The Mp3 Experiment Four

Original Music and Sound Design: Agent Walker
Digital Video: Agents Shafer, Slocum, Goldman, Adams
Digital Photography: Agents Nicholson, Fountain, Pallas, Sokoler
Crowd Control: Agents Arnheiter, Sklaren
Rooftop Inside Man: Agent Dfactor
German Tourist: Agent Walker

Our fourth Mp3 Experiment was our biggest mission to date. 826 people downloaded the same mp3, pressed play at the same time, and had a blast together on Lower Manhattan’s beautiful waterfront. Enjoy the videos first and then go behind the scenes with our mission report, photos, and audio downloads.

To participate in this year’s experiment, agents were given these instructions. Everyone synchronized their watch to the clock on the instruction page, downloaded the mp3, wore a red, blue, yellow, or green shirt, and then reported to the blue zone in the map above. At exactly 4:00 PM, everyone pressed play.

Panorama – click here for full size
Our starting point, the plaza outside the World Financial Center by the North Cove Yacht Harbor, was absolutely gorgeous as everyone arrived. We lucked out and had a 75 degree, sunny day (amazing for August in New York.) It was fun watching the gray plaza slowly fill up with primary colors.

(digitally altered to enhance red)
While this was the first mission for many in the crowd, there were also familiar faces from missions past. One of the redheads from last month’s Wendy’s protest came out with his wife and newborn, who was born after the redhead mission, only a few weeks ago.

Since blue was one of the options for shirt colors, one guy decided to wear the same blue polo he wore to Best Buy.

The tension built as the plaza got more and more crowded, with our agents sitting on pretty much every bench available. At 4:00 we all pressed play and were treated with two minutes of Agent Walker’s awesome instrumental theme music. Subway delays kept more than a few people from arriving exactly on time, but since everyone’s watch was synchronized, the late folks were still able to participate. They just pressed play on their stalled subway car and sprinted to our location as soon as they got above ground. Some folks even got off the subway and hopped in a cab with total strangers, identifying each other by their headphones and bright t-shirts.

After the instrumental, Steve (everyone’s favorite omnipotent voice from above) welcomed everyone to the experiment and asked us to stand up on whatever we were sitting on. At the same instant all 826 participants stood, and everyone else in the plaza started looking around, mouths open, trying to figure out what the hell was happening.

Participants wave to each other; note the four non-participants smiling at the bottom
Steve then announced we’d play a simple pointing game, first asking everyone to point to the tallest building.

The guy sitting isn’t one of us, just playing along
Steve then asked folks to point to the Statue of Liberty (even if you can’t see it) and Nicaragua (even if you can’t see it.)

People disagree on where Nicaragua is
People came from all over to participate in the experiment. One guy flew in from Arizona. Another guy came from Atlanta. Folks drove in from as far as Toronto. The Massari family made it to their second mission, after driving down from Conneticut for Slo-Mo Home Depot on the same weekend last year. I still think the dad looks like Tom Selleck.

The Massari family
Steve then instructed everyone to find a German tourist wearing a yellow shirt. As it turned out there was a super-tall participant wearing a yellow shirt that said “GERMs” and a somewhat German hat. Instantly hundreds of people starting running towards him. He did his best to shake his head and shout, “It’s not me!” but of course no one could hear him.

Not the German tourist

Participants crowd around the wrong guy (he’s in the center to the left of the lamp post.)
Eventually people realized they had run to the wrong man, and everyone started skipping (as instructed) to the real German tourist.

The German tourist
The tourist was standing in a giant checkered area with four colors of tiles. Steve announced that we would be playing a game of Twister. He explained the rules and then started calling the game as all 800 of us tried to follow without falling.

“Left foot, red!”

“Right foot, black!”
The Twister area was right next to the entrance of the shopping mall part of the Financial Center. Folks walking out of the mall gawked at the site of our massive game.

After the game, Steve instructed us to follow the German. Surely after studying his map he’d know a beautiful place to take us. The enormous crowd paraded behind him up the waterfront.

An older couple struggles to share headphones
As we walked, Steve told us to interact with strangers. At various times we were told to smile, give thumbs up, and high five people we passed along the way.

Finally, the German tourist found what he was looking for, Nelson Rockefeller Park, an idyllic green space poking out into the Hudson River.

Through the wonders of the Internet we were able to track down someone who lived in one of the high rise apartments next to the park to get some aerial photography and video. Huge thanks to Agent Dfactor for hooking us up with roof access. (Check out his awesome music blog – Waved Rumor.)

Agents Nicholson and Goldman were shooting from the top of the middle building

Agent Goldman sets up a tripod

Agent Dfactor and son on the roof
The park is a little out of the way so it’s mostly used by the folks who live in the neighborhood and usually isn’t too crowded. We wanted to make sure we weren’t rude to those that were there, so we sent Agents Arnheiter and Sklaren to scout ahead and warn people that a crowd was on the way. All of the sunbathers were very cool, and most seemed to get a huge kick out of the whole thing. Some cheered us on. Some ignored us and kept to their sunbathing.

