In 2014, there was DashCon. Last year, there was FyreFest. Now, 2018 will be remembered by its own kind of inscrutable hell: TanaCon. There's nothing the world loves watching more than one slow, painful fuck up, and with a year that literally started with a YouTuber disrespectfully filming a dead body, it makes sense that YouTubers would be at the center of pop culture's latest dumpster fire.
On the weekend of June 22-23, YouTuber Tana Mongeau planned a VidCon alternative called TanaCon after she felt disrespected by VidCon when they did not give her a Featured Creator badge. Depending on where you time spend on the internet, that sentence may not make an ounce of sense, so let's break it down.
Who is Tana Mongeau?
A 20-year-old YouTuber who posts vlogs, which are videos where she vents her frustrations with things that happen to her ("MY TINDER DATE TRIED TO FUCK MY BEST FRIEND IN FRONT OF ME"), video challenges such as The Chapstick Challenge and reading mean tweets, and other playful content that's earned her over three million subscribers.
What is VidCon?
An annual convention for YouTubers and other online video creators that was founded in 2010 by Hank and John Green, authors and the duo behind Vlogbrothers.
What is a "Featured Creator" badge?
A designation for creators who have been invited by the convention to participate in official events like panels and meet and greets.
Why wasn't Mongeau given one?
Mongeau was previously kicked out of VidCon in 2017 and caused issues in 2016 for her mobs of fans that were reportedly a security hazard
And, so, what is TanaCon?
In response to this snub, Mongeau announced the creation of TanaCon, her own YouTube convention hosted at the Anaheim Marriott Suites — just down the street from VidCon. It also boasted a similar lineup of creators. However, Mongeau stressed that her convention was different from VidCon because of her promise to provide free tickets. In her vision, attendees would be comprised of mostly those who bought free tickets, and a smaller number of attendees who bought VIP tickets (around $65) which got them a goody bag and allowed them to skip the line to get in.
June 22 rolls around, and over the course of roughly eight hours, everything goes up in flames. There's not enough room at the hotel to hold the estimated 5,000 attendees (remember this number, it's important), leaving about 80% of those who showed up, regardless of whether they purchased free or VIP tickets, stuck in line in the sun:
Those who did make it in were met with nothing but chaos:
And VIPs who received a goodie bag, which Mongeau advertised as "worth more than quadruple the price of the whole ticket," were met with this:
The lines, lack of food, insufficient security, and complete disorganization swiftly came to a head. The event was shut down after day one, and Mongeau, as well as Good Times, the company behind the convention, blamed the pandemonium on the crowd size (which she says was around 15,000 to 20,000 people) and the large number of attendees she said hadn't gotten tickets and instead just showed up.
i just want to reiterate 20,000 people showed up outside which is unsafe anywhere and security and safety is my number one priority. we were told vidcon itself was holding around 20,000 and we are so mind blown— Tana Mongeau (@tanamongeau) June 22, 2018
Alarm bells started going off — and I don't just mean in the Anaheim Marriott. Longtime YouTuber Shane Dawson, a special guest at the convention with over 14 million subscribers on his channel, voiced what everyone was thinking in an Instagram Live shortly after the disaster. Judging by pictures, there definitely weren't 15,000 to 20,000 people outside the venue. So if that's not the reason everything imploded, what is?
Theories abounded, but it came down to this: Either Mongeau was lying, Good Times was lying, or they both were lying in a purposeful effort to scam attendees and create a viral moment.
Turns out, Dawson was about to have a moment of his own. Having found himself in the middle of the disaster, he created a three-part video series to get to the bottom of it.
What was previously a scandal exclusive to the YouTube community reached a more mainstream audience as the documentary itself went viral, not unlike true crime documentaries like Making A Murderer and the podcast Serial.
Shane Dawsons series about Tanacon is managing to make a documentary about a failed social media convention feel like a documentary about Watergate. It’s very good.— Brandon Calvillo (@BJCalvillo) July 3, 2018
The series is a lot of he-said, she-said. Mongeau said she was told the venue would fit 5,000 people. She claims she was told a majority of the tickets sold were free tickets, so VIPs shouldn't have had to wait in line. She said she specifically asked for adequate security (around 91 guards), space, food, and water. Good Times claims Mongeau was aware that the attendees were mostly VIPs, and that she was barely involved in the planning.
After almost two hours of investigation, here's what Dawson dug up:
1. The "Good Times" company that ran the convention consists of just one 21-year-old named Michael Weist.
2. The official number of VIP tickets sold was 5,108; the number of free tickets was between 200 and 300.
3. According to the security contract, there were only 25 security guards.
4. According to the contract with Marriott, the estimated attendance was 1,000 people. It was signed by Weist, who, from the beginning, is captured on video repeatedly saying the attendance would be 5,000 people.
5. The money made from ticket sales totaled around $325,000. That money is being held by the ticket company Veeps. Weist signed a contract with Veeps promising that if tickets needed to be refunded, the funds would come from his company. His company which is...just him.
Despite the truths that came out, both Mongeau and Weist seem happy with how the documentary turned out, taking to Twitter to address the aftermath. Mongeau, Weist, and Dawson did not immediately return Refinery29's request for comment.
very excited to see the final episode and i'm so appreciative to shane for showcasing EVERYTHING in full transparency. i am so lucky to have someone to have helped me with all of this and i'm excited to turn over a new leaf and make things right— Tana Mongeau (@tanamongeau) June 29, 2018
Thank you @shanedawson for letting me share my side of the story through you. I appreciate your kindness to allow both Tana and I to answer questions.— Michael Weist (@TheMichaelWeist) July 2, 2018
I apologize the event failed to go as planned, but I am working w/ both Shane & Tana to find a solution. We will make it right.
So, no, it wasn't a conspiracy to fail on purpose and become a viral moment, which Dawson originally floated in his Instagram Live. In fact, it's pretty much exactly what you think would happen if two creators in their extremely early 20s decided to assemble a convention in two months to rival an established one run by a full company of people who host conventions for a living. But that doesn't make the damage any less real.
"I heard a lot of people joking...that we were sipping champagne and laughing or whatever, but no," he wrote. "Our head of security said to me, 'This is like watching all of my nightmares happen in real life.' It was scary and I was frustrated and sad and angry following it on social media like everyone else. I think this is bad for all YouTube conferences."
He goes on to stress that it's important to understand the power in YouTube communities, and what we owe each other as consumers and creators.
Speaking of...about that $325,000.
In Dawson's video, Weist stresses repeatedly that he's going to lose his house; that he's ruined. In short, he doesn't know how he's going to refund all the tickets. In the end, Veeps, the ticket company, will be refunding those who purchased tickets through its website.
YES! 🙌🏻 Heres how to get a #Tanacon REFUND! (in case u missed this email) thank u @veepsofficial for doing this. I’m still gonna work on more ways to make it up to everyone who travelled (special free meet ups in the next year) but for now, this is awesome! ❤️🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/UMs5fFjjLJ— Shane Dawson (@shanedawson) July 4, 2018
Next year, Mongaeu promises things will be better.