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How to Cite a Song in MLA | Format & Examples
Published on December 3, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on June 16, 2022.
The format for citing a song in MLA depends on the medium in which you listened to it.
To cite a song accessed through an online streaming service, list the performer (or group) as author, the song title in quotation marks, the name of the site in italics, and the URL where the song can be found. Omit “the” from a band name, e.g. “Beatles,” not “the Beatles.”
If relevant, use a timestamp to indicate a specific part of the song in the in-text citation.
Table of contents
Citing songs in physical formats, quoting lyrics, optional details to include in an mla song citation, frequently asked questions about mla citations.
To cite a song you accessed in a physical format (e.g. CD, vinyl), include details about the album (or single, EP, etc.) it appears on: the title, distributor, year, and, optionally, the format (e.g. “CD”).
This format also applies to songs you downloaded and accessed through a media player (e.g. iTunes).
Quote lyrics from a song in a similar format to poetry : separate lines with a slash symbol, and format four or more lines quoted at once as a block quote .
If you’re quoting these lyrics from a transcript included alongside the song (e.g. in the description on YouTube, in the accompanying booklet to a CD), then you should clarify this at the end of the Works Cited entry.
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MLA’s citation style is flexible; some details are not mandatory in a song citation but can be included when relevant.
For example, if your discussion focuses on the work of a particular musician, you can list them in the author position instead of the main artist, along with a description of their role. The main artist should still be listed later in the contributor slot.
Especially with classical music, it may be more relevant to cite the composer rather than the performer in the author position. You can then list the particular performer(s) and/or conductor after the title. If the particular performance is irrelevant, you might omit this information entirely.
When citing a song in MLA style , the author is usually the main artist or group that released the song.
However, if your discussion focuses on the contributions of a specific performer, e.g. a guitarist or singer, you may list them as author, even if they are not the main artist. If you’re discussing the lyrics or composition, you may cite the songwriter or composer rather than a performer.
In an MLA song citation , you need to give some sort of container to indicate how you accessed the song. If this is a physical or downloaded album, the Works Cited entry should list the album name, distributor, year, and format.
However, if you listened to the song on a streaming service, you can just list the site as a container, including a URL. In this case, including the album details is optional; you may add this information if it is relevant to your discussion or if it will help the reader access the song.
If a source has no author, start the MLA Works Cited entry with the source title . Use a shortened version of the title in your MLA in-text citation .
If a source has no page numbers, you can use an alternative locator (e.g. a chapter number, or a timestamp for a video or audio source) to identify the relevant passage in your in-text citation. If the source has no numbered divisions, cite only the author’s name (or the title).
If you already named the author or title in your sentence, and there is no locator available, you don’t need a parenthetical citation:
- Rajaram argues that representations of migration are shaped by “cultural, political, and ideological interests.”
- The homepage of The Correspondent describes it as “a movement for radically different news.”
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How to cite a song in MLA
Here are two forms to cite a song depending on where you accessed it. The first one is for songs on CDs, vinyls, cassettes, etc. Variant B is for songs available on streaming platforms or online.
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To cite a song in a reference entry in MLA style 9th edition include the following elements:
- Artist(s) name: Give the name of the artist, or band name in full.
- Title of the song: Titles are italicized when independent. If part of a larger source add quotation marks and do not italize.
- Name of the album: Container titles are italicized and followed by a comma.
- Publisher: If the name of an academic press contains the words University and Press, use UP e.g. Oxford UP instead of Oxford University Press. If the word "University" doesn't appear, spell out the Press e.g. MIT Press.
- year of release: Give the year of publication as presented in the source.
- Song format: Describe the song format, e.g: CD, Vinyl, etc.
Here is the basic format for a reference list entry of a song in MLA style 9th edition:
Artist(s) name . " Title of the song ." Name of the album , Publisher , year of release . Song format .
Song accessed online:
- Music platform: Give the title of the music platform, e.g. Spotify, Soundcloud, etc.
- Publisher: Give the name of the publishing company if available
- Year of release: Give the year of publication as presented in the source.
- URL: Copy URL in full from your browser, include http:// or https:// and do not list URLs created by shortening services.
Artist(s) name . " Title of the song ." Music platform , Publisher , Year of release , URL .
Take a look at our works cited examples that demonstrate the MLA style guidelines in action:
A song by a band retrieved from a CD
Florence + the Machine . " Hunger ." High as Hope , Virgin EMI , 2018 . CD .
A song by a band retrieved from a streaming platform
Beyoncé . " Pretty Hurts ." Beyoncé , Parkwood Entertainment , 2013 , https://www.beyonce.com/album/beyonce/?media_view=songs .
MLA in-text citation of a song
Audio-visual material uses the specific time of the audio/video for in-text citations.
(Last name time) or (Short form of title time) .
The chorus of the song shows characteristic tunes of indie music (Florence 00:01:43-00:2:20) .
This citation style guide is based on the MLA Handbook (9 th edition).
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How to cite a single song or track reference
Concert season is in full swing, and music artists seem to be dropping a new single every week. If you want to write about the audial gems you listen to in your day-to-day, you have come to the right place.
It doesn’t matter if you are grooving to a jazz-inspired track on William Shatner’s latest album Bill or still trying to recover from the myriad of emotions evoked by the 27 tracks on Ye’s (the artist formerly known as Kanye West) Donda , APA Style can help you cite the melodic works you love in your paper or manuscript. In this post, you will learn how to cite a single song or track reference.
