Thousands of fans gather in the arena screaming, stretching their arms just to touch you as your band plays their latest single. The life of a rock star is glamorous, fast-paced and real, but in one second it can fade away, and you’re stuck serving fries at a fast food restaurant. Perhaps this fantasy may never come true, leaving you with a job that only pays bills and fails to satisfy your passion for music.

Becoming a rock star means more than getting your friends together and playing air guitar while singing into a hairbrush. Like any dream, it can only come true with determination and a plan. Fortunately, there are many tips and tools available to make your goal a reality.

Got Ink?

If you think tattoos are for bikers and gangsters, then you need to take a closer look at the posters taped on your wall. Rock stars use the art of tattooing to show off their creativity, personal memories and beliefs.

On the other hand, body ink gives musicians a reason to show off their perfectly sculpted bodies onstage, making groupies shiver with pleasure. Tragic music icon Janis Joplin showed off a delicate vine wrapped around her wrist, ’80s glam metal band Mötley Crüe revealed more ink than big hair and even grunge goddess Courtney Love isn’t afraid to rip off her shirt to give fans a glance of her assets. Remember, you shouldn’t get any tattoos without doing research, so skip the cheesy temporary stickers and stick to screen prints that never go out of style.

Suggestions: Tees and Tats was started by Jeremy Parker who was fascinated by tattoos, but couldn’t get any due to his Jewish Orthodox upbringing. Instead, he wears them on T-shirts, designed by Japanese-style tattoo artist Marco Serio.

JuNKeR, worshipped by Alice Cooper, Slipknot and Lacuna Coil also has tattoo-inspired threads containing flaming cobras and winged hearts. If you like it rough, aim for a leather hoodie that exposes a skull tank top.

Jamming 101

You need to learn how to be a rock star from the experts. You could try to play that moldy guitar at home, or you can take a class. School can be cool, and it doesn’t have to involve a dull tutor who auditioned for “American Idol.”

Instructors who are passionate about music can teach the basics of drumming, creating spine-tingling riffs and how to project vocals towards a crowd without hurting yourself. Not only will you be jamming with a fellow musician, but more important, you’ll develop the skills to command an arena.

Suggestion: The Hollywood Academy of Music (www.hollywoodacademyofmusic.com) offers private lessons for over 11 instruments, as well as workshops on recording music, songwriting and performing in front of crowds.

Internet Built the Radio Star

After all those late nights jamming with your band, where can potential fans hear your music? While you could just plaster flyers around your neighborhood announcing your band’s upcoming gig at Hyperion Tavern, there are more creative ways to spread the word.

Make sure you have an account on every social networking site like MySpace and Facebook to promote your music. If you don’t know what “blogs” or “podcasts” are, start doing your homework because these free tools can quickly raise awareness about your music worldwide.

Suggestions: Yangaroo, an online music sharing resource, contains a Digital Media Distribution Service (DMDS), which lets independent artists and labels send their music through the web to selected radio stations. TuneCore, whose biggest fan is the Cure’s Roger O’Donnell, also lets users upload their music and deliver them to sites, such as iTunes, Rhapsody and Amazonmp3.

Members of Best of Bands have access to a business directory and a list of music venues in all 50 states. If you’re counting your pennies, consider taking free lessons online at Berklee Shares, where you can study basic scratching for DJing, set up a personal recording studio and learn how to make money by selling songs.

Click to Succeed

Although rock stars are known for their wild antics, it’s their heartfelt melodies and compelling lyrics that impact listeners. However, to make a memorable mark in music, you better sing and play every day.

In an industry where you can be yesterday’s news in a flash, rock stars must show their audience that they’re beyond brilliant in making music. Aside from taking classes, there are other fun ways to practice and be demanded by venues and listeners.

Suggestions: JamVOX is computer software that allows you to eliminate specific instruments from a song, giving you the opportunity to practice with your favorite group right at home. Rocker Eddie Van Halen loves the Fretlight Guitar embedded with bright red lights, signifying where fingers should be placed. The program contains quizzes, so you better learn how to do both leads and improvs before embarrassing yourself in front of friends.

Reading is Fundamental

One of the most crucial, yet often forgotten rules of becoming a rock star is simple: read. Getting into the music business isn’t only about attending networking parties, playing with your band mates and wearing more make-up than your mother.

The music industry is ruthless and competitive, so you must read up on how current musicians made it, what mistakes past artists have done and upcoming trends. Reading for at least half an hour per day not only enriches your mind with what has made past musicians successful, but you can also be one of the first to know what labels are looking for.

Suggestions: Kathy Baylor, a producer who’s been responsible for finding and signing new talent for over 12 years, recently debuted an e-book titled FabJob Guide to Become a Recording Artist. The downloadable career guide covers finding a manager and getting your music played on TV.

“First Lady of Radio” Dayna Steele takes readers backstage to meet Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Bono in Rock to the Top: What I Learned About Success From the World’s Greatest Rock Stars.

ADVICE FROM THE EXPERTS

“Get an education for two reasons: Just in case you don’t make it in music and just in case you do. The next generation of rock star needs to be business savvy so as not to be taken advantage of by the music business.”

—Don DeSimone, Founder, Burbank Music Academy

“Stage presence is exactly that – stage presence – and it should stay on stage. When you jump on that stage you need to be able to grab everyone’s attention instantly and be able to interact with your crowd. Give the crowd energy, and they will give it back to you. Once the show is over, it’s over. Save the energy for the next show!”

—Johnny Maroney, Ricky Greenstein and Kirk Ceballos, Moodswing360

“Tour, tour and tour. You’ve got that live act tight, now tour like hell.”

—Jonathan Higley, Founder, TheMusiciansPlug.com

“Perseverance and passion are key. You have to live and breathe this. This business is not for the faint at heart, but if you follow your dreams the rewards can be incredible.”

—Merl Saunders Jr., Executive Director, the San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Academy

“You have to be organized. You will need a calendar to keep track of when to call club owners back, to keep track of your bookings. If you think you can get away with getting up at the crack of noon and kicking back until your time to take the stage, you are in the wrong business.”

—Dave Jackson, Producer, Internet Radio Show “The Musicians Cooler”