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How to Cite a Song


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If you’re working on an assignment that requires music—whether you’re analyzing lyrics or playing a clip—iTunes is a great place to find the right tune. After all, the site/app carries over 30 million songs, from smooth jazz to rollicking rock n’ roll to soaring pop anthems.

But while finding the perfect song clip on iTunes is easy, citing the work in your paper or presentation might seem a bit more difficult.

Luckily, we’ve got you covered.

Here, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide on how to cite a song from iTunes, in MLA formatting, APA formatting, and Chicago style. If the only thing keeping you from including a song in that presentation is fear of citing, fear not—the process isn’t that difficult once you get the hang of it.

If you’ve ever cited a movie or other video before, you’ll find that the process for an audio recording is pretty similar—but even if your only citation work has been with text, you should be a pro at citing iTunes songs in no time!

To make the process even easier, we’ve created examples in MLA, APA, and Chicago for Pharrell Williams’s 2014 chart-topper “Happy,” a song with an infectious beat and a warm and fuzzy message that works just as well for a psychology assignment as it does for a dance party.

Our citation example is based on https://music.apple.com/us/album/happy-from-despicable-me-2/863835302?i=863835363.

    • Name of the individual or band who performs the song
    • Name of the songwriter (for APA style)
    • Name of the album it is found on (if available)
    • Version of the song, if available (such as an extended version or radio edit)
    • Name of the publisher
    • Date the song was published or recorded
    • Track number
    • Title of the website or app (iTunes)
    • URL or DOI (if applicable)

Use the following structure to cite a song from iTunes in MLA 9:

Last name, First name (of the individual or the name of the band performing the song). “Title of the Song.” Name of the Album, Container (for example, iTunes app), Version (optional), Publisher, Date published.

Here’s how the above example would be cited in MLA 9:

Williams, Pharrell. “Happy.” GIRL, iTunes app, Columbia Records, 2014.

If you need help with in-prose and parenthetical citations, CitationMachine.net, can help. Our MLA citation generator is simple and easy to use!

Use the following structure to cite a song from iTunes in APA format:

Last name, First initial. Middle initial. of the songwriter. (Year published). Title of song [Recorded by First initial. Middle initial. Last name of performer (only include if different than the name of the writer)]. On Title of album [Audio file]. Retrieved from URL

Here’s how the above example would be cited in APA citation:

Williams. P. (2014). Happy. On GIRL [Audio file]. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/happy-from-despicable-me-2/id823593445?i=823593456

Use the following structure to cite a song from iTunes in Chicago:

*Note that audio recordings are generally not included in a bibliography. Create another list, titled “Discography.” If you decide to include audio recordings in your bibliography, place a heading over them in order for readers to distinguish the difference.

Last name, First name of the individual or band who performs the song. “Title of Song.” iTunes audio, length. Date published. URL.

Here’s how the above example would be cited in Chicago:

Williams, Pharrell. “Happy.” iTunes audio, 3:52. 2014. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/happy-from-despicable-me-2/id823593445?i=823593456.

Is the song you’re looking for not one of the 30 million-plus available tracks on iTunes? If so, fret not: The process for citing a tune from Spotify, SoundCloud, or any other website with available music doesn’t differ much from the process of citing an iTunes song.

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In an APA-style in-text citation that directly quotes a lyric from a song, is the singer or lyricist cited as the author?

To write an in-text citation that directly quotes from a song, cite the name of the recording artist or group as the author in APA style. Following are the templates and examples for writing an in-text citation that directly quotes a song in APA style.


Narrative: Recording Artist’s Surname (Publication Year)

Parenthetical: (Recording Artist’s Surname, Publication Year)


Narrative: Bowie (1971)

Parenthetical: (Bowie, 1971)

How do I quote a song in Chicago (notes-bibliography) style?

The information below follows the guidance given in section 14.263 in the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition.

Note template:

“This is an example quote.”1


  1. Full name of the album’s main performer or composer, “Song Title,” with song contributors, medium or streaming service, recorded Date if different from date published, track # on Album Title, Publisher or Recording Company, Date published.

Note template:

“Don’t believe me, just watch.”1


  1. Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk,” with Bruno Mars, Spotify, track 4 on Uptown Special, Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited, 2015.

Bibliography template & example:

Group name or Surname, First name of the main performer or composer. Album Title. Recorded Date if different from date published. Medium or streaming service. Publisher or Recording Company, Date published.

Ronson, Mark. Uptown Special. Spotify. Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited, 2015.