Spotify joined the live audio game last week with Greenroom. 

It’s done via a reskinned Locker Room app that Spotify bought in March for an estimated $50 million USD.

It now joins Twitter (Spaces), Facebook (Live Audio) and first-mover Clubhouse in the competitive market of live audio offerings.

Greenroom gives content creators another platform to connect to an audience and Spotify has announced it will be launching a Spotify Creator Fund, to help live audio creators monetise their work, which is a great idea because as we’ll see the content part of the equation isn’t there yet.

There are a few key differentiators between Spotify’s Greenroom and similar live audio apps; content is recorded by Spotify for moderation purposes, a live text chat feature scrolls along the bottom of your screen and hosts can request the audio file of their session post-event which they can then edit and turn into a podcast episode.

Greenroom allows users worldwide to join or host live audio rooms, which sounds great in theory, but when I tried it today it reminded me more of a chaotic conference call or a customer complaint line.

In multiple rooms I popped into users were still getting to grips with the new app and/or reconnecting in Greenroom with their Clubhouse buddies (“Clubhouse turned to sh*t” lamented one – “I hope this app does it right.”)

That aside there’s plenty of potential if you find a room that stokes your interest – and, on the face of it, that shouldn’t be difficult. 

There are rooms for sports, news, entertainment, business, tech, design, lifestyle and arts and crafts among others.

Get a room

At the moment users need to download the Greenroom app – which looks just like the Spotify app – but clearly there’s plans afoot to roll the Greenroom function directly into Spotify at a later stage.

Users can log in with their Spotify credentials, or not as the case may be, but then must create a Greenroom account. 

This requires giving your name and date of birth and uploading a photo – Greenroom stress that you need to use your real name as this helps if people want to invite you into their rooms – but some on the app used pseudonyms, but be aware your existing Spotify username will also be attached to the profile if you sign in using your Spotify credentials.

Then you get to a screen where you can choose what categories you are interested in. These include entertainment, Music, Football, Gaming, News and Knowledge and Lifestyle.

Categories are then broken down to more specific interests – for example you can select from among Brazil, Argentina, English premier league and MLS Football in the Football category.

Once you’re in the app you can browse groups and join whatever room’s live that takes your fancy.

I peeked into one room called Virtual Coffee Shop where a man was rapping in Farsi. That was good but then a woman started singing a song she had just written about a bad relationship and, let’s just say she was no Joni Mitchell, and I was out of the room after a verse.

To get on stage just get a host to invite you. You let them know you’re keen to speak by pressing the green “Ask to Speak” button and wait your turn. Anyone can ask to speak and do, as I spent much of today discovering, and that’s great, but also means that most rooms I visited didn’t hold my interest or have value. 

Not all content is king.

Gem mining

Oh and Greenroom has a “currency”. 

They’re called Gems – a hangover from Locker Room – and these can be given to people as a reward for input or just so they’ll give you gems back. It’s similar to Facebook’s Like button, but the reward is attached to your profile. 

If it was a way of enabling hosts to identify an interesting contributor, that’s been compromised – as there was plenty of “gem mining” – give me one I’ll give you one – going on.

But here’s the problem – multiple rooms I popped into were full of people selling themselves in some form or another, at least the woman singing her sad song put some effort into her performance.

I lost count of the times I heard speakers say a variation on – “I’m a chef and podcaster and web developer – you can follow me on Instagram…love you all – and gems are gratefully accepted!”

It was like a cross between an open mic night and the tail end of boozy marketing convention.

The one room I really wanted to get into – hosted by The Ringer’s Bill Simmons – on the week in the NBA – was full.

How a virtual room can be full with just 1057 people in it is a mystery only Spotify developers know, and it’s an example of an app that was glitchy and felt like it was in beta-mode. 

I heard something like this in many rooms I visited.

“Kathy’s two over from me five rows down – can you see her?”

“No I can’t see her… if I can’t see her I can’t invite her up. Just yell her name and hopefully she’ll hear us.”

“Put your phone in airplane mode for a few seconds and then switch back, apparently it resets the app.”

“Sorry I was on mute… I’m ok now, I think. Can you hear me?”

“Hang on, I’ll move you to the stage. Sorry, I can’t move you to the stage, you’ll have to speak from the audience.”

The room is then filled with the sound of a woman carrying on a conversation with her kids, she’s oblivious to the fact that it’s being listened to by the entire 227 people in the room.

“Hey – if you’re talking now we can hear you, please mute yourself, don’t leave the app open and then go and do something else, we can hear you!”

Other complaints included hosts creating rooms then being locked out of rooms they were in, or hosts leaving rooms without hitting “end room” which left the room open, and the inability of users to find the mute function.

The search function is dodgy too – search for NFL and a weird array of groups pop up – none of them NFL related. But search “football” and you get groups for individual NFL teams. Strange.

First day jitters aside there’s potential here, especially for interactive podcasts by people like Simmons and other personalities or brands that can use the platform to communicate with their audience live, or allow a large group to experience and react to an event – or post-event – live together.

I expect the app problems are an easy fix; Greenroom and Spotify now need to up the content game.

As it is, you enter a room and take your chances.