Protest Song


We can’t deny that there’s a trend in politics right now. We see politics all over our media right now. Remember that some of the best songs in history were written with social relevance. As we promote and embrace the power of the song, we can’t help but share an articles that our friend James Linderman wrote for the current time.

How to Write a Protest Song by James Linderman

Perhaps two of the only thing left that we can all agree on is that we live in a world divided, and it is now a time of protest.

Whether people are protesting truth to power or power to truth, protesting a certain ideology or defending it, it appears that protest and social justice songs will be in demand soon, perhaps before we can even get them written.

This article is not going to be about the validity of anybody’s particular viewpoint or about our politics, but about how to craft an ideological protest song that will offer the greatest representation of your views, should you choose a guitar over a placard when your cause take to the streets.

If your cause has already taken to the streets, then you had better get writing because as the song goes, “Your old road is rapidly aging, so get out of the new one, if you can’t lend a hand”.

Here are 10 points you will want to know before you just start singing angry stuff all over the place.

1.    Research your Topic. You may have a very strong passion for a certain social or political view but there is a difference between being passionate about a cause, and being well informed. School yourself up on both sides of the argument and write a lyric you can defend.
2.    Write to the Centre. When writing your lyric you will convert more uncommitted listeners if you craft some nuance into your viewpoint. This does not mean you have to acknowledge a personal validation of the opposing view, but writing as if the issue is above debate, will inevitably work against you. You do not want people to get the impression that your song was written in an ideological vacuum because that will make it easy to argue against and satirize.
3.    Write to your Passion. Considering the point in #2 taken, do not compromise your passion for the cause, and write with the bravery and conviction that your view deserves.
4.    Use a Traditional Song Form. By using a traditional song form, you will allow your protest song to tap into the historical representation of the protest songs that have preceded it, and give your song some grounding in that tradition. This also helps your protest, or social justice song retain some simplicity and help the listener stay focused on the lyric ideas dedicated to your cause.
5.    Write into a Metaphor. Songs that are based on an abstract or written as a parable are more powerful and illustrative than songs that are directly teachy or preachy. Bob Dylan knew what the answer was, my friends, and could easily have stated it in plain language but he chose to let us know that it was “blowing in the wind”. The lyric was a metaphorical invitation to get out there and find the answer for yourself.
6.    Refrain from NOT using a Refrain. Some of us have never even written a refrain since the chorus took over the world about 50 years ago but the refrain is a great convention for the kind of song you want to write here. For a great example of a refrain we look again to, “The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind”.
7.    We Want 5 Notes, We Want 5 Notes….Protest and social justice songs need to be easy to chant and as “sing along” friendly as possible. It is advisable to write a simple catchy melody that primarily uses the 5 note pentatonic scale. This will make your song easy for your crowd to learn and easy for them to remember for the next rally.
8.    What the Anthem? Anthems are historically a celebratory kind of musical work but of course, when you protest one side of a cause, you are also celebrating the side of that fence that you reside on. Study anthems, like national anthems as well as songs like Queen’s We are the Champions” and, “We Will Rock You” and other songs that tap into a sense of belonging to your certain faction of society. You will find that some of these songs have a chorus but notice the use of lots and lots of repetition and how the chorus melody and lyric ties in with the verses.
9.    Dude, Where’s Your Song? Once you have written your song, make certain that organizers who work for the cause know you have written it. It does you no good if no one hears your timely song and for those who share that view, your song may be considered an essential element that was perhaps previously missing from their movement.
10.    To Sing… or not to Sing! Once the song is written and ready to go, determine if you are the right voice for the song and for the movement. There is a lot to be said for the honesty of the songwriters rendition but it can also be argued that having the right performance can also be a huge factor in having your ideas gain traction and produce the greatest impact. Try to not make this decision with your ego, or your own ambition and let the song win the day.

Above all other kinds of songs, protest songs and social justice songs have been able to influence culture and some have even become the soundtrack to seismic shifts in how people feel about one another by providing the words and music to that particular moment in human history.

James Linderman teaches guitar and piano, and coaches songwriting over Skype to students from all over the world. He is the author of a new book Song Forms for Songwriting and teaches film composition and songwriting for film in the Slaight Music Residency at The Canada Film Centre. He has been an Academic Ambassador to Berklee College of Music for over 10 years. James also writes music journalism for performing rights organizations and songwriting associations almost everywhere.

Visit or contact at

Sign Up For CSA Showcases

2017 is going to be a big year!

CSA showcases are staying at Notes this year. Why? 10 easy reasons.

