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How To Cite A Song In MLA, APA, And Chicago With Examples?

How To Cite A Song

Citing a song is similar to citing any other type of source. All you have to do is follow the right format, and voila! You can get the citations done on your own hassle-free. Song citations are crucial for students pursuing a degree in music theory or media studies. Read on to know how to cite a song in MLA, APA, and Chicago using the updated rules and guidelines.

You can cite songs or, rather, music in multiple ways. It mainly depends on the source you accessed the music from. Citations usually begin with the artist's name. You can also include the composer's or performer's name. Use quotation marks within individual song titles. Italicize the album names.

If you do not have certain pieces of information, such as the name of the album or record label, do not include that information at all.

Different citation formats require you to follow different guidelines. You may end up losing grades if there’s even a petty error in the citations. So, it is important to start with the basics first, followed by looking at a set of relevant examples. Let’s begin then.

Read more: How To Cite A Poem?

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How To Cite a Song in MLA?

MLA song citation structure looks like this:

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.

MLA citation of an online song

  • Format

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.

  • Example

Pink Floyd. “Breathe” The Dark Side of the Moon, 1983. Spotify app.

How to cite an album in MLA?

  • Format

Group Name or Performer’s Last Name, First Name. Title of the Album. Edition if applicable, Publisher, Year of publication.

  • Example

Pink Floyd. The Dark Side of the Moon, 1983.

How to quote song lyrics in an essay in MLA?

  • Format

The name of the performer or band, the name of the album, the publisher, and the date.


  • Pink Floyd. The Dark Side of the Moon. Harvest Records. 1973.

You can refer to the song in your essay like this:

“Don’t be afraid to care,” Pink Floyd sings in “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

Read more: How To Write Essay In APA Format

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How To Cite A Song in APA?

Citing a song in APA means you need to learn rules related to in-text citations and reference lists.

The basic format includes:

Artist last name, F. M. (Copyright year). Song title. On Album title [Medium of recording]. Record label name.

You can leave the bracketed data if the songwriter and performer are the same people.

Example for Reference List Entry

Mayer, J. (2006). Gravity. On Continuum[Album]. Aware and Columbia Records.

Example for in-text citation

(Mayer, 2006)

How to cite an album in APA style?

  • Format for Reference List:

Recording Artist or Group. (Date). Album title in sentence case [Album]. Record label name.

  • Example of Reference List:

Mayer, J. (2006). /Continuum[Album]. Aware and Columbia Records.

  • Format for In-Text Citations:

(Recording artist last name, Year)

  • Example of In-Text Citations:

(Mayer, 2006)

How to cite a song lyric in APA style?

  • Format for Reference List:

Songwriter F.M. (Copyright year). Song title. On Album title [Medium of recording]. City, State of the label: Record label name.

  • Example for Reference List:

Mayer, J. (2006). Gravity. Continuum[Album]. Los Angeles, CA: Parkwood; Aware and Columbia Records.

  • Format for In-Text Citation:

(Composer’s Surname, Publication Year, timestamp)

  • Example for In-Text Citation:

(Mayer, 2006, 5.35)

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How To Cite A Song in Chicago?

There are two key forms involved in Chicago citations. The first one is used to cite songs on CDs, cassettes, vinyl, etc. The second one is for songs on streaming platforms or online.

Citing songs sourced from a medium in Chicago style:

The elements you need:

  • Artist names
  • Title of the song
  • Track number
  • Album title
  • Publisher
  • Publication year
  • Song format

The format for reference list entry is:

Artist name. “Title of the song.” Track number Title of the album. Publisher, Year of publication, Song format.

Example of a reference list:

John Mayer. “Gravity.” Track 2 on Continuum. Aware and Columbia Records, 2006, CD.

Citing songs sourced online in Chicago style

The elements you need:

  • Artist names
  • Title of the song
  • Recorded date
  • Location
  • Song format
  • Length of the song
  • URL

The format for reference list entry is:

Artist name. “Title of the song.” The recorded date at Location. Song format, Length of the song. URL.

Example of a reference list:

John Mayer. “Gravity.” Recorded July 2006 at Music Festival, Los Angeles. YouTube video. 7.22. URL of the video

Citing an album in Chicago style

You can follow either of the formats mentioned below to cite a music album in Chicago style.

Notes & Bibliography

The format:

Composer, Title of Album, with Performer/Ensemble, conducted by Conductor, recorded date, Label Label number, year of release, medium.


Maurice Ravel,  Ravel: Volume Two, with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Geoffrey Simon, Cala Records CACD 1005, 1991, compact disc.


The format:

Name of Composer, Conductor, or Performer (depends on who you emphasize in your paper). Year of Original Release/Recording. Title of Album. Name of Composer, Conductor, and/or Performer (if they are not listed at the beginning of the Reference List entry). Label number, Year of Release (if different), medium.


Ravel, Maurice. 1991. Ravel: Volume Two. The Philharmonia Orchestra. Geoffrey Simon. Cala Records CACD 1005, compact disc.

APA Style Song Citing Rules To Remember

Universities often instruct students to follow APA style to cite songs in their documents. The formats and examples have already been discussed above. Now let’s have a look at the key rules for citing a song in APA style. Keep these tips in mind the next time you need to cite a song in APA style.

  • The APA style consists of an author, date, title, and source. In the case of a song, the author is the recording artist.
  • Invert the artist’s name as “Surname, First Initial” in the reference if the artist prefers to use their first name and surname.
  • Write the composer’s name if it's a classical work.
  • Mention the date on which the song was published in parenthesis.
  • Write the title of the song in sentence cases.
  • Describe the type of audio in square brackets in the title element of the reference.

You can also get help from academic writing services if you want to know how to quote a song in different formats.

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Why Cite Songs In Academic Writing?

Whether you are writing about John Mayer’s live performance in Los Angeles or you are discussing the impact of “Cherry Wine” by Hozier in your paper, citations are mandatory. Your paper will be considered plagiarised if you don't cite the songs, albums, or even lyrics used in your academic writing. Don't you cite other sources while using them in your paper? Use the same approach while mentioning songs in writing. Songs, movies, and books are intellectual properties. Not giving the original artist their due credit will lead to plagiarism.

Need Help With Citations? Contact Our Professional Experts!

Whether you need to cite songs, lyrics, or any other type of source, our citation specialists are here at your disposal. Our team is well-versed in all types of formats such as APA, MLA, Chicago, Oxford, Harvard, and many more. We follow the updated guidelines to cite the sources accurately.

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 Bella Phillips
Bella Phillips

Bella Phillips As a passionate blogger for Essay Help USA by #1 Writing Expert 50% Off.I am currently employed at a leading Business Law firm in White Plains. I am associated with for several years and helping the Law students with their essays.

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