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 band) as author, the song title in quotation marks, the name of the site in italics, and the URL where the song can be found.

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. https://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 or vinyl), include details about the album (or single, EP, etc.) it appears on: the title, distributor, year, and format.

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)

Optional details to include in an MLA song citation

MLA’s citation style is flexible, and 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. Vinyl LP.
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. If the particular performance is irrelevant (e.g. if you just refer to the score), you might omit this information entirely.

Additionally, classical music is often identified by opus numbers, which should be included when available.

Format Composer last name, First name, composer. “Piece Title.” Op. Number, No. Number. Year.
Works Cited entry Beethoven, Ludwig von, composer. “Piano Sonata No. 14.” Op. 27, No. 2. 1801.
In-text citation (Beethoven)

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Frequently asked questions about MLA citations

Who do I cite as the author of a song in MLA Style?

When citing a song in MLA style, the author is usually the main artist or band 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.

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.

How do I cite a source with no author or page numbers in MLA?

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 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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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes and edits for Scribbr, and reads a lot of books in his spare time.

1 comment

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr-team)
December 3, 2020 at 2:59 PM

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