By Ken Klar

First thing you'll need is a demo tape. Regardless of the situation you are headed for, you have to have one. Think of it as your business card. You will find that a great demo can open a lot of doors and lead to a ton of opportunity.  But a sloppy one will ensure that you never get a chance to be heard. Because of this it's critical to put your best foot forward.

The first thing to do is to find a studio that you can get into that is relatively cheap ($30-50/hour ought to be no problem). I can recommend a studio that I use regularly that would do a great job. Find someone to work with that "gets" what you are doing. Be patient, this is going to take a little time.

Recording a Karaoke style demo isn't a bad idea in the beginning because it gets you on the map (you will have a demo when someone asks) and allows you to find a producer that you like to work with vocally without dumping a ton of money. Depending on your level of experience in the studio, you could pump out a master of your 3-song demo for as little as $200 (4-5 hours of studio time). You could complete this in 2-3 sessions, easy. So, if you have $200 ...you could have a demo next weekend. But I would recommend weekly sessions so you can live with what you have created incrementally.  This will also slow down the money flow to a more manageable level ($100/week).

At this point, try to find some places to use these tracks. Weddings would be perfect for you. Every wedding on earth has some special music associated with it. Find out where the weddings are being held in your town (churches and reception halls) and introduce yourself to the wedding coordinator. Some people do this free lance, so look in the yellow pages too.

This next step might affect which songs you decide to "demo". Pick wedding songs that you can do exceptionally well. The karaoke track that you bought to record with is the same one that you will sing to at the gig. Start a list of songs that you can do. You will need to have these songs memorized.

Get some business cards printed up for handing out at the gigs.  Call around, posing as a new bride-to-be to find out what the other wedding singers in your area are charging for this sort of thing. If you play this right, it could finance your artistic endeavors.

Regardless of how you decide use the initial demo, sooner or later, you will need to start producing full, studio, original tracks. This is where it really matters that the producer "get" what you are about.  So next, I would start with some covers. That way it'll be mostly mapped out for you (arrangement wise) but you can still put your own "smell" on it. I would recommend 3 more songs at this stage. This is going to be more intense with regard to time and money. Expect to spend$300-$400 per song (12 hours of studio time - could be done in 4-5 weekly sessions).  Also, I would work on one song at a time at this stage and see how things develop.

Simultaneously, you should be gathering your own material (either writing it yourself or finding writers that will contribute to your cause See "Getting The Pros On Your Side") .  This could be very time consuming, so start cultivating these relationships early!

Once you have a couple of original songs picked out, start looking for "open mike nights" to play them at. If possible, start playing once a month. They usually will let you play 1-2 songs per night. This will help flesh out the originals and performance issues. Once you have learned 5-6 originals, you should consider booking a 45 minute set  somewhere. Of course by that time you should have completed recording all six covers songs (and have a great demo!) and you should have a total of 12 songs to pull your set list from.

Simultaneous with the playing 45 minute sets around town (once every month or two), you should start recording your originals.  In the beginning, record these two at a time...it'll make things go a little faster and keep things more cohesive sounding without being overwhelming.

Once you are comfortable with the team you have built along the way, you can record more songs at any given time. Also, you can experiment with "live" instruments, a larger studio, different producer, etc. etc. etc.

There's TONS to do. But if you focus on the end of the game, it will never happen. It's just too overwhelming.  So only  look at the next step, and keep moving forward. Pretty soon you'll get there.

Ken Klar is a Producer, Songwriter and Managing Director of Must Have Music (BMI)/Must Have More Music (ASCAP), which has spent the last ten years, developing an extensive catalog of top quality original songs ranging from Adult Contemporary, Pop/R&B, Contemporary Christian, Pop-Rock and Country. The current catalog includes more than one hundred songs that have been placed in Film & TV as well as with Independent Artists across the country. For information about this and other music industry related topics, go to http://www.musthavemusic.com