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Black creators, not Elon Musk, deserve credit for popularizing Clubhouse

The Clubhouse app icon features Black musician Bomani X grinning at his guitar
REUTERS/Florence Lo
Bomani X, the current face of Clubhouse, is one of many Black creators who helped create buzz around the app.
  • Nicolás Rivero
By Nicolás Rivero

Tech Reporter based in New York


Elon Musk has gotten a lot of credit for driving Clubhouse’s recent and explosive growth. Indeed, shortly after the Tesla CEO made his first and only appearance on the app on the night of Jan. 31, it blew up in China and hit the top spot in the app stores in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Wired reports that the app jumped from 3 to 5 million users “almost overnight.”

But data on daily downloads from the mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower suggest that Musk was not a leader but a well-timed follower. He jumped into Clubhouse after the app was already on its way to the moon 🚀.

The people who put Clubhouse on that path were longtime users—many of them Black creators—who generated a steady drumbeat of viral moments and hype that set the stage for future growth. One of the biggest moments was the Clubhouse production of The Lion King, which built buzz around the app from its well-attended public auditions in November to its back-to-back performances on Dec. 26. Like Musk’s conversation with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, the Lion King performances reached their maximum capacity of 5,000 viewers and sparked chatter on Twitter.

For what it’s worth, in the four days after the Lion King moment, Clubhouse downloads nearly doubled, while Musk’s viral moment preceded a 15% increase in downloads over the following four days.

The Lion King performance was organized by Black creators who have made Clubhouse their own, including guitarist Bomani X, currently featured on the app’s icon. They have been credited with transforming the Clubhouse scene from its early days as a tech bro hangout into a more vibrant and diverse platform that could attract a wider audience beyond Silicon Valley.

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