How TanaCon Fell Apart In One Day

25 June 2018, 16:07

TanaCon
TanaCon. Picture: Other

By Josh Lee

It promised to take on the biggest YouTuber convention on earth, but fatal flaws led to TanaCon's downfall

An influencer-owned YouTuber convention that sticks it to the man (better known as VidCon) while giving fans more opportunities to meet their faves for free sounds amazing, but when YouTuber Tana Mongeau tried to do just that this weekend, vision and outcome didn't align.

What promised to be a weekend full of meet-ups, entertainment and performances without the cost that going to established YouTube conventions can incur, soon turned into thousands of fans waiting around in the Californian heat for several hours only to be told they could not enter TanaCon. By the end of day one, with the event's safety appearing to be compromised by the sheer heft of attendees, TanaCon was abandoned.

So what went wrong with TanaCon?

Perhaps the clearest misjudgement was the lack of time spent on planning. Conventions are huge, complex events with a myriad of risks to mitigate, logistics to pin down and administration to complete. TanaCon was first announced back in April 2018, and while we can't be sure when planning released, we know two things:

1. TanaCon was created as a "f*ck you" to VidCon

2. Tana was told she wouldn't be invited to 2018 VidCon around March 24th.

From this, we can make a pretty educated guess that TanaCon was planned from mid-March 2018 at the latest - just three months. In a way, TanaCon appeared to share many of the same ambitions as the original Summer In The City, in that both are creator-led and placed emphasis on community and inclusion, rather than subscriber counts. The glaring difference is that Tana had a slew of megawatt YouTube stars signed up to attend the event; Everyone from Shane Dawson and Bella Thorne to The Gabbie Show and Elijah Daniel was listed as attending on the convention's now-deleted website. Advertising such insanely popular YouTubers for a free event was bound to cause huge levels of interest, and understandably led to the convention selling out. However, selling out wasn't the issue at hand.

Tana had allotted 5,000 tickets for the weekend, but according to various sources 15,000 extra unregistered guests turned up, all expecting to get in. While it was perhaps naive for Tana to believe only registered guests would turn up to a free event, it would be hard to pin responsibility on her for overcrowding - after all, nobody would blame Beyoncé if too many people turned up to one of her shows without a ticket expecting to get in. However it appears as though Tana actually encouraged people to turn up regardless of registration - she tweeted that fans should just "roll through" because it's "free" in the days leading up to the event.

Tana Mongeau tweeting about TanaCon
Tana Mongeau tweeting about TanaCon. Picture: Twitter

Herein lies the problem with influencer-led events planning. It's not that it's something YouTubers aren't capable of; after all, the UK's highly successful Summer In The City convention was founded by YouTubers. But taking on the role of events organiser means your words carry weight in a way that you don't have to think of when you're just a creator. Whether or not Tana meant "just roll through" with a ticket or not, careless communication gives fans the opportunity to interpret what you say in whichever way works best for them.

With so many people heading to TanaCon, minor problems were magnified; a lack of water and shade, which would have been fixable for a couple of hundred extra people, suddenly became insurmountable when organisers were having to cater to 15,000+. There were also issues with the VIP Gift-bags; while Tana claimed they would have contents worth quadruple the $65 VIP ticket price, in reality guests were given a bracelet and a condom, the latter of which raises further questions, considering YouTube convention attendees tend to be younger than the age of consent.

Throughout the planning and promotion process, Tana had spoken about offering things that weren't deliverable. Prior to the event being cancelled Tana had said she was "debating adding a third day" to the weekend, which would only lead to more disappointment when the whole weekend was eventually binned.

It's Event Management 101, really. Publicising unconfirmed event details will raise expectations, when really expectations needed to be managed. It's not that Tana was deliberately trying to mislead people; but through trying to please absolutely everyone, nobody really got what they wanted from the weekend.

After several hours on uncertainty, the plug was pulled on TanaCon, with creator events company Good Times explaining that they were "unable to secure a plan that would ensure... safety," leaving some fans who had travelled down without an event to go to.

There are several lessons to be learned, with the most important being that it's not a smart idea to put on a convention out of spite. Had Tana decided to plan something for six months down the line, or perhaps even a year, we may have seen a real alternative to VidCon. But whether or not it was Tana's intention, through poor planning and overpromising, from the outside it appears as though using her clout to get back at VidCon was more important than creating a truly valuable experience for creators and fans.