How to Cite a Song

Music is a form of art, and just as you would analyze a painting in your history paper or cite a poem for your literary paper, a song can also happen to be your source, particularly for those enrolled in music theory classes. Here is a guide on how to cite a song to help you decide whether you can include a song as a resource in your next assignment.

How to Cite a Song in MLA

If you have ever cited a film, you will realize that citing a song is pretty much the same. However, if you only have experience with citing a book, you should be a pro in citing a song MLA right away.

Citing Songs in Physical Formats

If you have access to physical recordings like CD or vinyl, you will need to include the following information:

  • First and last name of the artist.
  • Song Title.
  • Album Name
  • Distributor
  • Year
  • Format

Here is the structure and an example:

FormatArtist’s Last Name, Artist’s First Name. “Song’s Title.” Album Title. Distributor, Year. Format.
MLA EntryVandross, Luther. “Dance with My Father.” Dance with My Father. J Records, 2003. CD.

Citing Songs in Digital Formats

For MLA style, the format for quoting a song varies depending on the medium of access.

When you accessed it through a music streaming platform, the author will appear as the performer, the song’s title will be in quotation marks with the site’s name italicized. You should also provide the platform’s link.

Note: Remember to omit the “The” from the title if it is a band. Also, you should should remove “https://www.” when citing songs or lyrics in MLA format.

FormatPerformer’s Last Name, Performer’s First Name. “Song’s Title.” Database Name, URL Work Cited.
MLA EntryVandross, Luther. “Dance With My Father.” YouTube,
youtube.com/watch?v=wmDxJrggie8.

Quoting Lyrics in MLA format

When you are quoting a song in your research, it will depend on the medium you used to access them and the amount of information you included in your essay’s body.

When you quote lyrics from a lyrics website like Genuis, you should format the lyrics citation like this:

FormatPerformer’s Last Name, Performer’s First Name. Lyrics to Song Title.” Website name, year of lyrics was accessed, URL.
MLA EntryVandross, Luther. Lyrics to “Dance With My Father.” Genius, 2021, genius.com/albums/Luther-vandross/Dance-with-my-father

If you are quoting lyrics from the album’s booklet, your MLA lyrics quotation should be:

FormatPerformer’s Last Name, Performer’s First Name. Booklet. Album Name, Record, Year Released.
MLA EntryVandross, Luther. Booklet. Dance With My Father, J Records, 2003.

MLA song citation for Musician

This citation entertains flexibility. Although some entries are not mandatory, you can include them when you see it fit. For instance, if your essay touches on the specific musician’s work, you can add them to the list as well as their role. Remember to list the main artist as the contributor.

FormatMusician’s Last Name, Musician’s First Name. “Song’s Title.” Album’s Name, by Main artist’s first name last name, Distributor, Year.
MLA EntryMarx, Richard, Song Writer. “Dance with My Father.” Dance With My
Father by Luther Vandross. J Records, 2003.

How to Cite a Song in APA

Audiovisual material can serve as exceptional sources for academic papers. You should include a timestamp to direct the reader to a specific area in a song when quoting a direct quotation along with the author’s name, and the year of publication.

Citing Songs in Physical Formats

When referring to a soundtrack or song, the songwriter will appear as the author. Include the recording group in square brackets after the song’s title. The year of publication will come after the author’s name. Keep in mind that the song’s title should be in lowercase, except for the first word.

Format:Last name, First name initial. (Year). Song’s title [Recording Group]. Album. Publisher/Recording Label.
APA entryVandross, L. (2003). Dance with my father. Dance With My Father. J Records.

Note: You can omit the “Song recorded by” if the songwriter is also the singer.


Citing Songs in Digital Formats

When citing a song accessed from a digital medium, you list the songwriter, publication year, and the title. In the square brackets, you enlist the recorder and then include the album’s title, medium, city, state, and record label name.

Format:Composer’s last name, composer’s first name initial. (Publication year). Song Title [Song]. Album’s Title. Record Label. URL. (if needed)
APA entryVandross, L. (2003). Dance With My Father [Song]. Dance With My Father.
J Records. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmDxJrggie8.

Quoting Lyrics in APA format

If you have sourced the lyrics from a song, you will include the songwriter, publication year, the song’s title, and where you retrieved the lyrics.

FormatSongwriter’s last name, songwriter’s first name initial. (Publication year). Song Title [Lyrics]. Retrieved from URL
APA entryVandross, L. (2003). Dance With My Father [Lyrics]. Retrieved from https://genius.com/albums/Luther-vandross/Dance-with-my-father

Conclusion

Whether it is a recorded song or a written lyric, the process is almost the same. Do not exclude a highly relevant source from your paper just because you do not know how to cite it. The guide will help you on how to cite a song in APA and MLA formats.

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