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Nashville Moment: Justin Hammel

Manning the control room of newly launched Acme Radio, is general manager and program director Justin Hammel.

Written By:  Katy Lindenmuth

Photographers:  Shannon Fontaine

Justin Hammel, Radio Programmer

Amid Acme Feed & Seed’s four floors of live music, comfort food, and spillover drinks, a ground-level sliver of space is taking the local hospitality brand worldwide. Acme Radio, which launched in February, pumps out music and lifestyle programming to online listeners in 400 countries. Manning the control room is general manager and program director Justin Hammel, who’s parlayed a degree in music business from Belmont into a multifaceted broadcast career. The Indiana native spent a decade in FM radio at Lightning 100 (and still hosts that station’s The 615); these days, he’s committed to growing Acme Radio’s audience and prepping for another round of Radio Bonnaroo.

Age: 33

Farm-to-turntable: Every June, an adult-contemporary station in Manchester morphs into Radio Bonnaroo, the official voice of the annual festival. Through exclusive interviews and performances from the bands of Roo’s past, present, and future, Hammel has helped broaden Bonnaroo’s national coverage. It’s a side gig that doubles as on-air boot camp: “When you’re in the middle of a farm, wireless and things you take for granted every day aren’t necessarily a given,” he says.

Sound souvenir: When Hammel was approached about running Acme Radio, he knew it was time for a new adventure.

“We have a playground to create really cool specialty shows and are able to broadcast from any stage on any floor, live on the air at any point,” he explains. Streaming through the TuneIn platform, Acme Radio serves as a music-discovery tool for locals, visitors, and foreigners alike. “The whole idea is to bring Music City to your city, wherever you are,” he adds.

Artist development: “I want to help bands become the big bands,” says Hammel, who has long championed homegrown artists like Moon Taxi, Ricky Young, and The Features. He curates the Acme Radio playlist with about 60 percent local acts (and is shooting for closer to 80 percent as his library builds) in addition to overseeing regular programs like Roots Now and Vinyl Lunch with Tim Hibbs that preserve Nashville’s cultural history.

“Great music, shows where you get to know the artists as well as other local personalities—think of it as Nashville’s NPR for music,” Hammel says.

Hangout fest: In the radio world, an artist who stops by the studio is usually promoting a new album or upcoming gig. “I want this to be more of a hang,” Hammel says. “I want musicians to feel comfortable, and I’ll just sit here and listen with them.” The ground-floor nook he broadcasts from has already welcomed Dave Cobb and Roots of a Rebellion—all in full view of anyone who happens to walk by the popular Broadway building. “You’re a goldfish in here,” he says as a couple stares through the window. “It’s constantly happening; you just wave.”

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