In general, each APA Style reference has an author element, date element, title element, and source element . For a song or track reference, the author of the work is usually the recording artist, which may be an individual or group. If a music artist prefers to use their first name and surname, then follow the APA guideline to invert the author’s name as “Surname, First Initial” in your reference (e.g., “Smith, S.” for singer and songwriter “Sam Smith”).
If the music artist chooses to go by only one name (e.g., “Beyoncé”), a group name (e.g., “Franz Ferdinand”), an inseparable multipart name (e.g., “Lady Gaga”), an initialism (e.g., “MNEK”), or some other name variation, write their name as shown on the work. If the work you are citing features another artist, place the featured artist’s name (again, formatted as “Surname, First Initial” or exactly as their name is spelled on the work) in parentheses after the main artist’s name, preceded by the word “featuring,” as shown in the BTS and Megan Thee Stallion reference example later in this post.
Therefore, in your song or track reference, write the name of the recording artist in the author element (if it’s a classical work, write the name of the composer), and place the date the work was published in parentheses in the date element. Include the title of the work in sentence case and standard nonitalic type, and describe the type of audio work in square brackets—for example, “[Song]”—in the title element of the reference.
After the title of the work, its bracketed description, and the ending period, write the word “On” in standard nonitalic type, followed by the title of the associated album in italic sentence case. In the source element of the reference, provide the name(s) of the artist’s music label(s), separating multiple music labels with semicolons—as shown in the following example.
Song with an associated album, with multiple music labels
Coldplay & BTS. (2021). My universe [Song]. On Music of the spheres . Parlophone; Atlantic.
- Parenthetical citation: (Coldplay & BTS, 2021)
- Narrative citation: Coldplay and BTS (2021)
If the song or track has no associated album, omit that part of the reference, as shown in the next example. If the song or track is a remix of the original version, place the word “Remix” in parentheses after the title but before the bracketed description—also shown in the next example.
Song without an associated album
BTS (featuring Megan Thee Stallion). (2021). Butter (Remix) [Song]. BigHit Music.
- Parenthetical citation: (BTS, 2021)
- Narrative citation: BTS (2021)
What if you want to cite a song or track that has been rerecorded by another artist?
Because song references provide information about the recording artist, who is not always the same person or people who wrote the lyrics and/or the melody, you don’t need to research the history of a song in order to cite it; just cite the version you heard. Thus, there is no need to include the date the original work was published or the name of the original recording artist in your reference.
Song or track recorded by an artist other than the original artist
Smith, A. (2015). I put a spell on you [Song]. On Nina revisited: A tribute to Nina Simone. Legacy.
- Parenthetical citation: (Smith, 2015)
- Narrative citation: Smith (2015)
One exception to this guideline is classical music, where the work’s original author is usually well-documented. For classical music, credit the original source by providing the year the work was originally published at the end of the reference in parentheses, preceded by the words “Original work published.” Both the original publication date and the date of the rerecorded work appear in the in-text citations, with the earlier year first, separated with a slash. These guidelines are shown in the following reference and in-text citations.
Classical song or track
Beethoven, L. van. (2012). Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major [Song recorded by Staatskapelle Dresden]. On Beethoven: Complete symphonies. Brilliant Classics. (Original work published 1804)
- Parenthetical citation: (Beethoven, 1804/2012)
- Narrative citation: Beethoven (1804/2012)
Include a URL in your reference if that location is the only means of retrieval of the song or track (e.g., for artists who provide music in only one location, such as SoundCloud or on their website).
More information on references for audio works can be found in Section 10.13 in the Publication Manual and Section 10.11 in the Concise Guide to APA Style .
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- How To Cite Song Lyrics In Different Formats With Examples
How to Cite Song Lyrics in Different Formats With Examples
Songs contain lyrics that can support arguments made in scholarly papers. Basically, MLA 8, APA 7, Chicago/Turabian, and Harvard referencing styles rely on different rules for in-text citations and bibliographic entries. In this case, significant differences include orders or names, use of capital letters and sentence cases, and sequence of bibliographic details. For example, bibliographic entries in MLA 7 and Chicago/Turabian formats should have a song’s titles in a title case. However, song’s titles must appear in a sentence case for APA 7 and Harvard format styles. In all referencing styles, writers may use parenthetical or narrative in-text citations. Also, parenthetical in-text citations should appear inside rounded brackets. In turn, only the MLA 8 style does not require an author-date format for in-text citations. Besides, the MLA referencing style requires students to use the artist’s name and the section cited. In particular, parts of songs refer to the duration of time that contains quoted lyrics. Also, a prudent writer includes the production date inside the essay’s body. Finally, one should include URL links for songs located in online databases. Hence, students need to learn how to cite song lyrics in MLA 8, APA 7, Chicago/Turabian, and Harvard formats.
General Guidelines of Using Music Lyrics in MLA 8, APA 7, Chicago/Turabian, and Harvard Styles
Songs are suitable sources for information used in scholarly papers. For example, students in literature write papers analyzing the specific song lyrics. In most cases, instructions require them to use different referencing styles to cite song lyrics. Basically, MLA 8, APA 7, Chicago/Turabian, and Harvard referencing styles rely on different rules for in-text citations and bibliographic entries. Also, the most significant differences include orders or names, use of capital letters and sentence cases, and sequence of bibliographic details. However, credible papers must follow the necessary guidelines to avoid possible cases of plagiarism. Hence, this guide provides key steps that a writer must follow when citing song lyrics MLA 8, APA 7, Chicago/Turabian, and Harvard styles.