1. Downtown location
2. Great bar, stage, lights, audio
3. Chef-prepared food
4. Free use of back line instruments and keyboards
5. Free parking lot
6. They support and promote local bands and musicians
7. Notes is offering us a billboard downtown this year
8. They put on an awesome fundraising event for us in 2016, just because!
9. Their management and staff are inspired by us
10. Our songwriters dig them back

Also, we made a pretty big change to the CSA Showcase Sign Up page. We want you to write so many new songs, take all the big risks at your performances this year, and be able to prepare for them way ahead of time. So, you can now sign up for showcases way ahead of time! Check it out.

Plan responsibly – We want to hear all your new songs this year, but we don’t want our hearts broken by no-shows. We also want to make sure there’s room for everyone!

Another big announcement coming soon.

– Joey
Co-Founder, Columbus Songwriters Association

Announcing: Barbara Cloyd Workshop

On Sunday December 4th, the CSA Songwriting Workshop (limited to 12 participants) will once again be led by Barbara Cloyd, from 10am-12 noon, at Notes, the newest music venue in downtown Columbus! (Ends 2 hours prior to the start of CSA’s annual, Finale Showcase which runs from 2-5pm.)

Barbara Cloyd is a hit songwriter and staple in the Nashville music culture. She hosts the Bluebird Cafe, spots new talent on music row, and organizes pitch for publisher workshops and other events that help songwriters earn major opportunities.

During the CSA Songwriting Workshop, Barbara will pair an advanced teaching on how to get song placemnets with time for song review. This is an excellent opportunity for local songwriters to get music-industry level feedback on your songs, by a true master of the craft!

Registration is limited to 12 seats. This will ensure everyone who attends receives song feedback/review from Barbara Cloyd. Members of CSA can attend for $25 (using your member password as a promo code), and non-members of CSA can attend for $35. All proceeds support CSA’s non-profit mission, which helps create opportunities songwriters in Columbus, Ohio.

Finale Showcase Is Here!

CSA Finale Showcase
When: December 4th at 2-5pm
Location: Notes (below Copious at 520 S. High Street Columbus, Ohio 43203)

Each year, Columbus Songwriters Association invites friends in the music industry to hear local songwriters perform some of the best new songs of 2016.


This year, we’re honored to have with us:

1. Barbara Cloyd – From The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, hit songwriter, songwriting coach for music row and NSAI.
2. Betsy Brumley – Director of I’ll Fly Away Foundation, The Power of Music Festival, and grandaughter to one of the most successful Gospel song composers of the 20th century, Albert E Brumley.
3. Mystery Guest

1st prize will receive 20 hours of free recording time at John Schwab Recording Studios. We’re planning other prizes as well. Previous showcases have helped songwriters earn recording, performance, licensing opportunities, and develop local/national relationships. More details to come.

Finale Lineup:

Megan Taylor
Ty Cooper
Maya Mougey
Rob Maccabee
Jamie Sagle
Anthony Mossburg
John Tucker
Brad Roll
Abby Moulton
Luke Mossburg
Scott Greene
Sarah Young
Eric Clemens
Steven Stanley
Jon Morgan

Your ticket supports the costs of events, logistics, and awards. Any unforeseen proceeds will support CSA’s 501(c)(3) non-profit mission to empower the lives of songwriters in Columbus, Ohio.


November Showcase: Last showcase before the Finale in December!

UP NEXT: CSA November Showcase

CSA November Showcase is November 6 at 230p at Notes located at 520 S. High Street in the Brewery District / German Village area. CSA Members can now sign up to perform in the last showcase before our Finale in December! Sign up to perform

COMING UP: Finale Showcase

Each year we invite friends in the music industry to come to Columbus and present workshops to our members. These publishers, supervisors, artists, or label representatives also provide feedback to songwriters who were selected by audiences to perform in this annual event. Finale date/details coming soon!


NEWS: How To Build A Music City ACCEPTED for SXSW 2017

In March 2017, How To Build A Music City will present for the second time at SXSW, featuring Tamara Kaminska from Katowice Cultural Institute, Amy Terrill from Music Canada, and Jesse Elliott from the Bohemian Foundation Music Project in Colorado. Joey Hendrickson will moderate the discussion, which will help musicians and advocates understand the next step planning that goes into the launch of a music commission.


October Showcase is Today!

Autumn is here! So is the October Showcase, happening today at 230pm at Notes the newest music venue in downtown Columbus located at 520 S. High Street.

This venue is mysteriously located under a cool new restaurant called “Copious.” Look for the big sign on S High street, park in the free lot behind it, take the stairs down, and you’ll find us!

October Showcase is our second to last “normal” showcase of the year! And surprise — CSA Founders Joey Hendrickson, Derek DuPont, and also Orion DiFranco will be sharing new songs. Normally these guys are working behind the scenes to help the event happen, but tonight, thanks to our awesome volunteers, they’ll be joining songwriters on stage!

New songs, new friends, that’s what we’re all about! If you want to perform last minute just email and show up. We’ve had a couple last minute cancellations and we’ll get you in!

