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Summer Jobs: Rock Around The Clock (pdf's - page 1, page 2)
For the Kootz, it's the Shore season with its nightly outdoor gigs that's most lucrative
Sunday, July 23, 2006
BY ED SILVERMAN
Star-Ledger Staff

The opening night of Millburn's summer concert series had a picture-perfect quality to it. The sky was clear, the air was cool and the cans of iced tea, bobbing in tubs on a folding table, were free.

Scattered about the rambling field in the town park, parents kibbitzed in lawn chairs, teenagers congregated in cliques and small children ran around squealing with pleasure. And the soundtrack was just right for the Baby Boomers who dominated the crowd: The band cranked out songs by the Doors, Cream and the Animals.

On stage, Glenn Taylor was also enjoying the scene. Although for the pony-tailed guitarist, the evening wasn't about relaxation. The show marked the kickoff of another summer of endless touring for the Kootz, an oldies band Taylor formed several years ago to improve his chops, have a little fun and make some cash.

"The summertime is a big surge for us. I always try to capitalize on the season," said Taylor, a 52-year-old Caldwell resident who calls himself "chief 'Koot' and bottle-washer." "We're basically stocking the lake for the rest of the year, because we make more money from the town gigs than the taverns we play other months."

It's easy to see why. Most of the year, the Kootz plays a few nights a week. This summer, from mid-June through Labor Day, the band is booked every night, thanks to the growing number of outdoor street fairs, town concerts and festivals. Not only that, the outdoor shows generally pay about twice what the bars pay. As a result, the extra summer gigs generate at least 25 percent of the band's annual take.

Of course, playing every night, week after week, can get tiring, especially if you're an old 'Koot' (the band members' average age: 50 years young). So, Taylor devised a clever business strategy.

He recruited 12 musicians to fill four positions on stage: two guitars, bass and drums. It's an eclectic bunch that kicks out the jams: an electrician, a prep-school teacher, a part-time funeral director, the owner of a construction company, the weekend organist at Yankee Stadium. Occasional guest artists include Dennis Diken, the drummer for the Smithereens.

Having a deep bench allowed the Kootz to play two Fourth of July outdoor shows in different towns simultaneously. The visibility, Taylor said, was worth it. But lining up so many shows is hard work.

Between December and April, he said he spends nearly three hours a day on the telephone with town recreation departments trying to book summer venues. He doesn't use a booking agent and jealously guards his contact list.

"The ratio of sweat equity to payoff is terrible," he said. "And every band and his brother is now vying for these spots. But I do this because I wanted to play better places. "We started out as a fun bar band. Now, we have our own CD and we play everywhere from Rockland County to the Jersey Shore. It's really all about who you can reach. And the best time to reach them is often the summer."

Ed Silverman may be reached at (973) 392-1542 or esilverman@starledger.com.

THE KOOTZ

Business: Rock-n-roll band that plays "covers" of hit songs and originals in bars, town parks and street fairs.

Employees: 12 band members

Founding member: Glenn Taylor, whose full-time job is running a recording studio in Caldwell.

Niche: Energetic renditions of songs, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s, that are the staple of oldies and classic-rock radio stations. The band's Web site lists approximately 900 songs from which set lists are compiled.

Season: The Kootz performs year-round, but plays nightly from late June through early September.

Marketing strategy: The band's Web site (www.thekootz.com) with song lists, biographies, pictures and show dates; e-mail list with 9,000 names.

Major costs: Transportation ($500-600 monthly in gas and tolls); Web-site hosting and design ($200 monthly); phone ($200-$300 monthly, in peak season); motel rooms, when needed ($100 per night per member).

Primary revenue: Average gross from playing gigs is $2,500 to $5,000 per week (about $100 and up per band member per gig).

Miscellaneous revenue: Kootz CD, T-shirts, baseball caps, bumper stickers and the Kootz Kandy Bar.

Giveaways: Kootz lollipops and Kootz pens.