How to Cite Song Lyrics in MLA 8
1. in-text citation rules for citing music lyrics in mla 8.
MLA citation requires writers to use the artist’s name and the section cited. Basically, parts of songs refer to the duration of time that contains the quoted lyrics. In this case, one can use both parenthetical and narrative in-text citations when writing scholarly papers. In practice, parenthetical in-text citations should include the artist’s name and the time containing the cited lyric. Also, these details should appear inside rounded brackets at the end of a sentence. Hence, writers should separate the name and time using a black space.
Citation scheme for song lyrics in MLA 8:
- (Name Time)
In-text citation example for citing music lyrics in MLA 8:
- (Knowles-Carter 2:00-3:01)
Narrative in-text citations contain similar details as parenthetical ones. However, only the time should appear in rounded brackets at the end of the sentence.
Example of a narrative in-text citation for song lyrics in MLA 8:
- According to Knowles-Carter, … (2:00-3:01).
2. Full Bibliographic Entry on Works Cited for Song Lyrics in MLA 8
Music exists in multiple ways, which depends on the container that a writer may access. For example, music citations in MLA 8 begin with last names of artists. In some instances, writers may opt to use composers or performers in the absence of the artist’s surnames. Otherwise, one must note composers and performers after the album’s title. In turn, the song’s title must appear inside double quotation marks, while the album’s entry should look as italicized. Besides, one must use the title case for the song’s entry. Then, other essential details include the recording manufacturer and the publication date where applicable.
Example of a bibliographic entry on Works Cited for song lyrics in MLA 8:
- Knowles-Carter, Beyoncé Giselle. “Irreplaceable.” Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2009, www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EwViQxSJJQ.
The bibliographic entry should begin with the artist’s surname followed by the first and second names. Periods should support the artist’s names, title, and URL link for music available online. However, a comma should follow the album, producer, and publication year.
3. MLA Footnote for Song Lyrics
MLA referencing style requires writers to use references when providing long explanations. In this case, MLA footnotes contain details that may distract readers. As a rule, one should use numerical footnote callouts inside the body text. Moreover, footnote callouts should appear as a suffix. In turn, actual footnotes must look at the bottom of the page containing the callout. Hence, the following is an example of a possible note:
Footnote example for song lyrics in MLA 8:
- 1 For more relevant lyrics, listen to the section between the second and third minutes.
How to Cite Song Lyrics in APA 7
1. in-text citation rules for citing music lyrics in apa 7.
APA style requires writers to use parenthetical or narrative in-text citations. Basically, writers should use the artist’s surname and production date. In some cases, one may include the truck number in the in-text citation where applicable.
Citation schemes for song lyrics in APA 7:
- (Surname, Date)
- According to Surname (date), … .
Parenthetical citation sample for song lyrics in APA 7:
- (Knowles-Carter, 2009)
Narrative in-text citation example for citing music lyrics in APA 7:
- Knowles-Carter (2009) sang about the value of a romantic partner… .
2. Reference Entry for Song Lyrics in APA 7
Bibliographic entries in APA 7 should appear on the last page of any essay or research paper . As a rule, reference entries should contain the artist’s surname, song’s title, medium, and producer and URL link where applicable. Also, bibliographic entries must appear in the sentence case. Hence, the following is an example of the reference entry.
Example of a reference entry for song lyrics in APA 7:
- Knowles-Carter, B. G. (2009). Irreplaceable [CD]. Parkwood Entertainment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EwViQxSJJQ
3. APA Footnote for Song Lyrics
The following is the example of a possible footnote.
Footnote example for song lyrics in APA 7:
- 1 For more details about the importance of love, listen to the section between the second and third minutes.
How to Cite Song Lyrics in Chicago/Turabian
1. in-text citation rules for citing music lyrics in chicago/turabian.
The Chicago/Turabian citation style requires writers to use music lyrics to support their central arguments. As a rule, all citations must contain an accurate date. Besides, students should use the recording date as opposed to the release year. In turn, the Chicago/Turabian style requires one to use two in-text citation types, which include parenthetical citations or footnotes.
Parenthetical in-text citation for song lyrics in Chicago/Turabian:
Parenthetical citations in Chicago/Turabian should include the artist’s surname and production date. Basically, writers should separate these details with space, which must appear inside rounded brackets at the end of a sentence. Hence, the following is an example that one should use:
In-text citation scheme:
- (Artist Date)
Actual in-text citation:
- (Knowles-Carter 2009)
2. Bibliography Entry for Song Lyrics in Chicago/Turabian
Chicago/Turabian bibliographic entries should appear on the essay’s last page. Basically, a credible bibliographic entry should contain the artist, the song’s title, recording data, producers, and medium. However, one may include the URL link of the song where necessary. Also, the song’s title must appear as italicized for the bibliographic entry. Hence, the following is the scheme required and actual example.
Bibliography scheme for song lyrics in Chicago/Turabian:
- Name of group or composer or performer. Title . Contributing personnel. Recording date. Recording Company or Publisher, medium.
Example of a bibliography entry for song lyrics in Chicago/Turabian:
- Knowles-Carter, Beyoncé Giselle. Irreplaceable . 2009. Parkwood Entertainment, CD. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EwViQxSJJQ.
