Welcome to our 2020 Sustainability Report! Here we give an update on how 2020 went for Freesound in terms of sustainability, and present our plans for 2021. You’ll see that most of the information is very similar to previous years’ posts, but still, we think that this will be interesting for you. As usual, the report is split in a number of sections discussing specific aspects that contribute to the sustainability of Freesound, and a final section with a summary, conclusions and future perspectives.
Sound uploads are an essential part of the sustainability of Freesound. Now that Freesound is reaching 500k sound uploads, it becomes even clearer its immense value, making Freesound an extremely useful resource, attracting many new users every year (both downloaders and uploaders) and certifying the world-wide impact of the Freesound website. Such a big impact is also a great motivation for the research we (and others) carry out around Freesound, and for helping us obtain funding to support it. In 2020, 46,441 new sounds were uploaded. That number is quite similar to previous years (check the evolution of total number of sounds uploaded from the 2020 in numbers blog post). Other related statistics of activity around sounds (ratings, comments, posts) also feature numbers similar to previous years. All in all, we can conclude that Freesound follows a stable (and healthy!) trend in terms of sound uploads.
Contribution from UPF
Freesound is an initiative of the Music Technology Group, a research group of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona, Spain. In 2020, the UPF contributed to Freesound similarly to previous years. UPF provides the necessary IT infrastructure and basic maintenance (15 servers, 4 TB monthly data bandwidth, IT support staff). As we calculated for the past edition of the sustainability report, the expected cost of such infrastructure if Freesound was hosted in external services (such as Amazon Web services or similar), would be over 20,000€/year (only for hosting costs). Researchers from the university also dedicate time to Freesound related activities (either research, development or administration) and are paid by the university. In 2021, we plan to move all our servers to a new infrastructure also provided by UPF. This should allow us to deploy a much faster and stable Freesound, and solve some of the availability and speed issues we’ve been experiencing in the last year. As you can see, the contribution from UPF is huge, and it is only thanks to the combination of the different aspects discussed in this post that Freesound is sustainable.
Contribution from research grants
Research is at the very core of the Freesound philosophy and, in fact, it is where it all started. We have carried out lots of research activities around Freesound (see some details below), but in 2020 we did not get any new big research grant with a primary role for Freesound (like the AudioCommons project that we coordinated a few-years ago). However, we recently received a 36,000$ grant from the Grant for the Web call to experiment with the application of Web Monetization technologies in the Freesound Licensing project that we’re starting and discussed in a previous blog post. This is funding for development of a prototype, and so it’s not like the projects that we normally do, but we still consider it a research grant. If you’re interested in learning about the research that happens around Freesound (i.e. using Freesound data) not only at the MTG but also around the world, be sure to check the papers section of the Freesound Labs website. But, summarizing, the main research activities that we carried out in 2020 in relation to Freesound are:
- Further development of the FSD50k dataset and publication.
- Further development and maintenance of Essentia, the audio analysis library that powers Freesound sound analysis.
- Research on methods for automatically classifying audio events.
- Research on the analysis of urban soundscape sounds from Barcelona.
- Further research on clustering methods to be potentially applied to Freesound search results. This is getting much closer to release now.
Commercial usage of the Freesound API
Freesound has an API endpoint which allows third parties to develop applications that incorporate Freesound content. Usage of this API is free for non-commercial purposes, while commercial use of the API requires a commercial license. In this way we make sure that commercial applications using Freesound also contribute back to the community. Note that this is independent from the license of the sounds themselves, which need to be respected regardless of the API usage agreement. In 2020 we slightly increased the number of license agreements and the income they generate (~3,000€). We spent this money in the same development efforts described in the User donations section above. We’ve observed growing interest for the API so we expect this number to grow in 2021.
Summary and perspectives for 2021
As you can see, in 2020 we improved, in terms of sustainability, compared with previous years. This was been mainly due to the increase in user donations. Thanks to that, we have already started spending more efforts in Freesound development and that will allow us to greatly improve the platform during this year. Freesound is more sustainable than ever, and we have plans to further consolidate our model with the addition of the Freesound Licensing sister-project (which should advance considerably during 2021).
We’d like to finish this post by saying thank you to everyone who contributed to Freesound during 2020, in particular to those who donated and those who uploaded and moderated sounds. We’ll let you know how things go next year in the 2021’s sustainability report.
frederic, on behalf of the Freesound Team