Welcome to our 2022 Sustainability Report! Here we give an update on how 2022 went for Freesound in terms of sustainability, and present our plans for 2023. You’ll see that most of the information is very similar to previous years’ posts, but still, we think that it is important to share a yearly update with the community. 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 2022, 49,153 new sounds were uploaded to Freesound (which corresponds to 961 hours of audio). This follows a growing trend with respect to previous years (although 2021 saw a spike), and confirms the healthiness of the Freesound community in terms of sound uploads. We are very close to reaching the mark of 600k sounds uploaded to Freesound. But not only sound uploads are important, also sound comments (49k), ratings (174k) and all other ways in which Freesound users interact and generate valuable content for the community. If you’re curious about these kinds of stats, you can check the 2022 in numbers blog post which was published a couple of months ago.
User donations have continued to fall in 2022 compared to 2021, and are now back again to levels similar to 2019. What we are most likely seeing here is the “get back to normality” after the COVID19 lockdowns which resulted in almost a 30% increase in donations. In 2022, we received 46,600€ from 5,300 individual donations. We expect the number of donations in 2023 to stop the lowering tendency and keep similar numbers as in 2022. As usual, donations income has been spent on maintenance and development efforts. In particular, we put a lot of emphasis on upgrading our backend technology stack (for the nerds: we upgraded from Python 2 to Python 3, and from Django 1.1 to Django 3.2 ), and on the new user interface (which is getting closer and closer). 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, Barcelona, Spain). In 2022, the UPF contributed to Freesound similarly to previous years. We have continued our infrastructure improvements which allowed us, among other things, to make Freesound faster and to significantly increase download speeds. The current infrastructure consists of a Kubernetes cluster with 80GB of memory and 25 CPUs for the Freesound website, with an external server used for serving sound downloads and some static files (which transfers around 2TB of data per day). This infrastructure is contributed by the UPF, together with some IT support. Also, a big part of the human costs for maintaining the Freesound website and related research activities (i.e. our salaries), are a contribution by UPF. In relation to that, during 2022 we have been able to open a new PhD position that deals with research topics related to Freesound and which will surely have a positive impact on the platform (more on that below).
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, but, similarly to 2021, in 2022 we did not receive any new big research grant with a primary role for Freesound, but we did receive a 10k USD donation from Google in appreciation for the research efforts on releasing open audio datasets (Google had previously supported our research in that direction and awarded us several Google Research Awards in the past) . Nevertheless, we’ve been able to continue with our Freesound-related research activities which broadly cover these topics:
- Further support 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. We have started deploying such methods in Freesound and some of their outputs are available through the Freesound API.
- Research on methods to support the sound description process of Freesound, including the definition of a simple taxonomy which will enter an evaluation phase during 2023 (you’ll hear some news about this soon).
- Research on methods for interpretable machine learning in audio classification.
- Research on methods for automatic generation of music instrument samples and music loops.
- Research on hardware and software interfaces for accessing Freesound content (Freesound sampler plugin).
If you’re interested in learning more about the research that happens around Freesound not only at the MTG but also around the world, be sure to check the papers section of the Freesound Labs website. You’ll see that in 2022 alone, there were 161 research papers referencing Freesound!
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 2022 we maintained a similar number of license agreements (we added a couple but also a couple were cancelled), maintaining the yearly income around ~6,000€. We spent this money in the same development efforts described in the User donations section above.
Summary and perspectives for 2023
In 2022 we have been able to continue focusing on research and development efforts for Freesound in similar way as we did in 2021. We’ll have to keep an eye on user donations during 2023, and think about possible actions if the donations fall below pre-COVID standards. Also, we expect that in 2023 we’ll get new research projects funded which allow us to open new positions and have a significant impact on Freesound. In terms of development, we expect to make the final release of the new user interface during 2023, and continue with the deployment of new technology (particularly classification models). We are also aiming at upgrading the technology we use for the search engine. The new user interface will provide a fresh look to Freesound and some new functionalities, but also represents a big advancement on the technology that we use that will allow us to continue development in a more sustainable manner. Similarly, the backend technology upgrades that we carried out this year are an important step towards Freesound future sustainability.
We’d like to finish this post by saying thank you to everyone who contributed to Freesound during 2022. We’ll let you know how things go next year in the 2023’s sustainability report!
frederic, on behalf of the Freesound Team