3. Chicago/Turabian Footnote for Song Lyrics
Writers should use footnote callouts in the text body. Basically, numerical callouts should follow ending punctuation marks, like periods and question and exclamation marks. In this case, Chicago/Turabian footnote containing the bibliographic entry should appear at the bottom of the page. Also, each note should have a binary number that corresponds to the one used in the callout. However, a period should follow the numeral used. Besides, the artist’s name should appear in the standard form, which begins with the first name for the first in-text citation. Hence, the following is the scheme and actual in-text citation.
Footnote scheme for song lyrics in Chicago/Turabian:
- 1. Name of group/composer/performer, “Title,” contributing personnel, recording date, Recording Company or Publisher, track number on Name of Album , year of release, medium.
Example of a Chicago/Turabian footnote for song lyrics:
- 1. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, “Irreplaceable,” recorded February 2009, on Lemonade , Parkwood Entertainment, CD, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EwViQxSJJQ.
How to Cite Song Lyrics in Harvard
1. in-text citation rules for citing music lyrics in harvard.
The Harvard referencing style requires writers to use parenthetical or narrative in-text citations. As a rule, in-text citations must include the artist’s surname and production date. For parenthetical in-text citations, students should separate the artist’s surname and production date with space.
Citation schemes for song lyrics in Harvard:
- (Surname Date)
- Surname (Date) sang … .
Parenthetical citation sample for song lyrics in Harvard:
Narrative in-text citation example for citing music lyrics in Harvard:
- Knowles-Carter (2009) sang about the importance of valuing romantic love.
2. Reference Entry for Song Lyrics in Harvard
Bibliographic entries in Harvard should appear on the last page of essays and research papers. As a rule, Harvard references should contain the artist’s surname, song’s title, medium, and producer. Moreover, the song’s title must appear in sentence case and italicize. In this case, a prudent writer must use commas to separate all the details in the entry. Besides, reference entries should begin with the author’s surname followed by the initials of other names. Hence, the following is an example of a reference entry for song lyrics in Harvard.
- Knowles-Carter, BG 2009, Irreplaceable , CD, Parkwood Entertainment.
3. Harvard Footnote for Song Lyrics
The following is the example of a possible note.
- 1 For more details about valuing one’s romantic partner, listen to the section between the first and third minutes.
Songs contain lyrics that can support the main arguments presented in scholarly articles. In this case, MLA 8, APA 7, Chicago/Turabian, and Harvard referencing styles rely on different rules. Also, one should consider the following guidelines on how to cite song lyrics in MLA 8, APA 7, Chicago/Turabian, and Harvard when using such sources in essays and research papers.
- Bibliographic entries in MLA 8 and Chicago/Turabian should have song titles in a title case.
- Song’s title must appear in sentence cases for APA 7 and Harvard styles.
- In all referencing styles, writers may use parenthetical or narrative in-text citations.
- Only the MLA style does not require an author-date format for the in-text citation.
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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format / How to Cite a Song in MLA
How to Cite a Song in MLA
Citing a song / musical recording.
Musical Recording – Any track or album from a compact disc, MP3 recording, MIDI, cassette, or vinyl recording.
MLA Album Citation Structure:
Group Name or Performer’s Last Name, First Name. Title of the Album. Edition if applicable, Publisher, Year of publication.
MLA Album Citation Examples:
BTS. Map of the Soul: 7. Bighit Entertainment, 2020.
King, Carole. Tapestry. Remastered ed., Sony Legacy, 1999.
MLA Online Song Citation Structure:
Group Name or Performer’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of the Song.” Title of the Album , edition if applicable, Publisher, Year of publication. URL or App Name app.
MLA Online Song Citation Examples:
BTS. “Inner Child.” Map of the Soul: 7, Bighit Entertainment, 2020. Spotify app.
Grannis, Kina. “When Will I Learn.” In the Waiting , KG Records, 2018, soundcloud.com/kina-grannis/when-will-i-learn?in=kina-grannis/sets/in-the-waiting.
MLA Song Citation Structure (for CD/MP3/MIDI/Cassette/Vinyl):
Last, First M. “Track Name.” Album Name , written/performed/conducted by First Name Last Name, album’s ed. (if applicable), Publisher, year of publication, track number. CD/MP3/MIDI/Cassette/Vinyl.
Note: There will not always be a separate writer, conductor, orchestra, or performer. If citing the entire album, do not fill out the track name.
MLA Song Citation Example:
Beethoven, Ludwig van. “Allegro Con Brio.” Piano Concertos Complete, performance by Friederich Gulda and Wiener Philharmoniker, conducted by Horst Stein, Decca Music Group, 1970, track 2. CD.
MLA Song In-text Citation Structure:
(Group Name or Performer’s Last Name)
MLA Song In-text Citation Example:
Other music citation examples:
- Citing a musical play
- Citing sheet music
Updated June 19, 2021.
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How to Cite Songs in MLA Style: A Complete Citation Guide
Table of contents
Are you writing an essay and want to cite a song but are unsure how to do it properly? This article will show you how to cite a song in MLA style so that your article will have an appropriate format. Whether you wish to list some track, mention its composer or performer, or if you are quoting lyrics in your essay, we want you to know the correct way to do it. This article will demonstrate how to do it with helpful examples. Dealing with lengthy research? Don’t have time for in-depth topic exploration? Delegate all the job to top-rated experts! Buy research paper online at StudyCrumb and leave all worries behind.