Some of the neighbors watched us from their balconies and windows.

One woman applauds as others look out their windows
Participants were instructed to pack a camera, and once everyone was settled in the park, Steve gave us some photography assignments (take a picture with no yellow shirts, take a picture with exactly one red and one blue shirt, take a picture with no cameras in it…) It was fun to see how people worked together. Red and blues coupled off and took self-portraits and then posed for other people. When Steve asked us to take a photo with as many cameras as possible, everyone raised their cameras above their heads to help the cause.

Our next task was to create a human dartboard. Steve asked all of the green shirts to clump together in the middle of the park.

In the photo above you can see that there were some guys sunbathing right where the green mob formed. They were slowly engulfed by our crowd. Folks reported the guys were laughing the whole time as they became surrounded.

The red shirts were added next and were told to form a circle around the green mob.

The blue shirts then circled the red shirts as the mob grew dangerously close to another group of sunbathers.

Steve then realized he had made a mistake. Dartboards should have red at the center, not green. The greens and the reds had to squeeze past each other and switch places.

The Norwegian Spirit cruise ship floats by

You can see the World Financial Center were we started in the upper left corner
Steve the told the yellow shirts that they were the darts and had to try to get as close to the bullseye as possible.

Yellows push through
Agent Nicholson was able to get a headcount using this next picture.

After the dartboard was complete, Steve told us it was time to play freeze tag. “Yellow is it!” he announced. The dartboard exploded as people scattered in every direction avoiding the yellows. The poor red shirts stuck in the middle got trapped and immediately frozen.

Each color got a chance at being it as everyone sprinted around the entire park.

After freeze tag, Steve had the out-of-breath participants lie down on the ground and relax. He asked to us to shout “goodbye,” and it was fun to hear how off certain people were, yelling early or late. He then introduced us to his “quasi-nipotent” half-brother Mark who would lead us in some relaxation exercises. Soothing music played as Mark gave out ridiculous instructions that made little sense.

After the experiment ended, one of the guys in the above photo remarked, “I thought y’all were going to kill yourselves,” while another said, “I thought it was the end of the world. Everyone was lying down. I was looking for the comet to come pick you up!”

Once the track ended, participants sat up, removed their headphones, and enjoyed the rest of the beautiful day with their 825 new friends.

Mission Accomplished.


Agent Nicholson’s Flickr photoset (highlights only) (18 photos)

Agent Nicholson’s Flickr photoset (full) (174 photos)

Agent Fountain’s Flickr photoset (157 photos)

Agent Sokoler’s Flickr photoset (50 photos)

(all music composed by Tyler Walker)
Full Mp3 (36 minutes)

Intro Music mp3

German Tourist mp3

Walking mp3

Freeze Tag mp3

all music ©2007 tyler walker

Check out first hand reports from participants and links to their own flickr sets and blog posts on Recap Page. Add your own report if you were there.

We have also toured The Mp3 Experiment around the world to places like Berlin, Germany and Adelaide, Australia. If you’re part of an organization (festival, university, arts group) that is interested in commissioning an Mp3 Experiment, get in touch via our contact form.


  1. AHH! My body is a white dot! :D

    t’was a blast, every second of it. I don’t remember the last time I got as much exercise!

  2. Awesome, you guys. I’ve been following your stuff for awhile and really wanted to make it to this one… no luck. :-( It looks like everyone involved had a ton of fun, though. AND, the arial pics are really really cool. Great concept!!

  3. It was so much fun and they got me in green skipping. I’d love to do it again and I’m sure I can get atleast 5 more friends to go next time.

  4. i think i just stopped smiling from the mp3 experiment on saturday and reading through the report just made me smile again. i’m SO excited for the next mission. signing off, this is agent rachel ;)

  5. 836 people! I wish we could get our 535 members of the Senate and House of Representatives to work together like that!

  6. I was at the MP3 Experiment 3 by myself and had such a good time that I convinced 2 friends to join me this time. I’m sure I can get a few more for the next event. The MP3 experiment is growing steadily. You guys are gonna have your hands full as the next gig might have to support over 1000 people. Great job as usual, and I’m already eagerly anticipating your next one. Feel free to check out or link to my Flickr album (search for Jaypoc and mp3experimentfour).

  7. Hey there! I had such a great time, I just wanted to say THANKS. This is my first real mission (though I was at the DVD release) and I had a blast! I can’t wait for the next new thing, and I greatly enjoyed checking out all the photos and videos.

    Thank you everyone for such an amazing afternoon!

  8. Neat, I made it into two pictures!

    This was awesome fun, guys, I’ve been trying to get to an MP3 Experiment since I heard about the first one and finally did. Definitely looking forward to the next one.

  9. This was so much fun! My friend Erin told me about it and now I think I will be addicted. I already have at least 7 more people who want to join us next time. Thanks!!!

  10. Hands down awesome, as always. Wish I could have been there; I hope to make it to the next one.

    I suggest colored hats for next time, as you get better aerial images that way. The colors come out great in the photos but not so much on the videos (especially the ones on YouTube, since they get compressed so much).

