BizBash: How BMW Transformed a Centuries Old Palace Into a Futuristic Concert Venue

MUNICH, GERMANY—Originally built as a castle in 1385, the iconic Munich Residence, the largest city palace in Germany, served as the seat of government and residence of the Bavarian dukes, electors and kings from 1508 to 1918. Today, the site is open to visitors as one of the most well-known museums in Europe, with a complex comprising 10 courtyards and 130 rooms plus art collections dating back to the Renaissance.

So the venue made an unconventional—and unforgettable—setting for a recent first-of-its-kind concert from BMW, featuring world-renowned composer Hans Zimmer along with the Munich Symphony Orchestra in an immersive, experiential environment that blended art, lighting and sound. 

The Re:Imagine Music concert was part of BMW’s presence at this year’s IAA Mobility Summit, which took place in Munich from Sept. 7-12. The brand adopted an overall theme of Re:Imagine Today for its show presence, using a variety of experiences to offer in-depth looks at how the future of mobility can be—you guessed it—reimagined. 

Zimmer was an appropriate choice to represent BMW at the gathering; he first collaborated with the brand in 2017 on its award-winning "Road to Coachella" campaign, and in 2019 became the official composer for BMW IconicSounds Electric, an ongoing initiative that will add start/stop sounds scored by Zimmer to BMW’s upcoming electric vehicles. 

The concept of electric vehicles set the theme for the evening concert. “Hans is composing all the sounds for our electric cars, so we decided to also give this show an electric vibe,” explained Dr. Alexander Kotouc, BMW Group’s head of experiential marketing, adding that some of the on-stage musicians even played electric instruments to showcase the quality of the sound. “We wanted to make this show happen to celebrate our partnership—but mainly we wanted to bring joy to the visitors and to create an amazing memory for everybody who was there.”

The event was produced and organized by BMW’s experiential agency Mirrored Media, which manages the IconicSounds Electric project with BMW and Zimmer. Mirrored Media worked alongside RCI Global and local agencies including Pacific EntertainmentSemmel Concerts and Tomek Productions to produce the show. 

"Our overarching goal was to create a once-in-a-lifetime, joyful and memorable musical experience for lucky guests of the IAA in Munich,” said Mirrored Media founder and CEO Justin Lefkovitch. “We curated and designed the show to communicate the partnership messaging around the opportunities and endless possibilities of electrification.”

To fully transform the historic space, specially designed speakers and light setups took advantage of the courtyard’s surrounding walls, allowing for high-quality, immersive sound and a unique light show programmed to the music.

The courtyard setting was intentionally chosen to mirror the 360-degree experience of listening to music in a vehicle. “The beautiful venue in the middle of a palatial courtyard gave us a one-of-a-kind sound experience to work with,” noted Nils Montan, Mirrored Media’s director of event marketing, adding that sustainability was also a focus to tie into the concept of electric vehicles. “Following the overarching themes of the IAA, we designed the experience to use limited power and generate limited noise pollution while giving listeners an immersive listening experience.”

To further bring the power of electric to life, added Montan, the team curated a 360-degree projection and lighting experience that went hand-in-hand with the audio experience. “So no matter where you were in the space, you felt the magic of the music and lighting,” he explained. “We had the privilege of turning this centuries-old palace into our very own canvas. Inspired by the juxtaposition of classic space with modern equipment, we brought a modern musical experience to life within a classically ornate setting.”

Of course, hosting a tech-forward event in a centuries-old outdoor space wasn't without its challenges. In addition to COVID-related protocols and regulations imposed by the government, the brand and the venue, the team was “working within a fragile environment, quite literally,” said Montan. “The venue was a historic castle … and is still a working museum, so we had to be conscious of the space and the area around it.”

Another challenge? A super-tight timeline: The event was curated and produced by the Los Angeles- and Munich-based teams in just under one month, with staffers often working in the middle of the night to accommodate the nine-hour time difference. 

But the effort was worth it, said Lefkovitch. “The result was a show that was extremely emotional for many of the attendees. As the first show many people had seen in almost two years, people were overwhelmed with emotion from the sound, music, lights and overall power of the show,” he said.

During the live concert, Zimmer was joined onstage by 30 musicians, who played for over 90 minutes and covered the composer’s greatest hits, including pieces from InceptionThe Da Vinci CodeWonder Woman and Pirates of the Caribbean. As a surprise encore, vocalist Lebo M., who performed on the original soundtrack for The Lion King, joined Zimmer on stage to perform “Circle of Life”—nodding to the circular themes of BMW’s messaging

"BMW is a love brand, with all our DNA we want to bring joy to the people,” said Stefan Ponikva, BMW Group’s vice president of brand communication and brand experience. “Especially after this long period of pandemic, in which physical events were not possible, we wanted to give the people of Munich a very special and emotional experience during the IAA Mobility. A goosebumps moment!”

He added, “To connect a very traditional and centric venue like the Brunnenhof with such a modern projection mapping and immersive surround sound therefore just felt perfect for us.”

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