Whatever the implications for labels and artists, Facebook users have spoken, giving connected listening a big thumbs-up. Photo (CC-BY) JOHANNES FUCHS resp. GOIABA.

Facebook is bragging about one number, in particular – one billion users – this week. But they’re also releasing some other hard numbers on how people are using their service.

Much has been made of how Facebook has transformed social gaming and, via Instagram specifically, photography. But just on Instagram’s heels is none other than Facebook app Spotify. According to analytics site AppData, Spotify is ranked #12 with 22.1 million users, calculated as a monthly active figure, just behind Instagram at #4 with 33 million. Pandora has about a third of that, while other apps lag far behind. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Spotify the Instagram of music, a single leader with significant, Facebook-driven dominance.

What’s striking is both the sheer volume of Facebook-connected plays, and the way in which it represents the so-called long tail – a diversity of tracks, and not just a handful of hits.

According to data Facebook released today, 62.6 million songs (so, a large diversity of music) have gotten 22 billion plays. End-to-end, that’s roughly 210,000 years of music. And this is just since music-playing apps launched one year ago.

One Billion People on Facebook [Facebook Newsroom]
PDF: One billion – key metrics

As if online, digital music weren’t disruptive enough, that means that socially-connected music could easily be the new disruptor.

For more evidence, the median age of users on Facebook is getting younger, too. As of this week, the median of those one billion is at age 22. That means the future listeners – the young folk – are increasingly-heavy Facebook users.

I think there are serious questions about how this will impact artists. If music shifts from ownership to streaming, it’s unclear what revenue will look like from online music for artists. If you sell a download directly to a fan, you get a hefty slice of the fee, an easy-to-calculate number of users, and – if you sell from your own site – a lot of data on who those listeners are. With streaming services, we get into thorny areas of performing rights royalties, data and fees negotiated by labels and other groups, and artists who can potentially wind up in the dark.

On the other hand, if social connections are becoming the new currency, it could mean that data is as valuable to artists as sales revenue once was. (Consider being able to sell things that do make money – like tickets and vinyl records and t-shirts – directly to the people who actually want them. And consider the indirect value of music being shared.)

That’s a much longer discussion, of course, but looking at these numbers, there’s no question that Facebook will be one of the venues at the center of it in the short term. A lot has already happened in just one year. I wonder where we’ll be in fall 2013.

Thanks to Eva at Germany’s Juke for the inspiration.