Formatting Guides

How to Cite Songs in MLA Style: A Complete Citation Guide

how to cite a song in mla
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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. 

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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)
  • URL.

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:

Full citation  format

Performer's last name, Performer's first name. “Title of song.” Website or Database name. URL (without http:// and https://).

Here’s how the above example would be cited:

Example of MLA citation for a song

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.

Full citation format

Performer's last name, Performer's first name. “Title of song.” Title of the Album, Album edition, Record label, Year of publication.

This is how it would be cited.

Example of MLA citation for a song from an album

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.


(Performer's last name timestamp)

Here is how the above example would be cited:

Example of MLA in-text citation of a song

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.

Full citation format

Performer's last name, Performer's first name. “Title of song.” Title of the Album. Distributor, Year of publication. Format.

Here is also an example of how it will look like.

Example of MLA citation for a song on a CD

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.

In-text citation format

(Performer's last name timestamp)

Check out our example of in-text citation:

Example of MLA in-text citation for a song on a CD

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:

Quotation format

Text before lyrics “line / line / line” (timestamps).

Here is an example of the above formula of how to cite song lyrics in MLA.

Example of MLA citation for a song lyrics

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
  • URL
  • 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.

Article posted on:Sep 26, 2022
Article updated on:Apr 16, 2024


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