How To Cite Music Like A Pro A Comprehensive Guide For English Writers

Hello music lovers! Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you wanted to write an essay or article about your favorite song, but didn’t know how to cite it properly? Fear not, because in this article we will break down the process of citing music in a way that is easy to understand and follow.

By the end of this article, you can expect to confidently cite any piece of music in your writing, whether it be for school or personal projects. No more scouring the internet for answers or worrying about getting the citation wrong. You’ll have all the necessary knowledge and tools at your fingertips.

Our guide will cover the basics of music citations, including the various citation styles and where to find the necessary information for your citation. We’ll also provide examples and tips to help make the process even smoother. So, come along on this journey with us and let’s master the art of citing music once and for all!

Understanding the Importance of Citing Music

Music is an integral part of our daily lives. We listen to music when we are happy, sad, or simply seeking some relaxation. Similarly, music is an essential ingredient in movies, documentaries, and other forms of media that seek to convey a message. Just like any other form of content, when we use music in our work, it is essential to give credit where due. This is where citing music plays a crucial role. In this section, we explore why citing music is important.

Protecting Intellectual Property Rights

Citing music is critical if you are using someone else’s intellectual property in your work. When you use someone’s music without proper citation, it is considered plagiarism, and you are likely to face legal consequences for copyright infringement. However, when you cite the music, you acknowledge the source and show that you have obtained permission to use the material.

Interestingly, some music creators consider citing their work as a form of honor, and it motivates them to keep creating more music. Thus, besides protecting the musician’s intellectual property rights, citing their music helps them gain recognition and publicity.

Academic Integrity and Professionalism

Citing music is essential in maintaining academic and professional integrity. In academic writing, it is necessary to use various sources to back up your research. When you cite music, you show that you have researched extensively and can support your work with evidence from reputable sources. Additionally, appropriate citation shows that you have followed the guidelines in your field of study or profession.

Ignoring citation guidelines can lead to severe academic consequences, such as loss of marks, and even discontinuation from the study program. On the other hand, citing your sources appropriately earns you respect as a professional and helps build your name as a reputable scholar.

Showcasing Music Diversity and Multiculturalism

Music is a reflection of different cultures and backgrounds, and when we cite music from different regions, we appreciate and embrace diversity. Citing music cuts across boundaries and unites listeners from different cultural, social, and economic backgrounds.

Moreover, it promotes multiculturalism by showing how different cultures use different approaches to create music. For example, while traditional African music relies heavily on rhythm, Western art music emphasizes melody and harmony. By citing works from different cultures, we show respect for the diversity of other cultures and enhance intercultural communication.

Transparency and Accountability

Citing music in your work is an excellent way of promoting transparency and accountability. It shows your audience that you have not taken credit for someone else’s work and that you have followed proper citation procedures.

For instance, you can use quotations or paraphrase music when writing your lyrics or composing a song. In such instances, citing the music highlights the source, and the audience can verify the information or check out the original music. Moreover, citing music builds trust between you and the audience, and in the music industry, trust is essential in building a good reputation.

In conclusion, citing music is important as it protects intellectual property rights, shows academic integrity and professionalism, promotes multiculturalism, and enhances transparency and accountability. Understanding the importance of citing music is the first step towards recognizing and appreciating the contributions of different musicians and cultures. Ultimately, citing music promotes respect, trust, and unity.

Benefits of Citing Music Drawbacks of Not Citing Music Sources of Music Citation
  • Protects intellectual property rights
  • Shows academic and professional integrity
  • Promotes multiculturalism
  • Enhances transparency and accountability
  • Legal consequences for violating intellectual property rights
  • Loss of marks in academic writing
  • Loss of reputation due to plagiarism allegations
  • Erosion of trust with the audience
  • Referencing guides or manuals
  • Citation software
  • Online Citation Tools
  • Music Streaming Platforms

**Interesting Fact:** In 2015, a US court ordered Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay $7.4 million to the estate of Marvin Gaye for the similarities between their hit song “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.” The court ruled that they had violated Gaye’s copyright rights.

**Real-World Example:** In 2017, Beyoncé and Jay Z were sued by the estate of Anthony Barré, a New Orleans rapper, for allegedly sampling his voice in the song “Formation” without obtaining proper clearance. The case was later dismissed, but it highlights the importance of obtaining permission and citing music appropriately.

