Ticketmaster has clinched a deal to acquire a majority stake in echomusic, the Nashville-based entertainment marketing company specializing in branding, Web development, online advertising and sponsorship campaigns, and the digital distribution of music and merchandise.

Echomusic's 300-plus clients include Kelly Clarkson, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Casting Crowns, the Academy of Country Music (ACM), the Gospel Music Channel and others.

The move gives echomusic a major cash infusion and provides Ticketmaster with critical expansion of its online platform, particularly in the direct-to-fan marketing and artist website space.

The deal has been in the works for about six months, but "extending the platform that Ticketmaster offers in this direction is something that we've been thinking about very seriously for the past couple of years, Ticketmaster CEO Sean Moriarty tells Billboard.biz.

"We looked long and hard at every possible option in buying or building out these capabilities. It was very, very clear to us after diligence that the best thing out there was echo."

Echomusic founding partner Mark Montgomery tells Billboard.biz, "From a resource perspective, [the deal] brings the ability to build our business faster than we would have been able to on our own. It also gives us access to a ton of intelligence from just a pure technology side, and at the end of the day, it helps our artists, our clients, and fans of the artists we represent."

The deal will encompass such ever-evolving ticketing trends as fan club sales, presales, and dynamic ticket pricing. "The entire suite of products and services we make available you can expect to be made available to the extent that our clients want them, and we'll be able to do that seamlessly in one place," says Moriarty.

"In my mind it is too hard and too confusing for fans today to buy tickets because there are too many different programs," Moriarty continues. "People want choice but they also want clarity, and in many cases they value clarity more."

According to Montgomery, announcements of new artists and initiatives will come quickly and regularly. For Ticketmaster, "the platform is now richer than it was yesterday, with far more capability and power," says Moriarty. "We have the capability on the ticketing and transaction side to do all of the things we did before at a very high volume, and the echo platform allows us to also do that in a very targeted, customized and personalized way."

With some 300 staff, echomusic top management and office culture will remain the same. "We have taken a majority stake, but we have every expectation that Mark is going to continue to run a great team here and run a great business," says Moriarty.

For more analysis of this deal, check out Friday's Billboard.