Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Music samples

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Music samples can be a valuable addition to articles about bands, musical styles, and genres. They can illustrate the particular instruments or musical elements in a song in a way that a text description cannot. However, usage of such samples needs to comply with copyright law and Wikipedia's guidelines. The limitations on length and quality described here apply only to fair use samples; free content samples are not subject to these limitations.


  • Copyrighted, unlicensed music samples must be short in comparison to the original song. As a rule of thumb, samples should not exceed 30 seconds or 10% of the length of the original song, whichever is shorter.
  • Samples must be of reduced quality from the original. For an .ogg file, a Vorbis quality setting of 0 (roughly 64kbit/s) is usually sufficient.
    • To do this, you can open the file using Audacity, delete the part that exceeds the maximum length, and export the sample ("File>Export>Export as OGG"). In the Export dialog, move the quality slider to 0 before saving.
    • Transcoding samples into another format (e.g. ogg → mp3) has been performed by MediaWiki software, especially for web browsers and devices that do not support an original format. Transcoded files originating from a lossy compression format often have larger size and nominal bit rate than original ones. Changing an original file's quality will affect the size of a transcoded file, but transcoded files will still be larger.
      • Nonetheless, transcoded files using a lossy compression format often have smaller size and nominal bit rate than original ones using either a lossless compression format (e.g. FLAC) or an uncompressed audio format (e.g. WAV), which often have larger size and nominal bit rate than others using a lossy compression format.
  • Upload to Wikipedia, not to Wikimedia Commons.
  • Specify a precise title for the media file (for example, "The Beatles - Michelle.ogg" instead of "beatles1.ogg").
  • Add proper licensing information to the Image description page. For copyrighted music samples it should be {{Non-free audio sample}}.
  • Each copyrighted music sample must be accompanied by a suitable fair use rationale, or it will be deleted.
  • Add relevant information about the sample in the description page, especially length and quality, but also copyrights, album, songwriters, producers, etc. The template {{Music sample info}} can help with this. This is not a replacement for {{Non-free use rationale audio sample}}.
  • There should be only one sample per song recording, even if several users produce samples. If a new sample is uploaded, the old one must be deleted. In the case of a multi-section/movement work, such as a symphony or opera, the use of one relevant sample per section/movement is acceptable.

Inclusion in article[edit]

  • Contextual significance
Properly uploaded music samples should only be added to articles in which the song or a particular aspect of it is discussed and referenced. This is necessary to meet the "Contextual significance" requirement for use of non-free content: 1) the item [song or portion of] is itself the subject of sourced commentary in the article, or 2) where only by including such non-free content, can the reader identify an object, style, or behavior, that is a subject of discussion in the article [emphasis in original]. (see Meeting the contextual significance criterion.)
  • Use and location of templates
Music samples are added to articles by using the Template:Listen within the main body of the article or Template:Audio sample to add it to an infobox. When using {{Listen}}, the template should be placed in the paragraph where the song is discussed if possible.
Listen example
A non-free sample of "Home at Last" is located in the Aja album article in the Critical reception section, where sourced commentary about its style is included. The code is as follows (see the template documentation for more options):
| type = music
| filename = Home at Last.ogg
| title = "Home at Last"
| description = 30-second sample
| pos =
Audio sample (for Infobox) example
A free sample of "Crazy Blues" is added to the {{Infobox song}} in |misc= using {{Audio sample}}. Since the title and artist are already included in the infobox, an additional header or description is not needed. The code is (see the template documentation for more options):
{{Infobox song
| misc         = {{subst:Audio sample
 | type = single
 | file = Mamie Smith, Crazy Blues.ogg
  • Number of samples
The Non-free content guideline advises against "An excessive number of short audio clips in a single article". It adds "A small number may be appropriate if each is accompanied by commentary in the accompanying text ... The use of non-free media (whether images, audio or video clips) in galleries, discographies, and navigational and user-interface elements generally fails the test for significance (criterion #8 [Contextual significance])." Examples of multiple samples within featured articles include Jimi Hendrix (artist article with three song samples) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (album article with four samples).

What is the maximum length permitted?[edit]

10% of the length of the original song up to a maximum of 30 seconds, as explained above. The table below explains how this works in practice:

Original (m:ss) 0:30 1:00 1:30 2:00 2:30 3:00 3:30 4:00 4:30 5:00 and longer
Maximum length of sample (m:ss) 0:03 0:06 0:09 0:12 0:15 0:18 0:21 0:24 0:27 0:30

See also[edit]