**Case Study:** On May 2021, Olivia Rodrigo, a breakout star in the music industry, faced allegations of plagiarism for the similarities between her hit song “Good 4 U” and Paramore’s “Misery Business.” This underscores the importance of proper citation and acknowledgment of sources to avoid such allegations.

**Comparison:** Citing music is similar to citing other forms of content, such as books or journal articles, where you acknowledge the author and provide a list of references at the end of your work. However, unlike other forms of content, music citation requires a specific format that includes the title, name of the artist, and the year of release.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Citing Music in APA Format

Citing music in academic writing requires a clear understanding of the APA format guidelines. Proper citation of music in research papers, essays, and other academic works is essential to maintain academic integrity and avoid plagiarism. In this section, we will break down a simple step-by-step process on how to cite music in APA format.

Determine the Type of Music Source

Before you start citing music in APA format, it is vital to understand the type of music source. APA citation style has different citation formats for different types of music sources. There are different citation formats for music albums, songs, sheet music, and even music videos. Below are various types of music sources and their corresponding citation formats:

  • Music Album – Author, A. A. (Year of Release). Title of album [Recorded by artist if different from author]. Record label.
  • Song – Author, A. A. (Year of Release). Title of song [Recorded by artist if different from author]. On Title of album [Medium of recording]. Record label.
  • Sheet Music – Composer, A. A. (Year of Publication). Title of work. Publisher.
  • Music Video – Director, A. A. (Director). (Year of Release). Title of video [Video]. Production company.

It is important to note that if the musician is the author and performer, the author’s name should come first in the citation.

Find the Necessary Information

After identifying the music source, the next step is to gather the necessary information needed for the citation. Depending on the type of music source, specific information is required. Here’s a list of common information needed for various music sources:

  1. For music albums
    • Artist’s name
    • Album title
    • Year of release
    • Record label
  2. For songs
    • Artist’s name
    • Song title
    • Year of release
    • Album title
    • Medium of recording
    • Record label
  3. For sheet music
    • Composer’s name
    • Title of work
    • Year of publication
    • Publisher
  4. For music videos
    • Director’s name
    • Title of the video
    • Year of release
    • Production company

Format the Citation in APA Style

The following format can be applied to the citation of music sources in APA format:

      Author, A. A. (Year of release). Title of work. [Format]. Publisher.

Here is an example of an APA citation format for a music album:

      Daft Punk. (2013). Random Access Memories [Album]. Daft Life under exclusive license to Columbia Records, a Division of Sony Music Entertainment.

When citing songs, it is vital to include the title of the song in quotation marks, followed by the artist’s name, and the album title. Here’s an example of a song citation in APA format:

      Abba. (1975). Mamma Mia [Song]. On Abba [Medium of Recording]. Polar.

For sheet music, the citation format should follow the composer’s name, the date the piece is published, and the title of the work. Here’s an example of a citation for sheet music in APA format:

      Sondheim, S. (1994). Losing My Mind. [Sheet music]. Hal Leonard.

When citing music videos in APA format, a citation should follow the director’s name, the date the video was released, and the title of the video. Here’s an example of a music video citation in APA format:

      Spears, B. (Director). (2008). Circus [Video]. Jive Records.

Stay Consistent with the APA Citation Style

While citing music in APA format, it is essential to stay consistent with the APA citation style. Always remember to italicize album titles, song titles, and sheet music titles. The medium of recording needs to be added when citing songs, and it should be enclosed in square brackets.


Citing music sources in APA format is a simple process that requires identifying the type of music source, determining the necessary information needed for the citation, and formatting the citation in APA style. It is also essential to remain consistent with the APA citation style to maintain academic integrity and avoid plagiarism. Remember to italicize titles, mention the medium of recording while citing songs, and include brackets when quoting sheet music. By following these simple steps, citing music in APA format becomes hassle-free.

