Barely 15 years old, the man from Antioquia Mauricio Agudelo He was in charge of making the popular minitecas on the birthdays of his friends and acquaintances. He then had limited technical resources, and operated from home with the support of his mother. He called that project Pérsival Producciones, which is now one of the largest concert and event production companies in the country.
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When he created Pérsival in 1995, Mauricio Agudelo was studying theater and television at the Efraín Arce Aragón school in Medellín. He loved the performing arts, but from the beginning he had a fascinating concern about everything that happened behind the scenes. During each work he saw several people in charge of the assembly, the lighting, the audio and the general production of each project. And he decided to be part of one of those people.
Among the events of great importance that they have produced is the ‘Venezuela Aid Live’ of 2019, the Juanes concert on the Sinú River in 2014, the Pope’s visit to Cartagena de Indias in 2017, and the most recent J Balvin’ concert. El Niño de Medellín’ held at the Atanasio Girardot stadium.
In addition to this, Pérsival has the recognition of being the first South American company that has provided sound for the most famous multipurpose pavilion in the world: New York’s Madison Square Garden.
In an interview with EL TIEMPO, its founder and current manager Mauricio Agudelo, told the story of the project since it was a mini library for parties of 15of the difficulties and challenges they have had in their 27-year history, and how they have transcended borders to produce concerts by great artists such as J Balvin, Juanes, Marc Anthony, Ed Sheeran, Metallica, Justin Bieber, Karol G, and many more.
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How did Pérsival Producciones start?
We started Pérsival in 1995 in Medellín, and we began with mini-theques and producing theater plays. This started with the dream of a boy who was still in school and that later, thanks to God, things have been capitalizing so that at this moment we consolidate ourselves as one of the most solid companies in the country in the production of large-format events.
I was studying theater and television at the time, and art seemed very cool to me, acting and everything. But then I liked much more what was based behind the backstage with the scenery, the lighting, the audio, and I realized that this was my great passion. So, I helped one of the people who handled the school’s audio to load the equipment, connect it and everything. That’s where that concern arose.
At that time I was 15 years old, so we began to make mini libraries with some little lights that I rented and with his sound equipment we made them. When I was in 11th finishing school, he told me that he trusted me with those sound systems. So with that we did the catwalks, the parades, the lighting and the sound, and that’s how the company was consolidated, leaving little by little the smaller things and getting into bigger and bigger things.
How fast did the company grow?
At the beginning, my mom helped me a lot financially. She worked in a bank, and when she left there she had a talk. So I told her why didn’t she lend me some money so I could buy some lights that I needed to make a production. And what she told me was: “Don’t mess around. See how much those teams cost you, and I’ll put the money right now and we’ll partner.”
The big surprise is that the company started to grow fast. I told her to leave where she was working, and she began to study in the business sector everything related to personnel management, payroll management, and from there we began to link the first people. Thus the company was consolidated as a real company.
I outsourced a lot of equipment, such as sets or lights that we didn’t have. But I was also in charge of standardizing everyone and giving people a service identity. We were still very small, but we always had a mentality of doing very big things.
What events have you been most excited about doing?
It is very difficult because they are all such different things. On the one hand, we had the opportunity to do the visit of Pope Francis in Cartagena de Indias (2017). The Holy Father gave an event in the port of Contecar, which was seen by more than 1 million people. Obviously it’s something that turns into a very exciting thing.
We also had J Balvin with his show in Medellin. He wanted to do something much bigger in his city as part of the ‘Arcoíris’ tour, and he called it ‘El Niño de Medellín. We were in the entire conceptualization stage, and capturing that in the Atanasio Girardot stadium was a very exciting thing.
In fact, I have a very nice story with Jose, because I’ve known him since we did small tours with a station in the city and he was paid to sing in schools. He told him that back then the miniteca was worth more than his sung one. Going from that to producing ‘El Niño de Medellín’, which is the biggest concert that Balvin has done in his history, It is a huge thing and we are excited to also be able to grow hand in hand with great artists.
