Photo courtesy of 380 Creative
Five years ago it almost couldn’t be imagined. What would happen if nearly 200 online celebrities and their fans were put at the same resort for one weekend? Would there be a huge turnout? Well, I’ve been to two years of Playlist Live and I can tell you: It is the most mind-bending experience I have ever had. And I loved every second of it.
Last year I was simply not ready. I packed my bags and headed down to Florida thinking I would braid Zoella’s hair while we talked about boys in a hot tub with the Jacksgap twins. Then I arrived and noticed nearly 3000 other fans had the exact same idea I did. There would be blood. 2013 Playlist Live gave me a lot of lessons:
1) you should never go expecting to meet your favorite YouTuber–you might meet him/ her but it will be fleeting. Accept it. There are thousands of other UNDISCOVERED pretty boys to make out with in the hot tub.
2) If you are really nice to YouTubers and don’t scream in thier face they might just come to like you and look at you as a friend for the weekend. (Hi, Vincent Cyr. Hi, Jack Howard. Hi, Chris Bingham)
3) TEENAGE GIRLS ARE ABSOLUTELY CRAZY AND NONE OF YOU–NONE OF YOU!!!!–SHOULD EVER TRY TO BLOCK THEM FROM MEETING THEIR FAVORITE YOUTUBER
With that in mind I made my way to 2014’s Playlist Live full of hope and rejuvination. And also feeling grateful that I was able to meet some of the more popular attractions last year when they were way more accessible. (My thoughts are still with Grace Heilbig having to listen to a fan try to convince her that she should REALLY talk to his cousin about doing a collaboration. She was trying so hard to look interested)
I was more prepared for the insanity that would happen this year so when I first arrived and noticed the resort lobby was OVERFLOWING with teens and twentysomethings screaming, running around and taking selfies, I was not surprised. Playlist Live is where the Internet explodes and vomits hormones. This year I was roomming with two great friends I made last year, Khalena and Sandra which made my experience far more enjoyable. Staying at the resort, which was booked solid with very little parental supervision, meant at times it was like one big slumber party. If I were to walk down to the pool at 3 am I would still find about fifty people hanging out and eating a pizza. The attendees at Playlist never really slept.
The first day of activities brought out an absurd number of people snaking around the entire resort. I was prepared for screaming and crying but I was not prepared for just HOW MANY PEOPLE WOULD BE TRYING TO GET IN AT 11 AM. Due to some crafty line cutting and sweet talking, I was able to get in about fifteen minutes after landing in line. I heard as I was walking in that the first ones to get in had lined up as early as 4 am. The thirst for YouTubers was all too real.
One thing I did not explore enough my first time at Playlist was the panels. I had decided early on that I was going to try to go to as many as possible and forget about the signings. I spent way too much time in line last year and not enough time learning and networking. I made a conscious effort to change that this year and it was a very smart decision for me. Playlist had some incredible panels this year, particularly Talk hosted by Chris Bingham. Before attending Talk I had no idea who he or Jack Howard were. But after sliding in I found a much needed intelligent debate happening; finally a break from the screaming. Talk provided a chance for me to see how vlogging can be used for so much more than just games or challenges. The premise is simple: every few weeks Chris rounds up a varied panel of debaters to discuss prominent social issues. It was one of the smaller panels, but also one of the liveliest. I felt for one of the first times all weekend, excitement from hearing such strongly voiced opinions. No one from the audience or panel held back in discussing their views. It was riveting. At the conclusion of the panel I stuck around to tell Chris how much I enjoyed the discussion. After thanking me graciously he asked,”Will you do me a favor though? If you see anyone from Playlist will you tell them that. We need more panels like this and they need to know people like it so we can come back.” Thoughtful discussions like this happened in small doses at Playlist but from the response I saw at Talk, I know there is an audience for it.
Another incredible panel was the Project Library panel following directly after. By chance I sat with some of the creators of London’s Summer in the City and a YouTube starlet, who’s name I never caught, but who’s Twitter was BLOWING UP any time she would tweet. It was surprising to me just how many smaller creators came to Playlist–these were people I had never heard of and I pride myself on being in the know of everything internet-related. But their fans came out in droves. In the 40 minutes I sat at the Project Library panel, at least ten fans came up nervously requesting autographs or selfies from the pretty girl next to me. It had become clear to me by the end of the weekend that if you unleash content on the internet, teens WILL find you and you will have an audience.
The last panel I really enjoyed was How To Make A Short Film On A Small Budget. I had the chance to get some invaluable advice from Sawyer Hartman, artist to artist, which I greatly appreciated. I found time and time again over the weekend, that if a YouTuber is approached as a fellow creator they will almost always respond with friendliness. Another shining force on the panel was the Hillywood girls. The sisters offered warm, hilarious advice to questions at the panel and were by far some of the sweetest people I met at Playlist. The eagerness they had in meeting their fans and actually listening to them was touching.
I might have met Grace Heilbig easily last year, but that would not be the case this year. Fresh off the success of her movie Camp Takota, Grace and her friends Mamrie and Hannah Hart (also known as the Holy Trinity to fans) had a screening party for their film on Saturday night. It was by far the most attended “panel” hosted over the weekend and proved that YouTubers can create a successful film on their own. Their meetup subsequently was insanely hard to get into. Only 200 of about 1000 were allowed in for a chance at meeting the women. That’s great news for the Trinity, but not so great for fans who were left crying on the floor for being left out.
