The Mp3 Experiment San Francisco

Original Music and Sound Design: Agent Walker
Digital Video: Agent JimCo
Digital Photography: Agents Nicholson, Beale
Produced by: Agent Biederman
edited by: Matt Adams

For The Mp3 Experiment San Francisco, around 400 people downloaded the same mp3, pressed play at the same time, and had a blast together on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Mission Dolores Park. We partnered with Yahoo! to transform The Mp3 Experiment into a full-on North American tour; we started with the New York event, and then made stops in Toronto, San Francisco, and Chicago. You can see a highlight video of the entire tour here.

Below is the mission report for the San Francisco event. Enjoy!

If you’ve never heard of The Mp3 Experiment, check out our coverage of the past four years:


Mission Dolores Park was a serene location for our first mission in San Francisco. It had a beautiful view of the city and a nice big field for us to play in. We had a great turnout of 400 or so folks. Our friend Agent Beale from Laughing Squid helped us get the word out to locals.

After synchronizing their watches and downloading the mp3 from our website, at exactly 2:00 PM, everyone pressed play together. Of all the stops on the tour, San Francisco had the most non-participants in the park, which made it all the more fun. While The Mp3 Experiment is primarily about those participating having fun with each other, it’s always a nice bonus to confuse the hell out of people who happen upon it. At least one of those people chose to jump in and participate anyway. Even though he didn’t have headphones he followed along with the crowd anyway and was luckily wearing red.

Guy who joined in spontaneously

A group of picnickers found themselves in the middle of the experiment
Steve, the mp3’s all-powerful narrator, led participants through a few warm-up tests, to ensure they were alert and aware and ready for the day’s events.

Walking in a straight line
In New York we had a bear show up. In San Francisco there was a wolf. We have no idea why.

There was also a dog who seemed to be on the blue team.

Steve led the group in a geography test, asking them to point to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Participants then had to interact with the animals and humans around them. Everyone was instructed to hug an animal and give a high five to a non-participant.

A guy gives a high five to some folks who were shooting a film in the park. They took a break from their film and started shooting us. Sorry we interrupted you guys!

A dog is mobbed with hugs!
Participants then took their umbrellas out and spun them while walking to the center of the field. It was fun to see the handful of participants who were in the southern half of the park cross over the hill and join up with everyone else.

The umbrellas were soon put away and a couple of running and jumping games ensued.

The San Francisco crowd gets the award for best “Human Tetris.” The instructions were still confusing for many, but in the end the crowd created a really nice puzzle of colorful shapes. It looked especially cool from Steve’s perspective.

“Human Twister” was next: “Left Hand Red Head!”
The umbrellas came out again and the crowd created a huge canopy together.

It was then time for the experiment’s finale, the “epic battle.” The crowd separated into two teams based on color.

The picnic party found themselves right by the battle lines. They sipped Stellas and watched the warfare.

The Red/Yellow army
One member of the Red/Yellow army got so fired up that he ran in front of the lines to pump up his fellow warriors. Deafening screams ensued.

Not to be outdone, a member of the Blue/Green army soon followed suit.

Both teams blew up their balloon weaponry.

One guy had an inflatable parrot as his weapon

20-feet apart

The battle begins!

The carnage!
Here’s a time lapse video of the battle:

After the battle was over, participants relaxed on the ground as Steve’s half-brother Mark led them through some ridiculous meditation exercises.

The experiment ended and everyone did their part to clean up the balloons. I overheard one pretty funny exchange in the crowd:

Girl: Everyone pick up balloon pieces!
Guy: (rolling eyes) Yeah, it’s San Francisco!
Second Girl: Yeah, it’s the Earth.

Folks lingered and enjoyed the rest of the gorgeous day in the park. Our first trip to San Francisco was a total blast and we hope we can come back again soon!

Mission Accomplished.

Thanks again to Yahoo! for embracing our mission and making this tour possible. Be sure to see our reports on the other three cities:

New York


Agent Beale’s Flickr set
Agent Nicholson’s Highlight Flickr Set
Agent Nicholson’s Full Flickr Set

You can download some of the songs from The Mp3 Experiment on Agent Walker’s MySpace page.

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. Argh. If I didn’t already have something planned for that day, i’d have gone. Looks like i’ll just have to wait until next year.

  2. MP3 Experiment in SF was so much FUN! Totally recommend it to everyone.

    Thanks to Agent Todd (and Yahoo!) for bringing the MP3 Experiment to Baghdad by the Bay.

  3. Wow I would have gone but the Marines had first dibs on me that weekend. Looked like great fun. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t be there for the first time you guys came to my home town all the way from the east coast :'(

    Come back soon! (or else!)

  4. I would *love* a transcript of Steve’s comments…esp. the last part – maybe it was his brother “Mark” – and the bit about meditation…omg, that was *hilarious*…..

  5. Will you guys ever be releasing a longer video of the event? I’m a little disappointed that we don’t get to see any footage of the tetris blocks or the triangle game or attacker/defender game. I think all of those would look pretty cool from above!

    Hell a full uncut 45 minute video from the helicopter just to watch and relive the event would be absolutely spectacular!

  6. Hah, Someone even went in their fursuit. That is Awesome. This whole experiment thing looks cool, any chance of it moving to other countries? Australia, for instance? -grin-

  7. I’m going to be attending collage in San Francisco, so you guys better keep this up until I get there, looks like TONS of fun!

  8. i didn’t even know this was happening. i’ve been wanting to do one of these for a while and feel sorry i was left out. of course i would have had a hard time choosing between this and the hardly strictly bluegrass festival i attended that day, but more than likely this would have won. please come back. i love balloons, parks, freeze tag and omnipotent voices.

  9. WOW! Another successful experiment. Still hoping for you to visit Los Angeles… Only suggestion as to why you had 2 people show up in animal costumes is that they listened to the file before the game started (is this cheating?) and were trying to help with the “Hug an animal” step.

  10. I live nearby, and wondered why the hell that helicopter was hovering over the park for SO LONG. Mega protest? I wandered out to see what was up. Imagine my surprise!

    IE rocks. More SF events please!

  11. If San Francisco is supposed to be such a peace loving city, why is it that all these type of “events” degrade to some type of battle or war or fight? Yes. I live in SF.

  12. I really wish I lived in a big city so that I could participate!
    Perhaps next time you could come to Boston? It’s the closest city to where I live.
    In any event,keep it up with the awesome videos!