What is the meaning of ‘Persival’?
Percival was one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. And he was the one who found the Holy Grail, so from that they said his name meant ‘perseverance’.
Our motto has always been that: persevere. Although I believe that dreams do come true, I think that you have to get up early to work so that those dreams come true. More than generating money, our intention was to generate employment, create a company and gradually face great challenges.
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What have been those challenges?
The first event we did as Pérsival was a scout meeting at Campo Escuela (Piedras Blancas, Medellín). It was a small sound and it was wonderful. Later, they hired us for bigger shows, for example Como de las Estrellas in 1995. So we had that challenge to do it well to leave the name of the brand high so that later we would be hired for more shows.
Another example is that of Juanes in 2014. We went to a meeting with his team, and he told us that the idea was to do a concert in the middle of the Sinú river. Obviously I opened my eyes, impressed, thinking that putting everything together in an arena, a stadium, or on a street is very easy, but that is where the challenge lies. And we do it with all the technical difficulties, but that makes it quite an exciting topic.
There is also the Venezuela Aid Live (2017) with the American billionaire Richard Branson. What he wanted to do was put on a concert on the border with Venezuela, with 36 artists and within 15 days. I told him that the times were really tight, but we are going forward. And the next day we were getting on a plane to Cúcuta to take measurements, draw plans, and pass the technical proposal to all the artists.
That had a number of logistical challenges that in the end turn out to be a wonder. In addition, I had the opportunity to talk to a guy like Richard Branson, who later thanked me and told me that he hadn’t forgotten the look of amazement when he said that all this had to be assembled in 15 days, that I didn’t hesitate for a moment, and in the end it is estimated that there were more than 800 thousand people in the media.
Nevertheless, definitely the biggest challenge was the pandemic. We managed to reinvent ourselves with virtual concerts and other modalities to keep the majority of employees in the company.
How have they overcome the pandemic?
At this time, 64 people are directly linked to the company. For the pandemic, we were down to 60, and we managed to keep the entire payroll for six months. Then some contracts ran out and we had to stay with 48 people.
Now we are with more linked people than before the pandemic. These are direct employees, but there are a number of indirect employees and freelancing that always arrive depending on the number of events that we are running in a specific week or month.
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And what differentiates Pérsival from the others?
In 2008, we made a very large investment with a Meyer Sound system, which is one of the most important systems in the world of audio. With that, we became a more relevant company, and we began to make international artists who were arriving in Colombia.
We work with these teams until 2014, when we acquired a system called LEO, also from Meyer Sound. We were the only company that had it in Colombia. So, when Metallica came, for example, we did it because we were the ones with the LEO.
However, I think that the difference really lies in the service, because there are several companies that can have a lot of audio and video things, but the staff is what makes a big difference.
We have always had a slogan that says that The best thing about Pérsival is its people and we assert ourselves for that. In the end, people are what makes the company valuable. They are the ones who really provide you with the service, not only the one who rents you audio or lighting equipment, but also the one who advises you and helps you kindly with a smile.
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What’s next for the producer?
We come from working at the Fito Páez concert and at the Festival Estéreo Picnic. Now we are working on the vallenato festival (from April 26 to 30 in Valledupar). It is a large event that will have a large number of artists and international guests.
We are also working on the concert of Ricardo Montaner (April 29 in Medellín) and supporting the concert of Maluma (April 30 in Medellin). In May we will be with the tour of raphael (May 5 in Medellín), we do the Baum Park (May 7 Medellin) and Baum-Festival (May 20 and 21 in Bogotá). We will also do the ‘Bichota Tour’ of Carol G (May 14 in Cali) and ‘El Choli moves to Medellín’ (May 27) with Wisin, Yandel, Nicky Jam, sech, Archangel, Magnate Y valentine that was postponed since the pandemic.
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Pérsival Producciones: the brain behind great concerts and events
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