Alvaro Prol is one of the key players in the glitter and glitz of Vancouver’s nightlife, but one of the most important elements of his job usually plays out as he runs through the tranquil forests and along the rugged shores of Stanley Park, listening to music.
“Between my two kids and managing my company, there isn’t much time for anything else,” said Prol, co-founder of hospitality management company Blueprint, in an interview with Business in Vancouver. “Running and exercising is my time to find new music and ultimately stay on top of what is new and cool.”
Being at the forefront of the music scene and predicting trends has always been the core of Prol’s success, helping him turn Blueprint into one of the largest event, entertainment and hospitality organizations in British Columbia.
Before the responsibilities of adult life had taken hold, Prol, who is now 39, excitedly navigated Vancouver’s underground club scene as a young transplant from Argentina with a passion for music. In the mid- to late ’90s, Prol sensed an approaching shift and an opportunity that would shape his future.
“I would say it all began in 1997 when I hosted my first house music event at the Red Lounge,” Prol recalled. “There I met Bill Kerasiotis, who was manager at the time.”
At the time, house music in Vancouver had largely been confined to after-hours venues, derelict warehouses or backdoor affairs. Prol knew it was time to bring the genre out of the shadows, and meeting Kerasiotis was exactly the light he needed.
“Starting from humble beginnings, it was a gradual grind for Alvaro but he always had a vision from the start,” said Kerasiotis.
Kerasiotis and his family have been prominent figures in the nightclub scene for decades, notably owning famed clubs like Luv-a-Fair and Graceland. Both closed in early 2000 as the family sold the land to developers. The family still owns shares in some of Vancouver’s most popular nightlife venues.
“My partnership with Kerasiotis became closer after my first event, and then I bought into Celebrities, which his family owned,” said Prol. “From there we bought other clubs like Shine, invested into Fortune [Sound Club] and then we rolled everything their family had and everything we had done together into one company.”
This was the birth of Blueprint. What started out as a weekly “Blueprint Tuesdays” night at the former Plaza Club now employs over 400 people and runs 13 bars and clubs and three liquor stores.
“Alvaro has been relentless; his work ethic is second to none,” Kerasiotis said. “He saw where things were going and he dove into it.”
Last October, Blueprint celebrated its 19th anniversary at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum by hosting a party with nearly 6,500 guests, world-class DJs and mesmerizing stage production. Before Blueprint had started hosting parties there, the Coliseum had largely been reserved for sporting events. In 2009, Blueprint took a leap into larger-scale live shows with a concert at University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Thunderbird Stadium featuring producer and DJ Deadmau5. Since then, arena shows have been at the core of the company’s success.
“Getting electronic [music] into some of these buildings was difficult, but once we were in [we] realized we could showcase these world-class buildings to the public and advertise what Vancouver has to offer as a city,” Prol said.
Since 2009, Blueprint has hosted large-scale concerts all over the Greater Vancouver area. From the Vancouver Convention Centre to UBC Thunderbird Stadium to Malkin Bowl, Blueprint has breathed new life into venues and reimagined Vancouver as a thriving scene of fun and activity. It’s an image that Prol has worked hard to achieve.
The city “has definitely taken a turn” away from its reputation as the “no-fun city,” Prol said.
“I always remember hearing that phrase. I don’t think that’s where we are today.”
From arenas, Blueprint graduated to festivals.
Festivals are what turn the most profit for the company, said Prol, but they also carry the most risk. Blueprint’s Fvded in the Park, which started as a smaller-scale event in Stanley Park, has evolved into a massive two-day summer music festival in Surrey’s Holland Park that attracts patrons from around the world.
“Being able to do things for the first time ever is a big deal,” said Prol. “We were the first to do the convention centre, BC Place, and now we were the first to do an event at Holland Park, and we sold out – 40,000 people in two days,” said Prol.
Fvded in the Park was launched after the success of its winter counterpart, Contact Winter Music Festival. Contact, now in its fifth year, has evolved into a two-day event that attracts nearly 36,000 people with more than 18 internationally recognized artists from around the world. This year, Grammy Award-winning DJ duo Disclosure headlined the event along with the notable Aussie electronic artist Flume.
“The biggest winter event in all of Canada is here at BC Place. The Rolling Stones go in there, Pink Floyd … not even [Justin] Bieber can go in there, and we sell it out for our [Contact] event consistently.”
Blueprint partnered with Live Nation in 2013, which has allowed for elaborate productions of this magnitude. Live Nation produces over 20,000 shows annually and is one of the world’s leading live entertainment and e-commerce companies. Even though they are partners, Live Nation continues to be one of Blueprint’s leading competitors, while behind them is Vancouver-based Timbre Concerts.
Blueprint has grown beyond B.C., joining forces with the principals of Edmonton-based Connected Entertainment and Calgary’s Aqua Audio. This December, Blueprint hosted Get Together, an electronic music festival, at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton while simultaneously running Contact in Vancouver.
Prol maintains the belief that Blueprint has been successful because it has always stayed on top of the scene.
“The most important thing for us has been putting pressure when a trend is happening,” Prol said. “It’s important to continue to do things that are cool, that matter, that people respect.” •