One YouTuber I met in 2013 who was certainly having a different year was Connor Franta. In 2013, Connor was able to navigate through the convention anonymously. I met him in passing while walking through the convention hall. He was nice, if not a little shy, and surprised that anyone knew he who he was. This year he was headlining the O2L main stage Q&A and being chased by fangirls wanting selfies with him, Troye Sivan and Tyler Oakley as they were leaving for the airport. (I know because Troye almost ran into me as they quickly tried to escape.) Connor is just a small representation of how fast the Internet can make someone famous in a matter of months. Two months ago Connor made a video announcing he was leaving O2L, clarifying that the stress was getting to be too much. I felt for him and other famous YouTubers–at times the amount of fans there wanting a piece of their favorite star was overwhelming. At a convention like this it’s easy for fans to feel like they never have to share. But with only so many cute YouTubers wandering the resort, some would have to share.
The fans are intense; that is not an exaggeration. For one signing, Mazzie Maz stood in line for 8 hours at the pool taking pictures and receiving hugs. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was contributing to the insanity and exhaustion he must have been feeling by coming up to say he’s a champ for standing there for so long. And it wasn’t just YouTubers who had fans. If you are pretty, white and a boy, odds are girls are going to eventually ask you if you are “someone.” On the second day at Playlist, I heard a girl run up to a normal teenage boy and proclaim, “I have no idea you are but you are really cute and look important. So I want a selfie.” He obliged.
The idea of us vs them for fans is a troubling idea. Many fans do not understand why extra measures should be taken to keep them from their favorite YouTuber. “They’re just like us,” one girl told me, annoyed. “Why do they have to be in a separate tower with security there 24/7? That makes it so exclusive.” But when a boy breaks into the tower to find Tyler Oakley and is carried out by security, satisfied for scaring the shit out of him “even though he acknowledged me”, the reason for preventive measures is apparent. YouTubers ARE just like us, and that is partly the reason for their success, but when they are all in one place with 5000 fans wanting a piece of them, there has to be limits. I was impressed by the security measures taken by Playlist to protect their biggest stars, though. Security escorts and separate towers are necessary. While fan interaction is everything at this event, so is the creator’s safety.
Playlist Live is best experienced at night, after hours. In these hours the YouTubers become alittle more loose. Our Pizza Gang, a now defunct group of boys who made funny videos, held (what else) a pizza party. I noticed a herd of girls mobbing a pretty blonde boy who was holding a pizza box and taking selfies. “Who is that?” I asked a young girl craning her neck to get a picture. “It’s Alex from Our Pizza Gang,” she said incredulously. Only on the internet, I thought, would a group be named after Pizza. I made a mental note to look them up when I got home. (for the record: Alex Ernst, the boy in question, is actually funny.) Sam Pepper, a tempestuous British YouTuber, also made an appearance; if only to cause more insanity. Ignoring many of the fangirls gathering around him to gawk, he knocked over one of the lights in the tanning area and caused mass destruction as one of his “pranks.” Throughout the night boys in their hotel rooms would regularly flash their abs to the girls by the pools. Screaming would predictably ensue.
At 2 AM, I found myself surrounded by twenty new friends playing Cards Against Humanity while eating, yes, pizza at the pool. We all knew nothing about each other, but our love of internet culture and being witty had bonded us for a few hours. I laughed so much that night, and I became so full of gratefulness for being able to experience an event as weird, unique and in the moment as this.
One of the most touching and subtle moments of Playlist are the connections made. The common thread of everyone at the convention is a love of self-created content and the freedom to take your career into your own hands. No one is really a stranger to you at Playlist. In an unspoken way, we all understand each other. Every morning and night I would find new YouTubers from Tower 3 standing at their windows watching us, as we watched them. We would wave, sometimes for ten or fifteen minutes. I still have no idea who I was waving to but it didn’t matter. It was an oddly touching way to interact with someone. One morning I sat looking down at the insanity in the common area and noticed a shirtless guy in Tower 3 across from me sitting in the same position, also taking it in. We acknowledged each other every once in a while. No words were spoken, but there didn’t need to be any. “What are we actually apart of this weekend?” I asked myself, not quite sure I would know the answer any time soon.
Beyond the fan meetups, the merchandise sold and the performances constantly happening, Playlist Live gives viewers the chance to come together in a secret society that no one really understands unless they’re in it. I didn’t expect when I came home for anyone to be impressed by who I had gotten into philosophical debates about YouTube with. I didn’t anticipate anyone even understanding the point of Playlist Live unless they understood why YouTube is such an incredible network of influential people. But for that weekend, it was a surreal melting pot of personalities and interactions.
As I left Monday, I felt a heaviness that this weekend of inspiration and interaction would be coming to an end. I had met so many wonderful people and had received some great advice from many people I admire. It is a bit surreal to be in the same place as all of your favorite YouTubers. At any given moment you might find yourself sitting next to someone you’ve spent the last year watching. And if you take the time to actually talk to them you might realize, they’re just like you. They’re just as surprised and overwhelmed to be at this same crazy convention as all of us. They’re your friends.
I’ve included a few pictures from the weekend so take a look! If you have any memories from Playlist, join in on the discussion!
one of my favorite people I met over the weekend, Jack Howard!
the crowd for the British Boyband