CSA Benefit Concert – August 5th

Notes and WCBE 90.5 FM have partnered to present the first ever benefit concert for Columbus Songwriters Association!

This concert will feature an astounding, national touring band, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, who were recently showcased on NPR‘s Tiny Desk Concerts!

7p – Doors
8p – A rare performance by Bella Ruse
9p – CSA Founder takes stage in Joey Hendrickson & The Sleepless Nights
10p – National touring, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds

Tickets Now Available

For more than 3 years, Columbus Songwriters Association has been a volunteer run non-profit organization. We’ve helped bring together songwriters in our community in Columbus, Ohio. Today, we are the largest songwriting group in the Midwest, empowering and providing opportunities for over 250 members. Proceeds from this benefit concert will be used to help CSA bring in music industry representatives for our Finale Showcase in December 2016. Thank you in advance for your support!

We’re thankful for Notes, WCBE-NPR, Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Ohio Arts Council – major supporters that help fuel music in our city!

WCBE                images               OAClogo50

CSA Partners with Columbus Songwriting Workshop

The Columbus Songwriting Workshop is excited to have the Columbus Songwriters Association as a partner in 2016!

CSA members get $5 off the pre-register price of the workshop – that’s $10 off the day of price!

The next Columbus Songwriting Workshop will be October 29th 2016 at the Jazz Academy located inside the historic Lincoln Theatre, just minutes from downtown Columbus!

To get your discounted ticket, email and he’ll get you signed up ahead of time.

For more information, visit:


June Showcase Is Almost Here!


It’s time to sign up for the CSA June Showcase! We’ll be back at Notes (520 S. High Street) on June 5th, 3-5pm.

We’ve had over 40 showcases in the last four years. It’s our staple, community event where songwriters share the stage, perform new songs live, and audiences provide written feedback on each song performed.

We like to sweeten up the event with some cool opps for songwriters – 1st prize songwriter receives free recording time at JSR Studios. 1st and 2nd prize go on to perform in our annual Finale Showcase for our friends in the music industry. 3rd place becomes a “wild card” who may be selected to perform in our Finale Showcase at the end of the year, dependent upon space.

Throughout the night, we recognize some of the best-written audience feedback, give away tickets to shows at Promowest venues, and so much more! Mark your calendars for 6/5, and join us on the first Sunday of each month for the CSA Showcase!

Email Update


Click the photo below (Kyle Merkley and Ron Maccabbee at the CSA Finale Showcase) to download our email update!


To join our email list and receive email updates direct, just complete the form below!

CSA Finale Showcase: Mar 6, 6-830

Each year, Columbus Songwriters Association invites music industry leaders to Columbus to hear songwriters from all around the city, perform live!

This year, we’re honored to have Barbara Cloyd (Hit Songwriter from The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville) George Schwindt (Music Publisher and Drummer from Flogging Molly), and Jerry DePizzo (O.A.R.) joining us.

We’ll give away 20 hours of free recording time at John Schwab Recording Studios. We’ll help songwriters get performance opportunities in Nashville, TN. And more!

Tickets || RSVP on Facebook

Last Showcase of 2015!

CSA Members:

There are still a few spots left in the CSA November Showcase! If you haven’t performed at Notes — the newest music venue in downtown Columbus — now’s your chance!

This Sunday will be the last showcase of 2015. All songwriters who were voted 1st or 2nd by audiences throughout the year will go on to perform in front of music industry judges at our Finale Showcase!


Learn the Realities of Music

I didn’t think I’d ever learn music theory until I talked with Bill Hilt. It was a Sunday afternoon at Chipotle in Clintonville where he took out a pen and started writing on a napkin. He began showing me the math and science behind the reality of music.

I’ll be honest, he moved pretty fast on that napkin. I don’t remember everything he showed me. But in that 5 minutes Bill Hilt became the Bill Nye of music. He opened my eyes, man. It was in that moment that I realized I’d probably learn music theory if I could learn it fast, and with my friends… Enter CSA. Enter music theory workshop. Enter fun challenge:

Learn the Realities of Music
3 sessions, 2 hours each.
Nov, 8, 15, 22 at 4-6pm.
Just 40 bucks for the whole thing.

After Bill did the napkin thing, I called up Diane Boston from Columbus Folk Music Society. Their organization agreed to split the cost of a cool room at the Jazz Academy (Lincoln Theatre) that has about 15 computers with midi keyboards. Easy. Meant to be. Bill is going to lead us in ““Exploring the Universe of the Principles of Music, Including Practical Music Theory”. Again, I’m inviting our friends, songwriters, musicians, and composers to come together and take the challenge.

It might be a creative struggle and mental challenge for me, but I’m going to weather it with my friends. Throw in $40 and join me. Let’s learn something new. Are you with me?

— Joey Hendrickson
Founder of Columbus Songwriters Association