What economic slump?
Santa Monica-based Beats Electronics, the maker of high-end headphones and audio gear, is doubling its workforce over the next few months as it grows its core electronics business and branches into new music products, according to President Luke Wood.
The company, which has close to 150 employees, expects to have 300 workers by the end of the year, many of them in Southern California.
Last week, Beats acquired MOG, an on-demand digital music service based in Berkeley. MOG's chief executive, David Hyman, is expected to move to Los Angeles to be closer to the Beats home office.
While the hiring spurt won't move the needle for L.A.'s 10.2% unemployment rate, it is unusual for a Southern California consumer electronics company to be thriving even as larger rivals such as Sony are struggling and laying off staff by the thousands.
About 40 of the job openings will be in engineering -- acoustic, electronic and software engineers to be specific. That's because Beats is severing its manufacturing contract with Monster Cable Products at the end of the year and will start manufacturing its own devices, as well as designing them.
The consumer electronics business has become brutally competitive in recent years. As prices for TVs and other gadgets plummet, only a handful of companies worldwide have been able to command a premium against an onslaught of cheap knockoffs.
Because Beats is privately owned, it does not release its financials. The company received a $300-million cash infusion in August from Taiwanese electronics company HTC in exchange for a 51% stake in Beats.
Founded in 2006 by rap artist Dr. Dre and Universal Music Group executive Jimmy Iovine, Beats has carved out a niche in premium headsets and speakers.
Through savvy marketing and an emphasis on quality engineering, its trademark red headphones -- which can cost upwards of $400 a set -- became de rigeur among hip hop artists, DJs and their multitude of fans.
Having established its brand, Beats has recently shifted to other products and is aggressively hiring staff in those new areas. It has a partnership with Hewlett-Packard, for example, to incorporate its audio technology into laptops, and HTC Corp. for a Beats-branded smartphone. Beats also signed a deal with Chrysler to integrate the Beats audio system into the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300 S.