MLA Song Citation
There are times when you wish to use MLA citation for a song in your essay or article. You want to do this because quoting some melody or lyrics adds quality to what you are writing abou. Still, it is important to cite people's work properly to avoid unwanted plagiarism. Remember to check plagiarism upon paper completion for outstanding results. The way you use MLA citation for some track will vary based on how you accessed the song. The basic MLA song citation format for a source retrieved from a streaming service is:
- performer's last name, performer's first name
- title of song (using quotation marks)
- website or database name( in italics)
When listing its URL, omit http:// and https:// information. If your source has a brand name with an article, you should also skip it. For example, you will go for "Rolling Stones" not "The Rolling Stones." So here is a general structure for your better understanding of how it looks:
Here’s how the above example would be cited:
However, there may be some additional information that you should include, e.g., an album. Let's learn how to format such citation below. You even can cite TED talks in your work. Just follow how to cite a TED talk MLA guide. You will find it and many other useful blogs in our database.
How to Cite a Song From an Album in MLA
Are you citing something from an album in MLA style ? In this case, you would use some basic format above without its URL information. This will work when you are referring to some particular piece from a vinyl album. When citing an MLA song from an album you should include some general information such as: artist’s name, song title (using quotation marks), album title (in italics), record label, publication year. If some information about an album is unavailable, such as the record label or album name, it is acceptable not to list it. Here is a general format that applies if you want to cite a song from an album in MLA.
This is how it would be cited.
MLA in-Text Citation of a Song
When integrating in text citation mla song in your article, you would list the last name of the performer in parenthesis. If necessary, provide timestamps for lyrics you are quoting with its performer's name. In a general format It will look like this.
Here is how the above example would be cited:
Proper MLA Citation for a Song on a CD
How to cite a song from a CD in MLA style? When referencing some track from a CD, you should use a similar format as you would for any reference from an online source. Include such information as author's last name, first name, song title (using quotation marks), album name (in italics), distributor, publication year, and CD. Check a general format of citing songs of physical format here.
Here is also an example of how it will look like.
In-Text Citation for a Song From a CD in MLA
Are you citing some song in-text? When referencing some melody or lyrics from any CD, you would use the same format as you would from a vinyl album, only in the works cited section, use letters “CD” in the reference. MLA in-text citation for song should include the last name of a performer in parenthesis. Also, add timestamps of where these quoted lyrics appear. In the Works Cited section, integrate such information: performer last name, first name. Then, mention track name (using quotation marks), CD album title (in italics), publisher, publication year, CD. Check a general format of citing songs from a CD in MLA for in-text citation.
Check out our example of in-text citation:
How to Cite Song Lyrics MLA
There may be occasions when you want to know how to cite song lyrics in MLA in your article. When citing lyrics, you would put quotation marks on each side of the quoted lyrics. If necessary, use timestamps (see above) to indicate where these lyrics are within the track. It is also important to use a poetic format if you are quoting more than a few words or one line. When quoting multiple lines, use a forward slash to indicate breaks in those lyrics. Here is how it looks:
Here is an example of the above formula of how to cite song lyrics in MLA.
But do not use this guide for an interview citation. It is another source and should be cited another way. Find and read a special blog about MLA in text citation interview .
Core Elements for MLA Song Citation
As we can see, all references in MLA style we have mentioned above contain their core elements that should be included in almost every citation. Here are essential pieces of information that are likely to be incorporated into your quotation:
- Artist or band name
- Title of a song
- Title of an album
- Album’s version
- Track number
- Publication details (name of the publisher of record label, year this record was released)
- Website or database where you got this record
- Format (e.g., CD, MP3 , vinyl.)
Final Thoughts on Citing a Song in MLA
We have looked at MLA style on how to cite a song. Referencing some track is similar to the citation format of citing an article in a periodical. Remember to include the general information such as: performer's last name, first name, a period, title in quotations, an album title italicized, publisher, and year. If you are quoting from an online source, include URL at the end of the reference. If you are quoting from any CD, put the letters “CD” at the end. If you are quoting lyrics from any record, CD, or online source, use a timestamp. When quoting lyrics, put quotation marks. Also, use the poetic style for multiple line lyric quotations.
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How to Cite a Song in MLA Style: FAQ
1. are song titles italicized in mla.
No. When MLA citing a song, titles are listed with quotation marks. Songs that you reference need to be accompanied by the source where they can be found. It is an album title that is listed in italics.
2. How to cite a song in MLA with a different writer and performer?
If you cite a song in MLA, the performer is listed as an author in most cases. If you are referencing songs from some streaming service, the performer or group is listed as an author as if you are citing some written source.
3. How do you in-text cite an audio clip in MLA?
When you cite an audio clip in MLA within your text, the performer's last name and timestamp are placed within your text in parenthesis. At the end of your article, proper MLA citation should be made of the song's origin.
4. How do you reference a concert in MLA?
When citing a live concert using MLA style, you would list the name of the performer, name of the concert (or concert tour), full date of this concert, concert venue, and city and state (and perhaps country) where this concert was performed.
Emma Flores knows all about formatting standards. She shares with StudyCrumb readers tips on creating academic papers that will meet high-quality standards.
