Last year, my kids and I decided that we wanted to attend a Youtube convention in 2017. The dates and distance to travel for Vidcon didn’t work for us this year, so we decided that we would go to Playlist Live. Orlando is within driving distance, and the dates fit into our schedule. I bought tickets as soon as they were available in October 2016 to take advantage of the cheaper pricing. Standard tickets were $125 covering events on Saturday and Sunday, and the business ticket I purchased for $250 included an extra day of business sessions on Friday.
Playlist Live Orlando is at the Marriott World Center resort hotel, which is an absolutely spectacular facility. The hotel was beautiful and clean in spite of the chaos of this event. The hotel staff was exceedingly nice and helpful. We ended up with a room in the east tower that overlooked the pool. This was especially nice since we could attend the Saturday night dance party from the balcony. It also gives you the chance to watch the fireworks display at Epcot every night. Rating: A
Every session I attended started at least 15 minutes late. I would walk into a room, and the moderator and panelists were nowhere to be found. Each time, I sat down, waited, and hoped for the best. Once they started, however, the sessions were actually pretty good. We attended a wide variety of sessions on topics such as technology, tips for starting a new channel, travel vlogging as a career, building a community around your channel, making a music channel, and staying creative and inspired. We got some good input and advice for some of our channel ideas, and in every session, I learned something, got an idea, and found a new channel to follow. Additionally, there were music performances throughout the weekend, and we got to watch Dodie. She is ridiculously sweet and talented. Rating: B+
To a certain extent, I understand that this event has been growing so much each year that perhaps the organizers do not anticipate the problems that occur. On the other hand, the complete lack of responsiveness to complaints or concerns makes me feel like they honestly just don’t care to do a better job.
The problems started when I purchased my tickets in October and made my hotel reservation. Although we were arriving on Thursday to attend the Friday business sessions, we could only get a reservation for Friday and Saturday night. Later I found out this was not because the block was sold out on Thursday and Sunday night, but they simply had not fully released the block of rooms for reservations. As a result, we ended up staying in other hotels Thursday and Sunday nights. It saved me money, but I would have preferred to just stay at the Marriott.
The actual session schedule did not get released until about 7-10 days before the event. There was an app, which was helpful in managing the events and your personal schedule. In my experience, conference schedules are determined months ahead of the event. So, not publishing a schedule earlier just leaves attendees wondering what is happening and provides additional evidence for the lack of organization and information. The actual panelists were announced only days before the event. Attendees want this information earlier so they can start getting excited and planning for specific events. The biggest failure, however, came in the meetup selection process. Rating: D
My biggest gripe is related to the technology and process for choosing the meetups. We bought our tickets in October and waited until just a couple of weeks before the event to choose our meetups. Youtube creators are assigned to different meetup groups and times. The two people we most wanted to meet were Dan and Phil and Jenna and Julien. They were scheduled for the same time, so we made the decision to split up on Saturday. On Sunday we planned to attend a group that included Dodie and Evan Edinger. In the end, it didn’t matter because we couldn’t get into any groups.
Here’s what happened. We wait about 6 months for the window to open for meetup reservations. You go to the Playlist Live web site at a set time and with thousands of other people try to grab a small number of spots available. The servers could not handle the traffic. Even though certain groups showed spots available, when I clicked to reserve a spot the server would only log me out. I had to clear my login information, log back in, and go through the whole process again only to have the same failure. I tried this about twenty times until every spot in anything we wanted was gone (Dan and Phil’s group was already full two seconds after the window opened). Getting to actually meet some of our favorite Youtubers was a huge part of our decision to attend Playlist Live, and we didn’t get to do that at all. When I contacted Playlist Live technical staff about what had happened, they told me there was not a problem because the server had not crashed. They did not offer to help or make amends in any way. So, that was extraordinarily disappointing and a poor example of management and customer service.
We decided to make the best of a bad situation. Dan, Phil, and Julien were all scheduled to be on a panel together, and we attended that session. We saw Dan and Phil host the kick-off show (which, by the way, required another ticket purchase that cost about another $70 each for seats in the front section). We went to see Dodie perform during the event. Unfortunately, we never saw Jenna at all. Thankfully, Niki and Sammy organized a special time for an open meetup of their own, and I had a wonderful time talking to them about our mutual love for BTS. They are the only reason I am upgrading my fan experience rating from F to D for disappointing. Rating: D
I feel like we had a good time at Playlist Live in spite of Playlist Live. I mean, there were gangs of unsupervised teenage fangirls roaming the halls at all hours of the day and night. There were also a lot of teens who clearly find Youtube and this environment the only place where they can really be themselves, feel accepted, and find joy. They are the creative weirdos just like us, and my teenage self probably would have been blessed to have known such a group existed. From their perspective, Playlist Live was probably a great event. My daughter and I, however, were both disappointed by all the ways the event organization fell short of our expectations. Unless one of us got invited to attend as a guest, I highly doubt that we would ever attend this convention again. We’re going to wait and try Vidcon one day.
Overall Playlist Live Experience Rating: C