Key Concepts Pros and Cons Comparisons
Identifying the music source APA citation style provides specific citation guidelines for different types of music sources APA citation style is the simplest format for citing music sources when compared to other citation styles
Gathering the necessary information Eliminates the possibility of inaccurately citing sources APA citation style guidelines for citing sources are similar to other citation styles
Formatting the citation in APA Style Makes tracking and identification of sources for crediting more straightforward APA citation style is the most widely used citation style across various academic disciplines

Quick Guide to Citing Music in MLA Format

Music is an art form that has been around for centuries, and as a result, it has a rich and varied history. When writing about music or referencing a piece of music in your work, it is necessary to know the proper way to cite it. In this quick guide, we will discuss the essential elements of citing music in MLA format.

Citing music in MLA format involves several elements such as the composer, performers, title, album, publisher, year of publication, and the format of the source material.

The composer and performers are the essential elements of a musical composition. To cite music in MLA format, you should include the name of the composer, performer(s), or the conductor, following the structure:

“Composer’s last name, First name. Performer(s)/Conductor’s First name Last Name.”


– Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
– Beethoven, Ludwig van. Conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

The title of the musical composition should be italicized and followed by a comma. If the piece is part of a larger work, such as a symphony, opera or album, the title of the larger work should be included before the title of the piece, followed by a comma.

– Rossini, Gioachino. “William Tell Overture.” The Barber of Seville and Other Overtures.

When citing music from an album, you should include the album title, the name of the recording company, and the year of publication.

– Rihanna. Good Girl Gone Bad, Def Jam Recordings, 2007.

The format of the source material must also be included in the citation. This typically includes the type of material, such as a CD or digital file.

– Beyonce. “Irreplaceable.” Digital file.

The citation for a musical composition will, therefore, look like this:

Last Name of Composer, First Name of Composer, performer(s)/conductor’s name/s. “Title of the Composition.” Title of album/Work, Publisher, Publication Year, Format.

– Chopin, Frederic. Performed by Artur Rubinstein. “Nocturne in E flat major.” Artur Rubinstein, The Chopin Collection, Deutsche Grammophon, 1999, CD.

Different formats of the musical source material demand varied citing methods. Here are several examples of citing music from different formats:

When citing music found on a physical recording, such as a CD or vinyl, follow this format:
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– Artist. Song Title. Album Title, Record Label, Publication Year.

– Pink Floyd. “Wish You Were Here.” Wish You Were Here, Harvest Records, 1975.

For citing music found in a digital file, such as an mp3, use the following structure:

– Artist. Song Title. Album Title, Record Label, Publication Year, Digital file.

– The Beatles. “Hey Jude.” Past Masters, Apple Records, 1988, Digital File.

When citing music from streaming services, such as Spotify or Apple Music, you should follow this format:

– Artist. Song Title. Album Title, Record Label, Publication Year, Streaming Service.

– Lana Del Rey. “Video Games.” Born to Die, Polydor, 2012, Spotify.

Format Pros Cons
Physical Recording -Provides a physical copy

-Can be easily stored and played on many players

-Higher quality sound

-Takes space

-Can be easily damaged

-Harder to transport

Digital Recording -Easily transferable

-Can play on many devices

-Takes up less space

-Lower quality sound

-Can be easily deleted

-Requires compatible device

Streaming Services -Unlimited access to music

-No physical storage

-Easily shareable

-Requires Wi-fi connection

-Less control over music

-Monthly subscription fees

Citing music in MLA format requires attention to detail and careful consideration of different formats. This quick guide provided the essential elements to include in a citation and different formats for citing music from various sources. Properly citing music in your work demonstrates your respect for the original work and can also help your audience better understand your arguments and ideas.

Common Mistakes to Avoid While Citing Music

In academic writing, it is essential to cite all sources, including music, to avoid plagiarism and support your arguments. However, citing music correctly can be challenging, especially for those new to this academic practice. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when citing music:

Not Citing the Correct Version of the Song

When citing a song, it is essential to include the correct version, as different versions may have various lyrics, performers, and other details. For instance, “Yesterday” by The Beatles has been covered by many artists, including Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, and Boyz II Men, among others. Failure to cite the correct version might result in inaccurate information and a flawed argument.

  • Include as many details as possible about the song, such as the title, album, date of release, performer(s), and record label.
  • Check the spelling of the song title, band name, performer(s), and other details before citing them.
  • Use the appropriate citation style required by your institution, such as the MLA, APA, or Chicago style.

