For our latest mission, over 7,000 people pressed play simultaneously and listened to an mp3 file filled with ridiculous instructions at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. Participants were instructed to dress as tourists to blend in with the crowd and surprise real tourists with their unexpected synchronized actions. This was all part of our tenth annual Mp3 Experiment event.
Enjoy the video above first, and then go behind the scenes with our photos below. We’d like to thank the River to River Festival for hosting the event again this year.
The crowds at our Mp3 Experiment project this past couple of years have been in the 3,000 to 4,000 range. It’s tough to find a venue that’s easy to get to in New York that can accommodate a crowd like that safely and that also has a healthy amount of normal bystanders to witness it. Location scouting is always really tough (please suggest ideas in the comments!) This year we had an opportunity to use the South Street Seaport, which is always packed with tourists. The space isn’t huge, so we decided to try to cut our crowd in half by staging the experiment twice for the fist time ever. It happened at both 3 PM and 7 PM. Unfortunately our plan didn’t work! Rather than our expected crowd of 4,000 dividing themselves in half between the two times, 4,000 people showed up to both of them! Adding a second showing only increased demand. So things were packed, but for those smart enough to follow instructions and spread out in the starting locations, there were some really great surprise moments.
Participants form a single file line behind non-participants at the end of Pier 15
The crowd was divided up by birthday month, with half of the crowd told to start on the newly constructed Pier 15 and half told to start in the Pier 17 shopping mall. In the most spread out places like the third floor food court of the mall and the tip of Pier 15, it was particularly fun. The ratio of participants to non-participants was about even in those places. It was so much fun before the experiment trying to figure out who was dressed like a tourist and who was an actual tourist.
Crawling in the mall
The first major instruction was for everyone born between the 1st and the 10th of the month to suddenly drop to the ground and start crawling. The others were told to react as if they weren’t in on it. Then those born between the 11th and 20th were told to crawl as well. Finally the birthdays between the 21st and 31st were told to join in and everyone was crawling. It was cool to watch the chaos spread this way. In the food court of the mall, a group of teenage Brazilian tourists joined in and started crawling with us as well.
Non-participants stuck in the middle of the mass crawling
Participants were then told to stop crawling and lay on their backs.
All participants were instructed to bring a $1 bill with them. At the next point in the track, narrator Steve told them to give their $1 bill to a random person not participating. This created a really fun moment of chaos and joy as random people tried to figure out why they were suddenly being handed money. Some refused, but most eventually said yes. In locations where there were very few non-participants, some folks made out with quite a bit of money. Long time Improv Everywhere fans might notice the connection here to the Dollar Dudes
Money coming in from all directions
Unsure of why she just got a fistful of ones
As is Mp3 Experiment tradition, participants were then told to high five random strangers. The same women pictured above confused about the dollar bills got quite a few high fives as well.
A well-costumed family claps without making noise
The next section of the experiment included several “remote control” activities, many of which referenced Improv Everywhere missions past. Participants were told to freeze in place
, move in slow motion
, go in rewind
, and go on mute
. At the end of the mute button portion everyone was told to clap and then clap without making any noise, which was particularly cool to observe in the echoey mall.
A New Yorkers worst nightmare: hoards of tourists with maps
Given that this was our 10th annual Mp3 Experiment the theme this year was “10-year Reunion.” Narrator Steve instructed the participants that he had booked the wooden pier at the South Street Seaport for the reunion and everyone was told to walk there with giant maps in hand.
A participant in a stroller
Once everyone arrived at the main pier it became clear just how enormous the crowd was. While it’s tough to say for sure, based on Facebook RSVPs and estimations from photographs, we think around 4,000 people came to the 3 PM experiment and around 3,500 at the 7 PM experiment.
The crowd poses for a “class picture”
And a “silly picture”
Now where’s Waldo?
The crowd was so big that even from the 3rd floor balcony of the mall our cameras couldn’t zoom out wide enough to capture them all.
People were even stopping on the FDR freeway to take a look at our crowd.
The crowd was instructed to find a partner and awkwardly slow dance at the reunion. Everyone was told to bring sheets of paper with their name on them to serve as reunion name tags. After showing off their names, participants were told to fold the name tags into paper airplanes and simultaneously launch them.
Don’t worry, participants were told to clean up after themselves
The world’s largest conga dance? Definitely the sweatiest
The crowd was asked to bring a red fabric item. Steve revealed that red was our “school” color and everyone waved their red fabric in the air as they sang the school song. At the end of the song everyone was asked to toss their items in the air.
For the finale, everyone brought out bubbles and bubble guns to create a mass bubble event. We blew bubbles in our very first Mp3 Experiment
back in 2004, so it was a nice reference to the very first event (and also a nod to Newmindspace’s annual bubble battle
Thanks to everyone who came out!
Watch the videos of our previous 9 Mp3 Experiment projects.
– Arin Sang-urai’s photos (3 PM and 7 PM)
– Ari Scott’s photos (7 PM edition)
– David Bledsoe’s photos (7 PM edition)
– Andrew Bisdale’s photos (7 PM edition)
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 in the comments section on this page.