Tommy Pratama: Business Rooted in a Dream

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IN February, Indonesia will be entertained by pop-rock band Fire House, which will perform not only in the capital city but also in nine other cities in the country. The band’s appearance is due to the hard work of Tommy Pratama, Original Production promoter.

Two other major events were organized by Tommy at the end of 2008, namely a concert by jazz musician Michael Franks and one by 1990s rock band Extreme. Both performed in Jakarta on Dec. 10, while Michael Franks performed in Surabaya on Dec. 14 and Extreme played there on Dec. 15. Both events in the two cities were seen by thousands.

Although the political climate in the country is heating up due to the upcoming elections, Tommy is not worried at all. “Music has nothing to do with politics, it has no direct link. Music is a universal language. It can even create peace,” said Tommy, whose full name is Tommy Pratama Hernanto.

“In an indirect way our company and our work have become a kind of public relations exercise to prove that the situation in Indonesia is quite safe as foreign artists are willing to come and perform here,” said Tommy, who has been in the business for 17 years.

This demonstrates Tommy’s expertise in promoting Indonesia as a venue for concerts. Through his company, PT Pratama Original Production, or Original Production as it is better known, he is noted as a promoter who makes concerts of international performers happen. Among the noted musicians who have used Original Production as their promoter are Scorpion, Deep Purple, Air Supply, Megadeth, Toto, Shaggy and Dionne Warwick.

Music has been in Tommy’s blood since childhood, and his career as a promoter started the moment he decided not to become a musician. His father introduced him to the world of music through the Beatles. Tommy’s father, Tato, was a member of the noted Bharata Band, which frequently played Beatles songs throughout the 1960s until the 1990s.

Tommy can recall the days when he attended Besuki primary school in Menteng, Central Jakarta, where Barack Obama was also educated. He often drew pictures of famous rock bands on the pages of his exercise books, such as Deep Purple, Kiss, Queen and Led Zeppelin. One friend often warned him that if the teacher caught him he would be punished.

His spontaneous answer would always be, “I will bring them over here to perform in Indonesia,” reminisced Tommy, who was born on May 1, 1969 in Jakarta. Who would have guessed that his primary school words would come true? “I wept when I met my old friend from primary school who often warned me. He hugged me and said, ‘Your dream has come true’,” he said.

From when he was in secondary school days up to university at Trisakti University, he often held musical events at the school and on the campus. At university, Tommy was involved in the Sunday Music Festival featuring local artists, such as Slank, Gigi and Dewa 19. Tommy started to get serious about the music industry after getting fed up with being an intermediary for music agents in neighboring countries. And so in 1991 he established Original Production.

Up until 1998, Tommy worked alone until he married Antin Listiany. He and Antin then worked together to further develop Original Production, which started to grow. Antin, who had been working in the media, quit her job and became the company’s marketing director. The couple turned into shrewd marketers and created breakthroughs in the industry. According to Tommy, people in the music community and audiences were varied and this made him optimistic. So besides bringing in major names, Tommy also took into consideration a larger market that consisted of family audiences and strived to cater to them.

Thus appeared shows that are loved by children, such as Holiday on Ice, Disney on Ice and Barney’s Big Surprise. “I focus on music concerts while my wife takes care of family shows,” he said.

When asked about the capital required to run the business, he explained: “The initial capital is ideas, commitment and dedication.” However, he acknowledged that bringing in major foreign performers costs a lot. “It can be between US$25,000 and $2.5 million, such as for a world renowned band,” he added.

To cover the costs he looks for sponsors. “I have gone through a lot of things, such as not getting a sponsor at all, as well as getting sales and profits long before the show. But, whatever the obstacles, the show must go on,” he said in a determined tone.

He said he had obtained various lessons. When a performer cancels, as did Yes, White Snake, Julio Iglesias and Limp Bizkit, he looks at the positive side. “I consider it an investment, because they are embarrassed at canceling and respect our position as a result,” he said. But he does not lose spirit. “Perhaps I feel disappointed for a day or two, but then I perk up and get on with my work,” said Tommy.

He brings in five shows a year. So, last year it was 36 performances for the five performers. “So if the worse comes to the worst, three events out of five make money, which is still good,” he said with a short laugh. (Ade Irwan Trisnadi)

The Jakarta Post, January 21, 2009