Having recently spent a weekend at VidCon, NMR knows a good fan convention when it sees one. And the Tumblr-themed DashCon held over this previous weekend has already become a fan convention of legendary proportions — for all the worst reasons. The interweb wires have been crackling with hashtags and first-person accounts aimed at the nightmare that was DashCon. We almost envy the people who who were there — but not really. The way Twitter describes it, it had to be akin to the sinking of the Titanic. At least nobody died. But then again, the Titanic didn’t have a ball pit.
What made DashCon the poster child for terrible conventions? In a word: everything. Initially started in 2013 as an IndieGoGo campaign seeking to raise $5,000 for a convention centered around all things Tumblr, the campaign came in short, raising only $4,000. It didn’t help that the kickbacks offered to those who donated were lame — the difference between a $5 donation and a $100 donation was essentially a three ounce bag of tea and 10 business cards.
But they decided to go forward with it anyhow, promising attendees in the Chicago area that there would be a prom and a ball pit and kickass panels by kickass Tumblr stars … And then Tumblr forced the event to change its name from Tumbl-Con USA to the less-connected DashCon (as they had no legal ties to Tumblr).
And yet, the organizers speculated that they would draw somewhere between 5,000-8,000 attendees. You can see how this is setting up to go bad, right?
Impressively, charging a steep $65 in advance for tickets ($80 at the door), the backing group pulled in something like 1,000-1,200 attendees — far, far short of what they needed to be profitable, but still, it was better than nobody.
And then the real fleecing began.
Apparently the DashCon folks put out an emergency request to generate an additional $17,000 to pay for the hotel space or they would allegedly be drummed out and the convention would be cancelled. And then when they actually managed to get that money out of attendees, they changed the asking price to $20,000. Hmm, that’s not suspicious at all.
And then the main draw of the convention, a reading by the podcast group Welcome To Night Vale — a panel people had to pay extra to attend — canceled after the panel crowd had been sitting, waiting for over an hour. Turns out the DashCon people couldn’t afford to pay the Night Vale people and so they walked.
By way of apology, the DashCon people offered the miffed panel crowd — get this — an extra hour in the ball pit” — the famous ball pit being a six-person kiddie pool in a largely empty industrial space. Oh God, this makes me cringe so hard.
What ever happened to DashCon is largely up for debate. The Tumblr crowd has already put out hit lists on festival organizers, and the hotel has denied it demanded the cash payment up front (the pathetically basic DashCon website refutes this and offers up a heavily blanked out “contract” as proof).
Was this just an inept group of wannabes attempting to throw a legitimate all-things-Tumblr convention that went south? Or was this, as much of the internet is postulating, a convention con job — a money grab that was never supposed to be anything in the first place? Only a select few know this answer for real, and right now they don’t seem to be talking. One thing is for sure though — at least one person had a good time … sorta:
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