Created by: Charlie Todd & Tyler Walker
All music by: Tyler Walker
Brainstorm Committee: Jason Eppink, Katie Sokoler, Charlie Todd, Tyler Walker
Shot by: Matt Adams, Dan DeStefano, Keith Haskel, Kristopher Knight, Lisa Nussbaum, Chloe Smolkin
Photography: Brian Fountain, Ilya Chigirev, Chad Nicholson, Thomas Robinson, Ari Scott (full flickr sets for each photographer at the bottom of this post)
For our latest mission, over 3,000 participants downloaded an MP3 file and pressed play simultaneously in retail stores in Midtown Manhattan. The masses converged on Bryant Park where a series of fun activities unfolded, culminating in a huge “mummy dance party.” This was the 7th installment in our Mp3 Experiment series.
Enjoy the video above first, and then go behind the scenes with our photos below. We’d like to thank Bryant Park for generously hosting the second half of the event and all of the stores for putting up with the unauthorized first half.
Here’s a bonus video, containing footage we didn’t have room for in the main video:
pre-mission documentation team meeting
There are dozens of stores in the area, including several huge national chains. While we were a permitted event in Bryant Park, we obviously did not have permission to stage our event in these stores. I wanted to make the actions in the stores as peaceful and subtle as possible.
It was tough to know how large to make the starting zone. I didn’t want the stores to be too crowded, but I also didn’t want participants to be so spread out that they would not see each other. Of course, I also didn’t know how many people would attend. It seems like we did a pretty good job of filling all of the stores on the map, big and small. A few of the larger stores like The Gap were perhaps a bit excessively crowded.
Young participants in Staples
“Hold a product in the air, as if you are in awe of it.”
Champs employees laughing
I got a nice email from a Sephora employee:
I work at Sephora on 42nd street near Bryant Park. Saturdays are usually really dead for us. We get a few people but not a lot. At first just a few people came into the store, and then my co-worker said over our walkie system, “All these people all wearing headphones! And they’re just standing around! This is freaking me out!” More and more people came in wearing headphones and soon our little store was full. Many of my co-workers became extremely paranoid. My friend taps one person and goes, “Is this a cult?”
6pm over the walkie: “They all just lifted up a product at the same time!” When everyone started slow dancing with lipsticks and lotions, etc. I lost it laughing, and my co-workers were epically confused. When everyone began to leave, I waved goodbye. One girl said, “Thank you!” I said, “No, thank you!” My manager gave them a round of applause. At the end my co-workers were just trying to make sense of it all, one guy thought it was an epic ploy to shop lift. My friend goes, “Were we just Punk’d?” and I said over the walkies to everyone, “No guys we weren’t Punk’d. We were Improv Everywhere’d.” Needless to say I think you earned a fan or two from my store today.
We all left our retail locations and were told to walk on the sidewalk, blending in with the New Yorkers and Tourists. As a sort of sequel to our Frozen Grand Central mission, all participants froze in place for exactly one minute. While we only had 200 or so in Grand Central, this time there were over 3,000 of us spread out over ten of the busiest city blocks in the world.
Participants then engaged in some silly sidewalk activities.
“March like you’re in a marching band.”
“Form a long line behind a stranger, copying their every move.”
The end of a ridiculously long line behind a mother with a stroller
“See how many strangers you can high five.”
Pedestrians watch and laugh
Arriving in the park
A family participating together
Participants surround Steve
Preparing for the surprise
A couple preparing their letters
An appropriate word for 2010!
Not every word made sense
A finished map
One of our old redhead agents
Since we had aerial photos of the entire crowd, we were able to get a pretty accurate count on the number of participants. Agent Ann Kirschkins blew up one of Chad Nicholson’s photos and hand counted all of the heads, circling them in red. Her final number was 3,044. She added, “Of course, I defer to anyone who wants to do their own count.”
You can download some of the songs from The Mp3 Experiment on Tyler Walker’s site.
We regularly tour The Mp3 Experiment around the world to places like Berlin, Germany and Adelaide, Australia and to college campuses in the US like UNC and Texas Tech. If you’re part of an organization (festival, university student activities board, arts group) that is interested in commissioning an Mp3 Experiment, get in touch via our contact form.
Check out first hand reports from participants on the Recap Page.