How to cite a song in MLA
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.
|Format||Performer last name, First name. “Song Title.” Website Name. URL.|
|Works Cited entry||Dylan, Bob. “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Spotify. open.spotify.com/track/18GiV1BaXzPVYpp9rmOg0E.|
|In-text citation||(Dylan 1:14)|
Citing songs in physical formats
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).
|Format||Author Last name, First name. “Song Title.” Album Name. Distributor, Year. Format.|
|Works Cited entry||Lamar, Kendrick. “Fear.” Damn. Top Dawg Entertainment, 2017. CD.|
|In-text citation||(Lamar 3:55)|
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.
Optional details to include in an MLA song citation
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.
|Format||Musician last name, First name, role. “Song Title.” Album Name, by Main artist first name Last name. Distributor, Year. Format.|
|Works Cited entry||Fripp, Robert, guitarist. “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Another Green World, by Brian Eno. Island Records, 1975.|
|In-text citation||(Fripp 1:21–45)|
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.
|Format||Composer last name, First name. Piece/Collection Title. Performance by Performer(s), conducted by Conductor, Distributor, Year.|
|Works Cited entry||Beethoven, Ludwig van. Symphony No. 9 in D Minor “Choral.” Performance by the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi, Telarc, 1985.|
Frequently asked questions about MLA citations
- Do I need to give details about the album in an MLA song citation?
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.