  11. Alright! It looks like it’s time for another TomTom report! Yaaaay!

    This was my second ImprovEverywhere event, and it was just as awesome as last time. Sure, there were three or four times as many people, but that made it even more awesome. The same procedure took place: Momma Massari made sandwiches for the seven of us (Mom, dad, sister, sister’s fiancee, other sister, other sister’s boyfriend, and yours truly

  12. Erm…I wrote a three page report on my experience, but it doesn’t look like it all went through. That’s frustrating. :-/

  13. That’s awesome. I listened to the mp3 before hand, (i didn’t participate) and it was hilarious to see the turn out… I didn’t expect THAT many!…

    Thanks for your awesome work guys.

  14. I was laughing all the way home. I had such a smile on my face I think I fell asleep smiling when I went to bed!

    Hrrmmm… Where can I find a big “twister” board in Fairfield County Connecticut?

  15. This one looks like yet another blast! Tyler’s music is great, I love the tribal grunts in the walking song. I really wish someone with more time and organizational skillz than me would put together a Chicago version =\

  16. Chicago version for the win!!!

    Does anyone know if there’s a lead on a chicago version? If not, we should try to put something together.

    Hit me up if anyone is in/around chicago and interested:



  17. god, i wish i had known about this…. i would have travelled to be part of this operation, no problem. Next time, whatever you do, we would love to be involved. Absolutely. No questions asked. Absolutely amazing that you did this – Applause all the way around. I must see if i can write this up for my site at; it’s a great thing you did and a helluva lot of fun and that’s what life should be – fun… and boo to anyone who says otherwise.



  18. “older couple”
    as a member of the older race, one-half of an older couple (not THE older couple) and a member of the older person liberation front (OPLF), I demand you delete all ageist references from your report.

  19. You scare me, old person.

    If I ever get the chance to travel to NY, I’m there at the next experiment. Glad it was fun.

  20. My friend and I drove up from Delaware just to participate in the experiment, and let me say, I can’t wait for the next one! Nothing like good clean fun with 800 friends I’ve never met before.

  21. I came from Cleveland and brought a local friend along. We were one of the late ones and had to prep up and hit play to synch along even though we weren’t there yet.

    We were nervous upon arrival because it was after the part where everyone began to follow the German tourist, and there was no indication of which direction everyone went. Once we got there, we just took a guess to go West and Northwest along the path. At first we couldn’t find any signs of the color shirts, but then I caught a glimpse of the colors beyond some tree foliage. We ran towards those colors in the distance only to find it was someone’s beachball. We began to think we went the wrong way, but we pressed on and soon enough we were within sight of the park and the sea of people! Just in time for the camera participation!

  22. Hi.

    This is a good mission. Really fun to watch.

    Thank you all of the people.

    My respect,

    From Holland

  23. What a brilliant idea. What fun you al must have had.
    Can’t participate ‘cause I am in the Netherlands, but am searching the net for a Dutch version or maybe start one myself. Added this site to my favourites. Cant wait to read about the next experiment. Keep it up!

  24. Wow… that looked so much fun. I’m determined that for the next one I’m going to book a holiday to the US just to be able to participate :-)

    Alternatively, something similar happens in the UK.. at least it’d be cheaper.. ahh well..

  25. I’ve kept up with this site since the U2 gag — I envy everyone who went to this because I wanted so badly to go!

    Seeing this makes me want to do everything I can to make it to the MP3 Experiment 5. It looks like you all had so much fun…

  26. wow this looks like it was a lot of fun!

    makes me want to go all the way to NY (from the uk!) just to take part!

    damn you guys get all the fun!


  27. There are times that I am saddened because I live in Mississippi, a far cry from somewhere to do public stunts. But I’ll have to reference this to someone I know that just moved up there.

    Keep up the amazing work, hopefully I’ll be able to get in on one of them.

  28. Hey Guys!

    Oh Shit! This is really awesome and funny! Absolutely great.
    Much compliments to all of you!

    I think that we should try something like this in Berlin, Germany. The people here are also crazy like the NY’s! :-)

    In any case, an absolutely funny idea!

    Best Regards from Berlin!

  29. This is awesome. I’ve got a stupid grin on my face from watching the videos. I’ve been following you guys for a while now, just haven’t gotten out for an experiment yet. I’ll make it yet!

  30. “The poor red shirts stuck in the middle got trapped and immediately frozen.”

    Poor Red Shirts…always the first…

  31. This is GREAT! I was smiling the whole time. It’s great to see that that many people have such a great sense of humor.

  32. I would love to do this somewhere in southern california. I would love participating in one of the events if you did one over here.

  33. Wow! wow! wow! I got goosebumps reading through all the instructions! Looked like a complete fool with my headphones on giggling to myself at the office while watching the video! I wish we could do something like this in Dubai! Well done guys, awesome set of games for everyone to follow.

  34. Thats my birthday!! I would have loved to make it there..but i just found out about the web site lastnight believe it or whens the next someone’s gotta plan a mission on Ga.