YouTube has been roiled by the spectacular collapse of a online video convention that’s being likened to the second coming of the infamously doomed Fyre Festival.
Thousands of YouTube fans flocked to Anaheim, California, on June 22 for TanaCon, a first-time convention created by YouTube personality Tana Mongeau. But instead of scoring selfies with online video stars like Casey Neistat and “Miranda Sings,” most fans ended up coming away with only sunburns and gift bags filled with Mongeau-branded “TanaCondoms.” Police, called to the event after angry YouTube fans starting climbing on hotel furniture, dispersed the crowd just hours after it began.
Now new statements by police and footage unearthed by another YouTube personality suggests that TanaCon was doomed from the start.
Mongeau rose to prominence on YouTube the usual way: by feuding with other vloggers and making music videos. And like other YouTube celebrities, she’s clashed with VidCon, the Viacom-owned heavyweight of the YouTube event industry, over their tight control over who qualifies for VIP status at their convention.
In April, Mongeau took her feud with VidCon a step further by announcing TanaCon, which would take place a few blocks away from VidCon on the same weekend. In an egalitarian jab at VidCon, where the cheapest tickets cost $100, TanaCon offered both $65 VIP passes and a pool of free tickets, for a combined total of about 5,000 tickets.
But when attendees arrived at the Anaheim Marriott Suites for TanaCon, they found themselves stuck outside in security lines or packed into a too-small convention hall. In an attempt to alleviate the overcrowding, TanaCon’s staff tried to get attendees already inside to leave the building, only to have irate YouTube fans start climbing on hotel furniture.
Hotel staff locked themselves inside their offices to hide from the angry ticket-holders and called the police, who eventually dispersed the crowd.
Mongeau initially blamed the disastrous convention on the surprise appearance of 15,000 unregistered people who overwhelmed the venue, which she said had a capacity of 5,000.
But in a statement released after the convention, the Garden Grove Police Department disputed Mongeau’s claim about the venue’s capacity, saying that it could only hold 1,150 people.
That raised questions about why Mongeau and the convention’s organizer, Good Times Entertainment, had sold or given away tickets to nearly 4,000 more people than the venue could hold. But police went further, disputing Mongeau’s claim that a surprise crowd of more than 15,000 people without tickets showed up up.
“Social media sites said that crowd was 20,000 and this was not accurate,” the police press release read.
Prompted by the convention chaos, Shane Dawson, a YouTube personality with more than 14 million subscribers who had been expected to appear at TanaCon, released an hour-and-a-half documentary trying to investigate how the convention went so wrong.
Mongeau and Good Times chief Michael Weist had turned on each other by the time Dawson started making his video, providing him with plenty of footage of the two of them blaming one another for a fiasco that threatens to cost them tens of thousands of dollars.
In a twist, Weist had been filming the TanaCon planning process with an eye toward making a documentary of his own about the debacle. On Monday, Dawson released footage one of Weist’s associates had filmed that showed Mongeau and Weist rapidly changing the ticket number long before the convention collapsed.
“We could drop it to 3,000 if we wanted to, instead of 5,200,” Weist says in the clip.
“We could, but are we gonna?” Mongeau responds, later adding that “people love to be oppressed outside” in lines.
Mongeau and Weist didn’t respond to requests for comment. In Dawson’s video, Mongeau says after the convention that she didn’t know the hotel’s capacity was so low.
Meanwhile, jilted TanaCon attendees are considering a class action lawsuit. As for Dawson, he’s called his decision to attend TanaCon “the worst decision I ever made.”