For example, when citing “Yesterday” sung by The Beatles in MLA style, the citation would look like this:

“Yesterday.” Help!, The Beatles, 1965, EMI Records,

Not Citing the Original Songwriter

When citing a song, it is also essential to acknowledge the original songwriter, even if the artist covering the song has made significant changes to the lyrics or melody. Failure to cite the original songwriter is not only unethical but also misleading.

  • Research and include the name of the original songwriter when citing a song.
  • Cite the original songwriter and the performers of the cover song separately to avoid confusion.
  • Include as many details as possible, such as the song title, album, date of release, performer(s), and record label when citing a song.

For example, when citing Whitney Houston’s cover of “I Will Always Love You” originally written by Dolly Parton in APA style, the citation would look like this:

Parton, D. (1973). I Will Always Love You. On Jolene. RCA Records.

Houston, W. (1992). I Will Always Love You. On The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album. Arista Records.

Citing Lyrics Inappropriately

Citing lyrics can be tricky, especially when quoting more than one line or using them to support a particular argument. Incorrectly citing lyrics can result in plagiarism and also misrepresent the artist’s work.

  • Use double quotation marks when quoting song lyrics and single quotation marks when quoting within a quote.
  • Italicize the song title and capitalize the first letter of every major word in the title.
  • Include the songwriter’s name and the performer(s) in your citation, if possible.

For example, when citing the song “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye in MLA style, a citation for a direct quote would look like this:

Gotye argues, “But you didn’t have to cut me off / Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing” (Somebody That I Used to Know).

Inconsistent Citation Style

Using inconsistent citation styles can be confusing, especially for your readers. Always ensure that you use the citation style recommended by your institution or professor and remain consistent throughout your work. Avoid mixing different styles in one paper.

  • Familiarize yourself with the recommended citation style and use it consistently throughout the paper.
  • Double-check the citation style for various sources, such as books, journal articles, and websites, as they may have different citation requirements.
  • Use tools such as citation generators or citation software to make accurate and consistent citations.
Pros Cons Comparison
Ensures accurate, consistent, and standardized citation for all sources Restricts creativity in citation, since all sources must conform to the same style Using a standardized citation style ensures uniformity and makes it easier for readers to locate sources.

In conclusion, citing music appropriately is essential to academic writing, but it can be challenging. Avoiding common mistakes, such as not citing the correct version of the song, ignoring the original songwriter, improperly citing lyrics, and using inconsistent citation styles, can help you create accurate and well-crafted papers. Remember to utilize the recommended citation style and include as many details as possible while citing music.

Citing Music in Chicago Style: The Ultimate Guide

5. How to Cite a Song in a Compilation Album?

Songs in a Compilation Album can be cited in different ways, depending on the purpose and context of the citation. Here are some standard guidelines for citing a song in a compilation album in Chicago style.

1. Identify the Song Title, Album Title, and Artist Names

Start by gathering the necessary information for the citation. For a song in a compilation album, you should have the following details:

– Song Title: The full title of the song, as it appears on the album or in the liner notes.
– Album Title: The full title of the compilation album, in italics.
– Artist Names: The names of the primary artist or artists who performed the song, separated by commas.

Song Title Album Title Artist Names
“Imagine” The Art of McCartney Stevie Wonder, featuring Andra Day

2. Determine the Format of the Album

Next, you need to determine the format of the album, which can affect the way you cite the song. If the album is available in multiple formats, choose the one that you used or accessed. Examples of formats include:

– CD: Compact Disc
– MP3: Digital Music File
– Vinyl: Analog Record
– Cassette: Magnetic Tape

3. Choose the Citation Style and Follow the Format

There are different citation styles that can be used to cite music, but in Chicago style, the citation format depends on the format of the album and the availability of original liner notes.

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Here are some examples of how to cite a song in a compilation album in different formats:

When citing a song from a CD, the citation follows the following format:

Lastname, Firstname, “Song Title,” Album Title, Artist Names, Label, Year.

For example:

Example One:

Smith, John, “Every Breath You Take,” Rock Hits of the Eighties, The Police, Sony, 1988.

When citing a song from digital music file, follow the following format:

Last, First. “Song Title”. Long Play Title, Artist Names, Year of Release, Label.

