If you write about music in your work, you might have to cite a recording. But how do you cite a song or album in MLA referencing? This post will explain the basics.
How to Cite a Song or Album in MLA Referencing
To cite a song or album in MLA referencing, simply give the artist’s last name or the band’s name in parentheses in the relevant part of the text:
Her latest album has a strong environmental theme (Sturgeon).
‘Wildlife in America’ (Shearwater) comments on US culture.
And to cite a specific part of a song, you can add a timestamp:
The middle eight in ‘Air and Light’ (Sturgeon 2:14–2:29)is truly haunting.
In the above citation, for example, we are citing a section that runs from 2 minutes 14 seconds to 2 minutes 29 seconds into the song.
Musical Recordings in an MLA Works Cited List
All references contain certain core elements in MLA style. And for a musical recording, each entry should include some or all of the following:
Artist or band name – For individual artists, give their surname first, followed by their first name (e.g. Young, Neil). For artists who don’t follow this naming convention (e.g. U2 or Lady Gaga), just use the full name they are known by.
Song title – If you are citing a specific song, give the title in quotation marks.
Album title – Give the name of the album you are citing (or that the song you are citing comes from) in italics.
Version – If relevant, include information on the version of the song next (e.g. if there are different versions of a song on different albums).
Publication details – The name of the publisher (i.e. the record label that released the album or song) and the year the recording was released.
URL – If you accessed the recording online, include the URL. For songs accessed via a streaming platform, give the platform name in italics.
Format – If it is relevant to your work, you can optionally add the format of the recording at the end of your reference (e.g. CD, vinyl, MP3).
You won’t always need all of this! For many references, the artist’s name, song and/or album title, the publisher, and the year of publication will be enough. But whatever you cite, make sure to include enough information in the Works Cited list to guide readers to the exact version of the recording you have used.
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Below, you can see example references for an album, a song on an album, an album accessed via a streaming platform, and a single song accessed online:
Talk Talk. The Colour of Spring, EMI, 1986.
Song on an Album
Shearwater. ‘Animals in America’. Jet Plane and Oxbow, Subpop, 2016.
Album on a Streaming Service
Sturgeon, Jenny. The Living Mountain, Hudson Records, 2020. Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/album/7Kt6kaJ8dGIo6cngVA7dcB
Single Song Online
Benin City. ‘Freaking You Out’. Bandcamp, https://benincity.bandcamp.com/track/freaking-you-out
Make sure to add a hanging indent for each line after the first in all references.
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