Remember when we discussed about the future sustainability of Freesound almost two years back? We mentioned back then that we would keep you updated about the status of the sustainability of Freesound, including general information about the donations we receive and how we spend them. To that end, here is our first Freesound Sustainability Report which describes the main contributions to Freesound sustainability during 2018. We plan to publish a similar report on a yearly basis. The report is split in a number of sections discussing different aspects that contribute to the sustainability of Freesound, and a final section with a summary and some conclusions. Be advised, this is a rather long post, but we hope you’ll find it interesting 🙂
When we talk about sustainability, we tend to think of it only in terms of financial sustainability. However, a very important aspect of the sustainability of Freesound is the continuous uploading of new sounds by the user community. These sounds bring real value to Freesound and make it a useful resource for many users around the world. Specially good-quality sounds. The fact that Freesound is a valuable resource for many users is what is making the donations’ campaign a success, and what ultimately enables other types of contributions to the sustainability such as those from the university and from research grants (see below). We’d like to highlight that the 36,000 sounds uploaded during 2018 are one of most important contributions in terms of sustainability. Similarly, other user actions like rating and commenting sounds, writing forum posts and doing sound moderation, are very important and also contribute to the sustainability of the platform. For a summary of Freesound user activity during 2018, please check the 2018 in numbers blog post that we recently published.
It has been over a year since we started the campaign for donations that we announced in the blog and forums. Since then, the number of donations we receive has been significantly increased, and we now receive 20 times more donations than what we used to receive before the campaign. This is a great success and we are very proud of the reaction of both the core Freesound community and also the less-involved Freesound users. In 2018, we received a total of 45,000€ in user donations. We spent the donations in the following development tasks:
- Improvements in the Freesound platform through student internships and the work of a software developer. For a detailed list of developments check the Community Update blog posts of January, February, March, May, June, August, September and December.
- Design of the new Freesound front-end
- First phase of implementation of the new front-end by a front-end developer
- Software licenses and cost of services for the help desk (Zendesk), email services (Amazon), maps services (Mapbox), and monitoring (Site 24×7).
Contribution from UPF
For those who don’t know, Freesound is an initiative of the Music Technology Group, a research group of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona, Spain. In 2018 (and also in past years), UPF contributed to Freesound by providing the necessary IT infrastructure and basic maintenance (15 servers, 4 TB monthly data bandwidth, IT support staff). 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 for only hosting costs. This price would be about 5,000€/year by using a cheaper dedicated hosting provider, but we would also have to pay additional IT support costs in this case.
thanks for reading until here, you can now take a deep breath and do a short meditation while listening to the sound below…
…good, let’s continue reading
Contribution from research grants
As being part of a university, research is an important element of the Freesound philosophy. During 2018, the AudioCommons research grant (in which Freesound plays a central role) was still ongoing. This allowed us to dedicate significant human resources (partial time of 3 researchers and 2 PhD students) for research and development around Freesound. Furthermore, a Google Faculty Research Award was awarded to us to particularly focus on the development of a big dataset made with Freesound content (see this blog post). Contributions from research grants resulted in:
- Development of the Freesound Datasets research platform and FSD dataset.
- Further development and maintenance of Essentia, the audio analysis library that powers Freesound sound analysis
- Research on improving the existing algorithms used for analyzing Freesound content and addition of new 3rd party algorithms including perceptual timbral models.
- Research on methods for automatically classifying audio events.
- Research on clustering methods to be potentially applied to Fresound search results.
- Support the development and general system administration in 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. Nevertheless, the commercial use of the API requires a commercial license. In this way we make sure that commercial applications using Freesound also bring something back to the community. Note that this is independent of the license of the sounds themselves, which need to be respected regardless of the API usage agreement. In 2018 our license agreements generated an income of 2,500€. We spent this money in the same development efforts described in the User donations section above.
Summary and perspectives for 2019
As you can see, 2018 has been a great year for Freesound in terms of sustainability. Most importantly, we have consolidated contributions from user donations which have allowed us to significantly increase development efforts for the platform. We also got important contributions from UPF and from research grants which allowed us to focus on very relevant research lines whose results will eventually be used to improve Freesound. In the coming year we’ll probably see lesser contributions from research grants, but we expect similar contribution from UPF and increased user donations (due to users repeating yearly donations and new users deciding to donate). Also we expect a similar number of sounds to be uploaded, or perhaps a bit more if the bulk description tools get more popularized. Overall we expect to spend similar efforts in the development of the Freesound platform as we did in 2018, an important part of which will be the implementation and release of the new Freesound front-end.
We’d like to finish this post by saying thank you to everyone who contributed to Freesound during 2018, in particular to those who donated and those who uploaded and moderated sounds. We’ll let you know how things go next year in 2019’s sustainability report 🙂
frederic, on behalf of the Freesound Team