you to cook, garden or do other work simultaneously.
If you’ve got screaming kids in the background or other inappropriate noise you can mute yourself on Clubhouse but you do miss out. Alternatively, Sound Branch gives you greater flexibility when handling interruptions. You can join a conversation even if your environment is noisy. You simply wait for a quiet pause and then post your short voice note and playback audio. This means you can still be part of conversations rather than missing out.
Clubhouse audio rooms can last many hours. Sound Branch and it’s asynchronous nature means that conversations can go on for many days, not just many hours. On Clubhouse an audio room naturally comes to an end. Conversations on Sound Branch, in theory, can go on forever.
In conclusion, there is a golden age of podcasting. Podcasting doesn’t have a social graph and is quite one-dimensional. Both Clubhouse and Sound Branch make audio social. You can meet new and interesting people globally in both applications. Which one you choose really comes down to how much time you’ve got and what is your mood. If you don’t have an iPhone you will have to wait for Clubhouse. Sound Branch is already available for all smartphones, smart speakers and the web.
If you don’t like being put on the spot and you’re introverted then Sound Branch allows you to pause to think before you speak. There is no simple answer to whether live audio or async audio is better. It really does depend on the use case. I can imagine many cash-rich time-poor individuals finding Sound Branch more efficient in fostering conversations. Sound Branch and it’s audio-on-demand nature gives greater flexibility for busy schedules diaries and other personal commitments that we all have to juggle.
Clubhouse has helped with the renaissance of the audio medium. It will be one of many apps that start to change the way we communicate and interact. Clubhouse and Sound Branch are both a force for good against fake reviews and fake news. The empathy of audio and its authenticity is a breath of fresh air rippling through the Internet. It’s getting people talking more and texting less. Bring on the audio revolution. I can see users who join audio rooms on Clubhouse continuing over on Sound Branch so that conversations never end.