South Bend Music Exchange owner turns passion into paycheck

Published 8:34 am Thursday, December 17, 2015

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Marking two years of business this past October, South Bend Music Exchange has become a valued part of the local music scene.

The store offers sales and repairs of instruments, many of which are locally made, lessons for those who want to learn to play a variety of instruments and a place to go for those wishing to connect with the local music world.

Owner Michael Janovic has been playing music most of his life, starting behind a drum kit when he was 5 years old. He played in various bands and “chased the dream” over the years, spending time out west on multiple occasions before returning to the region. As he learned his instrument, he became familiar with the care required to maintain drums and the methods of repairing and building them.

“There were certain drum sounds I liked I couldn’t afford,” he said.

He solved the problem by building kits himself. He described creating numerous failed prototypes as he became a skilled drum technician, creating instruments he appreciated as a player. He eventually created, among others, a snare drum now popular with studios for its wide tuning range. His goal with his drum kits, and with all offerings at South Bend Music Exchange, is finding a middle ground between high quality musical instruments and prices affordable to musicians, who are often young or struggling artists.

“This [instrument] is something that someone is speaking through,” he said. “I love getting instruments in the hands of up-and-coming kids.”

South Bend Music Exchange is more than a store for purchasing and repairing instruments. It has become a destination for local musicians.

Janovic set out from the beginning to create a space for musicians to congregate and connect. The staff is made up of a team of musicians and it’s a regular occurrence to find members of local bands spending their time on the stools at the counter or on the couch in the store. It’s a place for musicians, experienced or otherwise, to talk to each other, to share tips and advice. He describes the store in part as a re-creation of Home Run Music, a South Bend music store and destination in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The Music Exchange’s guitar technician, Wally Langel, was one of the owners of that store.

“Our place is more of a hang out,” Janovic said. “We want it that way. I’ve seen more and more of that. I’ve seen bands created here.”

The store works to help promote the local music scene. Merchandise from many of the region’s favorite musicians is available, with all of the proceeds from sales going back to the bands. They regularly host in-store performances, often featuring bands playing in the area the same evening, as a way to make people more aware of their listening options. Students of the store’s various teachers are featured in recitals.

“We’ve had a rich music scene here forever,” Janovic said. “There’s always been a lot of music here because there’s always been a lot of instruments built here. This was the music instrument capital of the world.”

His goal is to keep his store “as local as possible,” stocking instruments and tools made in the region and continuing to support musicians in the area however he can.

“It’s not just about selling instruments and fixing them,” he said. “We participate in the local scene. The more people support it, the longer we’ll be here.”

Information on South Bend Music Exchange, including events, products available, and lesson can be found at


Justin Flagel is the founder of the web magazine and podcast Anywhere the Needle Drops, where he and others showcase their interest in music, pop culture, creativity and life. Follow their work at Feedback can be directed to