You may also like
Do You Use Quotation Marks or Italics for Song and Album Titles?
by Liz Bureman | 40 comments
I love music. I've been teaching myself to play guitar, and I can stumble my way through four or five songs without wanting to poke holes in my eardrums, but my main appreciation for music is when other people play it. I'm an avid Spotify user, and I take a lot of pride in my ability to make kickass playlists. One of my girlfriends has even given me the green light to create her hypothetical wedding reception playlist.
So obviously, when I write about a song or album, I know when to use quotation marks and when to use italics. Let's discuss.
Not everyone writes out the titles of their favorite songs or albums regularly, so it's no surprise I sometimes hear people ask, “Are song titles italicized?”
The answer is no.
Here's how it works:
Song Titles in Quotation Marks
Song titles are always surrounded by quotation marks, like *NSYNC's “Bye Bye Bye,” or “A Whole New World” from Disney's Aladdin .
Anytime you write out the title of a song, you'll put that song title in quotation marks.
Album Titles in Italics
Musical album titles, on the other hand, are always italicized. For example, while I will openly admit to loving Journey's power ballad song “Faithfully,” I think pretty much every song on their Greatest Hits album should be sung at karaoke nights across the country.
When you write out an album title, you'll put it in italics.
Other Italics Questions
Of course, lots more media have titles than just songs and albums. There are books , short stories, podcasts, TV shows, episodes . . . the list goes on and on. Want more italics advice? Check out our ultimate title-writing guide for answers to all your italics conundrums.
Do you have any tricks for remembering when to use quotes and when to use italics? Tell us in the comments .
At the Sunday night closing ceremony of the Olympics in 2012, the Spice Girls were there and dancing it up (well, except for Posh).
Take fifteen minutes and write about the hypothetical conversation the ladies of the group had in determining the songs they would play for the ceremony (or any other band in any other situation is fine too). Post your conversation in the practice box below, and leave notes for other writers brave enough to publish as well.
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Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.
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How to Cite a Song in MLA, APA, and Chicago (With Examples)
Updated 25 Jul 2022
Citing a song for an assignment is crucial in certain cases like when researching music theory or dealing with media studies. Likewise, when you are writing about anti-war campaigns, citing a song by Bob Dylan or Joan Baez would be helpful as you provide analysis and do your best to avoid plagiarism.
General Song Citation Rules in MLA, APA, and Chicago
Let us start with the basic set of rules and examples that will help you approach song citations in various formats:
How to Cite a Song in MLA
Here is what you must gather for your song citation:
Note: If you have cited a video or any other multimedia type recording in the past, you will be familiar with what info you will need:
- Name of the band or a singer.
- Songwriter's name (if applicable).
- Song's title.
- Title of the album.
- Album's edition or any related specifics.
- Track number (b-side/a-side).
- Publisher or record company.
- Year of publication.
- Your source (website, database).
- Other contributors/information regarding the song.
To cite a song (an audio recording), start with this template:
In-text citation would go this way:
How to Cite a Song in APA
When you cite a song in APA format, follow this template:
Note: Remember that if the performer and songwriter represent the same person, you should ignore this part!
An in-text citation for songs in audio should look this way:
How to Cite a Song in Chicago
When you are citing a song in Chicago, it is approached in almost the same way as it is done in APA or MLA formats with minor differences. Just follow this template:
Performer’s Last Name, Performer's First Name. Title of Your Song. Publisher, Year of publication, Accessed Month Day, Year. URL.
An actual citing song lyrics example:
Grant, John. Where Dreams Go To Die. Bella Union, 2010. Accessed October 25, 2021. https://open.spotify.com/track/4IY9FDC4Gn12US0Pvv02BH?autoplay=true
Citing Lyrics In MLA, APA, and Chicago
Let us review several examples on how to cite song lyrics in various styles:
How to Cite Songs In MLA Style.
Songwriter's Last Name, First Name. Lyrics to "Song's Title." Names of other contributors, Album's Publisher, Year of publication. Name of Website , URL.
An actual song citation example looks this way:
Petty, Tom, and Jeff Lynne. Lyrics to "Learning to Fly." Performed by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, MCA, 1991. AzLyrics , https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tompettyandtheheartbreakers/learningtofly.html
The in-text citation rules are as usual (placed after some line as you quote song lyrics):
(Petty & Lynne)
APA Style Song Citing Rules.
Citing a song in APA format won’t look overly challenging when you follow our template:
When you need to provide in-text citations:
Chicago Style Song Citation
Here is how to cite songs in Chicago style:
Why Should You Cite Songs In Academic Writing?
Regardless if you are citing an audio recording of a symphonic orchestra performing Siciliano by J.S. Bach or quoting song lyrics by Ariana Grande, you are obliged to provide due credit to avoid plagiarism. It should be approached exactly the same way as any book or scientific magazine. Essentially, it is an intellectual property that should be mentioned if it is used for reference purposes, which is why learning how to cite songs in academic writing is essential.
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Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts
MLA Works Cited: Other Common Sources
Welcome to the Purdue OWL
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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.
Several sources have multiple means for citation, especially those that appear in varied formats: films, DVDs, television shows, music, published and unpublished interviews, interviews over e-mail, published and unpublished conference proceedings. The following section discusses these sorts of citations as well as others not covered in the print, periodical, and electronic sources sections.
Use the following format for all sources:
Author. Title. Title of container (self contained if book), Other contributors (translators or editors), Version (edition), Number (vol. and/or no.), Publisher, Publication Date, Location (pages, paragraphs URL or DOI). 2 nd container’s title, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location, Date of Access (if applicable).
