Clubhouse lining up for commercialisation (rumours confirmed)

James Sherwin-Smith
4 min readApr 2, 2021

UPDATED 6 APRIL 2021 00:20 AM UK time

The ability to send payments has been enabled for all. Not all can receive at this time. This will be released in waves. The sender pays the charges of 2.9% + $0.30. These are the fees for Stripe as the payment processor. Clubhouse doesn’t take a cut, the full amount chosen by the sender goes to the receiver.

This morning 2 April 2021 6am UK time I woke up to some ongoing speculation in various Clubhouse rooms that Clubhouse is on the brink of supporting in-app payments.

People familiar with the situation have reported that two new API end points have been added

“direct_payment_fee_ fixed: 0.3”

“direct_payment_fee_rate: 0.029”

As one of the Founders of the Fintech & Payments Club on Clubhouse, I have naturally been drawn into the speculation and have been asked to comment.

My personal views are as following:

What do these fees refer to?

[UPDATED] The payment processing fees paid to Stripe is made up of two components. A fixed amount of $0.30 and 2.9% of the transaction amount. These fee make up the Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) for taking a card payment. Typically when a Cardholder pays a Merchant $100 for something, the Merchant only gets to keep $96.80 if the MDR is 2.9% + $0.30. The MDR is then distributed amongst the Acquirer (who the Merchant selects to process the card payment), the Issuer of the cardholders card (also known as the interchange fees) and the card Scheme (Mastercard, Visa etc). The Issuer may in turn pass some of the Interchange less Scheme Fees to the Cardholder – eg cashback, loyalty points etc.

In this case Clubhouse has decided that senders pay the fees, so that the recipients receive the full amount. So sending $5.00 costs 5 x 0.029 + 30c = 14.5c + 30c = 45c.

What are people going to pay for on Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is still very early in its journey and growth. They still haven’t released an Android version of their app. Monetisation at this stage is very unusual (eg Advertising) as it may prove a deterrent to early user adoption.

However creators who produce content for Clubhouse have a choice of platforms to work with – and they want to get paid. So the best content producers will gravitate to the platforms wheee they can earn the most. That’s a function of:

(A) Audience x (B) Revenue per audience member – (C) Platform costs

Let’s break this down

  • (A) Clubhouse has an Audience problem relative to other platforms right now – its new, growing, but exclusive – you need an invite and an Apple device that runs iOS 13.0. I had to lend a friend an old iPhone – a lifelong Android user – to get him on Clubhouse. Nearly all the efforts by the small team have been focused on user growth – ie attract more users to signup for the platform. More users requires you to do three things well
  • 1) Attract new users – get more signups
  • 2) Develop users – make sure they have a good experiences and use Clubhouse for more hours per week
  • 3) Retain users – make sure people that are signed up, and use the platform stay with, or more important return to, the platform. There is a lot of speculation in the Clubhouse community that this is a problem for Clubhouse right now ie people join, try a few rooms the same day, don’t enjoy the experience enough to come back. Quality is a key issue here – will address this further down.
  • (B) Revenue per user – directly though the platform – is a zero for a creator on Clubhouse right now. What I have seen however is people finding ways to monetise their content outside of Clubhouse – they can sell tickets to private rooms via TicketMaster, they can cut a private deal for sponsorship for brand mentions etc, or they can just set up a simple tip jar. I have seen musicians for example that take requests live on air and put a link to their tip jar on their profile or social media profiles
  • (C) Platform costs – Clubhouse is currently free for creators and audience members alike. But the indirect costs are big – putting a great Room together takes planning and effort, may involve attracting marquee speakers (who may command an appearance fee), not to mention production gear and the creators time.

A note on Quality. I’m a big believer in the old adage “you can only manage what you can measure.” The metrics to measure room quality are few and far between. As an admin of the Fintech & Payments Club on Clubhouse we monitor a few signals to detect whether we have run a good room – the audience size and average listener time, we monitor the growth in the number of followers for the Club and the Speakers on stage, social media mentions, and a closing poll where we ask the audience to give us marks out of 10.

That might give you a signal that something is popular. But it doesn’t necessarily indicate quality, and not commercial value. Admins want to know this so they can run a better Club, and Clubhouse wants to know this so they can run a better platform and app.

A tip jar would be the obvious first choice for creator compensation – and a useful signal of Quality for Clubhouse

If I was in the Clubhouse Founders’ shoes, a tip jar would make the most sense to me at this stage. It doesn’t inhibit user growth by effectively putting up a paywall better users and content the way that some media do (eg newspapers). It allows creators to get paid for their content. And it allows Clubhouse to get another useful signal into Quality. If they know which creators are adding value to audiences, because audiences are paying them real money (and Clubhouse take a commission), then Clubhouse would naturally start to train its algorithms so that users discover great (and valuable) content.

As always, would welcome all and any feedback, either below or via direct messages.

on Medium, 26Left on Twitter and Clubhouse, Jarss81 on Instagram.



James Sherwin-Smith

Engineer by education, Consultant by experience, Entrepreneur at heart. My professional focus is #fintech & #payments, I’m an #avgeek + #cricket fan