For example:

Example Two:

Lennon, John. “Imagine”. The Art of McCartney, Stevie Wonder, featuring Andra Day, 2014, Rhino.

4. Include Additional Citation Information When Necessary

Depending on the context of your citation, you may need to include additional information to fully describe the source. This might include:

– Producer’s name
– Composer’s name
– Performer’s name
– Length of the song
– Publisher’s name

5. Follow the Appropriate Citation Guidelines for Different Types of Compilation Albums

There are different types of compilation albums, such as a greatest hits album, a tribute album, or a soundtrack album for a film or TV show. Depending on the type, you may also need to include some additional information in your citation.

Here are some examples of how to cite a song in different types of compilation albums in Chicago style:

– For a Greatest Hits album:
Lastname, Firstname, “Song Title,” Greatest Hits, Artist Names, Record Label, Year.

– For a Tribute album:
Lastname, Firstname, “Song Title,” in Album Title, performed by Artist Names, Record Label, Year.

– For a Soundtrack album:
Lastname, Firstname, “Song Title,” in Album Title, composed and performed by Artist Names, Record Label, Year.

Citing music in Chicago style can be complex, but by following standard guidelines and using accurate information, you can effectively cite songs in different types of sources, including single tracks, albums, and compilations.

Citing music is essential for academic research and music industry professionals. Accurately citing sources of music shows respect for the original creators and helps readers locate the information for their own research.

FAQs for How to Cite Music

How do you cite a song in MLA format?

To cite a song in MLA format, include the artist’s name, song title in quotation marks, album name if applicable, website, publication date, URL, and the date you accessed the source. For example: Beyonce. “Love Drought.” Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016, Accessed 29 Jan. 2019.

How do I cite a song on a website?

To cite a song on a website, you need to include the artist’s name, song title in quotation marks, the source’s name, publication date, URL, and the date you accessed the source. For example: Swift, Taylor. “Shake It Off.” YouTube, uploaded by TaylorSwiftVEVO, 18 Aug. 2014,

How do you cite a song in APA format?

To cite a song in APA format, include the artist’s name, year of release in parentheses, song title in italics, album name if applicable, format, and the name of the record label. For example: Beyonce (2016). Love Drought. Lemonade [album]. CD. Parkwood Entertainment.

How do you cite a music video?

To cite a music video, you need to include the artist’s name, song title in quotation marks, album name if applicable, the name of the director, the video’s year of release, and the URL. For example: Swift, Taylor. “You Need to Calm Down.” Lover [album], directed by Drew Kirsch, 2019,

How do you cite a Spotify playlist?

To cite a Spotify playlist, you need to include the Spotify username, playlist title, and the URL. For example: SpotifyUser. “Playlist Title.” Spotify, URL (without

Do I need to cite music?

Yes, citing music is important if you’re using it in any research or academic work. Proper citation ensures that you are giving credit to the originator of the content and avoiding plagiarism.

How do you cite a line from a song?

To cite a line from a song, include the artist’s name, song title in quotation marks, and the line of the song in quotation marks. For example: Beyonce sings, “Cause you, you, you, you and me could move a mountain” in her song “Love Drought”.

Can I use a song in my presentation?

It depends on the context and nature of the presentation. If the presentation is for educational purposes, you may be able to use a small portion of a song. Proper attribution and citing should still be done. However, if the presentation is for commercial purposes, it is recommended to obtain permission from the copyright owner.

How do you cite a musical performance?

To cite a musical performance, you need to include the performer’s name, title of the performance, name of the venue, date of performance, and location of the venue. For example: Madonna. “The Confessions Tour.” Wembley Arena, London. United Kingdom. 1 Sept. 2006.

How do I cite a CD?

To cite a CD, you need to include the artist’s name, album title, recording company or distributor, year, and format. For example: Jackson, Michael. Thriller [album]. Epic Records, 1982. CD.


In conclusion, citing music is essential for avoiding plagiarism and giving credit to the original creators. Citing music can be done using different formats, including MLA and APA, depending on the citation style requirements. Make sure to include all necessary information, such as artist name, song title, album name, and website or publication information. After reading this article, you should be able to cite music correctly and accurately in your research or academic work.

If you want to learn more about music, check out our other articles on music history, different genres, and famous artists.