Interviews typically fall into two categories: print or broadcast published and unpublished (personal) interviews, although interviews may also appear in other, similar formats such as in e-mail format or as a Web document.
Personal interviews refer to those interviews that you conduct yourself. List the interview by the name of the interviewee. Include the descriptor Personal interview and the date of the interview.
Smith, Jane. Personal interview. 19 May 2014.
Published Interviews (Print or Broadcast)
List the interview by the full name of the interviewee. If the name of the interview is part of a larger work like a book, a television program, or a film series, place the title of the interview in quotation marks and place the title of the larger work in italics. If the interview appears as an independent title, italicize it. For books, include the author or editor name after the book title.
Note: If the interview from which you quote does not feature a title, add the descriptor, Interview by (unformatted) after the interviewee’s name and before the interviewer’s name.
Gaitskill, Mary. Interview with Charles Bock. Mississippi Review , vol. 27, no. 3, 1999, pp. 129-50.
Amis, Kingsley. “Mimic and Moralist.” Interviews with Britain’s Angry Young Men , By Dale Salwak, Borgo P, 1984.
Online-only Published Interviews
List the interview by the name of the interviewee. If the interview has a title, place it in quotation marks. Cite the remainder of the entry as you would other exclusive web content. Place the name of the website in italics, give the publisher name (or sponsor), the publication date, and the URL.
Note: If the interview from which you quote does not feature a title, add the descriptor Interview by (unformatted) after the interviewee’s name and before the interviewer’s name.
Zinkievich, Craig. Interview by Gareth Von Kallenbach. Skewed & Reviewed , 27 Apr. 2009, www.arcgames.com/en/games/star-trek-online/news/detail/1056940-skewed-%2526-reviewed-interviews-craig. Accessed 15 May 2009.
Speeches, Lectures, or Other Oral Presentations (including Conference Presentations)
Start with speaker’s name. Then, give the title of the speech (if any) in quotation marks. Follow with the title of the particular conference or meeting and then the name of the organization. Name the venue and its city (if the name of the city is not listed in the venue’s name). Use the descriptor that appropriately expresses the type of presentation (e.g., Address, Lecture, Reading, Keynote Speech, Guest Lecture, Conference Presentation).
Stein, Bob. “Reading and Writing in the Digital Era.” Discovering Digital Dimensions, Computers and Writing Conference, 23 May 2003, Union Club Hotel, West Lafayette, IN. Keynote Address.
Panel Discussions and Question-and-Answer Sessions
The MLA Handbook makes a distinction between the formal, rehearsed portion of a presentation and the informal discussion that often occurs after. To format an entry for a panel discussion or question-and-answer session, treat the panel members or speakers as authors by listing them first. If these people are formally listed as panelists, indicate this by following their names with a comma and the title "panelist(s)." Follow with the title of the discussion, or, if there is no title, a simple description. In the latter case, don't capitalize the description. Follow this with the title of the conference or event. End with the date and the location.
Bavis, Jim and Stein, Tammi, panelists. Panel discussion. Dawn or Doom Conference, 4 Nov. 2018, Stewart Hall, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
Treat recorded discussions as instances of the appropriate medium (e.g., if you want to cite a recording of a panel discussion hosted on YouTube, cite it the same way you would cite an ordinary online video ).
Published Conference Proceedings
Cite published conference proceedings like a book. If the date and location of the conference are not part of the published title, add this information after the published proceedings title.
Last Name, First Name, editor. Conference Title , Conference Date and Location, Publisher, Date of Publication.
To cite a presentation from published conference proceedings, begin with the presenter’s name. Place the name of the presentation in quotation marks. Follow with publication information for the conference proceedings.
Last Name, First Name. “Conference Paper Title.” Conference Title that Includes Conference Date and Location , edited by Conference Editor(s), Publisher, Date of Publication.
A Painting, Sculpture, or Photograph
Provide the artist's name, the title of the artwork in italics, and the date of composition. Finally, provide the name of the institution that houses the artwork followed by the location of the institution (if the location is not listed in the name of the institution, e.g. The Art Institute of Chicago).
Goya, Francisco. The Family of Charles IV . 1800, Museo del Prado, Madrid.
If the medium and/or materials (e.g., oil on canvas) are important to the reference, you can include this information at the end of the entry. However, it is not required.
For photographic reproductions of artwork (e.g. images of artwork in a book), treat the book or website as a container. Remember that for a second container, the title is listed first, before the contributors. Cite the bibliographic information as above followed by the information for the source in which the photograph appears, including page or reference numbers (plate, figure, etc.).
Goya, Francisco. The Family of Charles IV . 1800, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Gardener's Art Through the Ages , 10 th ed., by Richard G. Tansey and Fred S. Kleiner, Harcourt Brace, p. 939.
If you viewed the artwork on the museum's website, treat the name of the website as the container and include the website's publisher and the URL at the end of the citation. Omit publisher information if it is the same as the name of the website. Note the period after the date below, rather than the comma: this is because the date refers to the painting's original creation, rather than to its publication on the website. Thus, MLA format considers it an "optional element."
Goya, Francisco. The Family of Charles IV . 1800 . Museo del Prado, museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-family-of-carlos-iv/f47898fc-aa1c-48f6-a779-71759e417e74.
