Welcome to our 2021 Sustainability Report! Here we give an update on how 2021 went for Freesound in terms of sustainability, and present our plans for 2022. 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. In 2021, 56,783 new sounds were uploaded to Freesound. This number is even bigger than in previous years (see more stats here). We saw this year that a significant number of the uploaded sounds (~15%) come from professional sound design studios that decided to upload part of their catalog and release it under a Creative Commons license. This is interesting because it further highlights that Freesound is a relevant tool not only for hobbyists and amateurs but also for sound professionals, and it also promotes the use of Creative Commons among professionals. All in all Freesound continues to be doing very well in terms of sound uploads.
User donations fell a bit in 2021 compared to 2020, but 2020 was very exceptional due to the COVID19 lock-downs which happened around the world, resulting in a 30% increase in donations. With respect to 2019 (pre-pandemic times), 2021 still represents a 25% increase in donations, and we received almost 59,000€ from 6,600 individual donations. We’ll have to see whether this trend continues and 2022 gets closer to pre-pandemic times, or whether the amount of donations is maintained with similar numbers. Thanks to the boost of donations in 2020 we’ve been able this year to spend a lot of efforts working on the implementation of the new user interface and also on the new infrastructure to which we have been (and still are) migrating. Let us take this opportunity to thank again everyone who donated to Freesound!
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 2021, the UPF contributed to Freesound similarly to previous years, however this year the change of the infrastructure has also resulted in more involvement from university’s IT support staff. We have moved to an infrastructure based on a Kubernetes cluster maintained at the UPF level. This has allowed us, among other things, to make Freesound faster and to significantly increase download speeds. We now estimate a daily consumed bandwidth of around 1TB of data. Beyond IT staff, researchers from the university also dedicate time to Freesound related activities (either research, development or administration) and are paid by the university. As you can see, the contribution from UPF is huge, and it is only thanks to the combination of the different sustainability streams discussed in this post that Freesound is sustainable.
Contribution from research grants and Freesound-related research at UPF
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, similarly to 2020, in 2021 we did not receive any new big research grant with a primary role for Freesound (like the AudioCommons project that we coordinated a few-years ago). As explained in our previous sustainability report, at the end of 2020 we received a grant from the Grant for the Web call to experiment with the application of Web Monetization technologies in the Freesound Licensing project, and the work done for this grant was carried out during 2021. We were able to experiment with some ideas and build a proof of concept for Freesound Licensing, but the project has not advanced much further and we are still in the process of assessing viability from a legal perspective.
As a quick summary, these are the research activities that we carried out at the MTG in 2021 and in relation to Freesound:
- Further development and maintenance of Essentia, the audio analysis library that powers Freesound sound analysis.
- Research on methods for automatically classifying audio events and development of artificial intelligence models that we plan to deploy in Freesound during 2022.
- Research on methods for interpretable machine learning in audio classification.
- Further research on clustering methods to be potentially applied to Freesound search results. We have advanced a lot on the implementation of these methods in Freesound and are quite ready to make them available to the public, but some more efforts are still needed.
- Research on hardware interfaces for accessing Freesound content (the SOURCE sampler that was announced in the forums)
If you’re interested in learning more 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.
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 2021 we increased the number of license agreements and also re-negotiated some of them (based on usage) and were able to increase the yearly income to reach ~6,000€. We spent this money in the same development efforts described in the User donations section above.
Summary and perspectives for 2022
As it is shown in this report, 2021 has consolidated the already existing trends in terms of sustainability and we have been able to translate this into many improvements in the website. We have not been able to further advance with potential new sustainability sources like the Freesound Licensing project and also we have not obtained new research grants, but nevertheless we have been able to carry out research which is more focused on Freesound and can more easily be transformed into actual features for the website. In 2022 we expect again to spend many development efforts in Freesound, with the main goals being to finish the new UI and to deploy research outputs into the website (we have already done significant work in that direction during the first months of 2022).
We’d like to finish this post by saying thank you to everyone who contributed to Freesound during 2021, 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 2022’s sustainability report!
frederic, on behalf of the Freesound Team