A Song or Album
Music can be cited multiple ways. Mainly, this depends on the container that you accessed the music from. Generally, citations begin with the artist name. They might also be listed by composers or performers. Otherwise, list composer and performer information after the album title. Put individual song titles in quotation marks. Album names are italicized. Provide the name of the recording manufacturer followed by the publication date.
If information such as record label or name of album is unavailable from your source, do not list that information.
Morris, Rae. “Skin.” Cold, Atlantic Records, 2014. Spotify , open.spotify.com/track/0OPES3Tw5r86O6fudK8gxi.
Beyoncé. “Pray You Catch Me.” Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016, www.beyonce.com/album/lemonade-visual-album/.
Nirvana. "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Nevermind , Geffen, 1991.
Films or Movies
List films by their title. Include the name of the director, the film studio or distributor, and the release year. If relevant, list performer names after the director's name.
Speed Racer . Directed by Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski, performances by Emile Hirsch, Nicholas Elia, Susan Sarandon, Ariel Winter, and John Goodman, Warner Brothers, 2008.
To emphasize specific performers or directors, begin the citation with the name of the desired performer or director, followed by the appropriate title for that person.
Lucas, George, director. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope . Twentieth Century Fox, 1977.
Recorded Television Episodes
Cite recorded television episodes like films (see above). Begin with the episode name in quotation marks. Follow with the series name in italics. When the title of the collection of recordings is different than the original series (e.g., the show Friends is in DVD release under the title Friends: The Complete Sixth Season), list the title that would help researchers to locate the recording. Give the distributor name followed by the date of distribution.
"The One Where Chandler Can't Cry." Friends: The Complete Sixth Season , written by Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen, directed by Kevin Bright, Warner Brothers, 2004.
Broadcast TV or Radio Program
Begin with the title of the episode in quotation marks. Provide the name of the series or program in italics. Also include the network name, call letters of the station followed by the date of broadcast and city.
"The Blessing Way." The X-Files . Fox, WXIA, Atlanta, 19 Jul. 1998.
Netflix, Hulu, Google Play
Generally, when citing a specific episode, follow the format below.
“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, season 2, episode 21, NBC, 29 Apr. 2010. Netflix, www.netflix.com/watch/70152031.
An Entire TV Series
When citing the entire series of a TV show, use the following format.
Daniels, Greg and Michael Schur, creators. Parks and Recreation . Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2015.
A Specific Performance or Aspect of a TV Show
If you want to emphasize a particular aspect of the show, include that particular information. For instance, if you are writing about a specific character during a certain episode, include the performer’s name as well as the creator’s.
“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, performance by Amy Poehler, season 2, episode 21, Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2010.
If you wish to emphasize a particular character throughout the show’s run time, follow this format.
Poehler, Amy, performer. Parks and Recreation. Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2009-2015.
Begin with the title of the episode in quotation marks. Provide the name of the series in italics. Then follow with MLA format per usual.
“Best of Not My Job Musicians.” Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! from NPR, 4 June 2016, www.npr.org/podcasts/344098539/wait-wait-don-t-tell-me.
Spoken-Word Albums such as Comedy Albums
Treat spoken-word albums the same as musical albums.
Hedberg, Mitch. Strategic Grill Locations . Comedy Central, 2003.
Digital Files (PDFs, MP3s, JPEGs)
Determine the type of work to cite (e.g., article, image, sound recording) and cite appropriately. End the entry with the name of the digital format (e.g., PDF, JPEG file, Microsoft Word file, MP3). If the work does not follow traditional parameters for citation, give the author’s name, the name of the work, the date of creation, and the location.
Beethoven, Ludwig van. Moonlight Sonata . Crownstar, 2006.
Smith, George. “Pax Americana: Strife in a Time of Peace.” 2005. Microsoft Word file.
Council of Writing Program Administrators, National Council of Teachers of English, and National Writing Project. Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing . CWPA, NCTE, and NWP, 2011, wpacouncil.org/files/framework-for-success-postsecondary-writing.pdf.
Bentley, Phyllis. “Yorkshire and the Novelist.” The Kenyon Review , vol. 30, no. 4, 1968, pp. 509-22. JSTOR , www.jstor.org.iii/stable/4334841.
To cite a song accessed through an online streaming service, list the performer (or group) as author, the song title in quotation marks
MLA in-text citation of a song ... Audio-visual material uses the specific time of the audio/video for in-text citations. (Last name time) or (Short form of title
Therefore, in your song or track reference, write the name of the recording artist in the author element (if it's a classical work, write the
In turn, the song's title must appear inside double quotation marks, while the album's entry should look as italicized. Besides, one must use
The surname alone is used in the in-text citations. The song title should be enclosed in double quotation marks. If the song is part of an album, the album
MLA Online Song Citation Structure: ... Group Name or Performer's Last Name, First Name. “Title of the Song.” Title of the Album, edition if applicable, Publisher
MLA in-text citation for song should include the last name of a performer in parenthesis. Also, add timestamps of where these quoted lyrics
Song titles are always surrounded by quotation marks, like *NSYNC's “Bye Bye Bye,” or “A Whole New World” from Disney's Aladdin. Anytime you write out the title
Name of the band or a singer. · Songwriter's name (if applicable). · Song's title. · Title of the album. · Album's edition or any related specifics. · Track number (
Mainly, this depends on the container that you accessed the music from. Generally, citations begin with the artist name. They might also be listed by composers