By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Bruce Goldberg knows that a Japanese import version of Marilyn Manson's new Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) exists. He's seen it, held it in his hands, stuffed it into a bubble-wrap envelope. In fact, his company, Weathermen Records, recently shipped 123 copies of the disc (which comes with two additional tracks not found on the domestic release) to customers around the country who had pre-ordered the album months ago through the Weathermen Web site, located at www.theweathermen.com. Of course, Goldberg believes that number would have been much, much higher--say, 1,500 to 2,000 copies--if someone hadn't taken to the Internet to discourage people from buying the Japanese version of the album, specifically via Weathermen Records. The someone in question? Marilyn Manson. At least, that's the way Goldberg sees it.
Depending on how you look at it, he's right. Or not. But this is not the same David-vs.-Goliath tale you've heard before; any Biblical story involving Manson (who appears crucified on the cover of Holy Wood, an image which was banned by Circuit City and Best Buy) would have trouble sticking to the script. Weathermen Records--a Dallas-based mail-order operation that specializes in music and merchandise by Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson--as well as other metal and industrial acts ("We're in this together," September 23, 1999)--began accepting advance orders for the album in July. (It was released in North America on Interscope Records on November 14.) A week later, this message appeared on the official Marilyn Manson site (www.marilynmanson.com): "The information posted on the Weathermen site regarding the Japanese import CD for Holy Wood is incorrect. There is no such CD available; wait and it all will unfold here shortly." Naturally, Goldberg says, the message found Weathermen on the receiving end of a wave of irate phone calls and e-mail messages over the next few weeks, most of them ending with the same angry words: Cancel my order.
"Typically, we can sell up to 2,000 of a new release; I sold 123 of this release," Goldberg says. "Plus, [we were hurt by] the fact a lot of people were repeat customers, and they ordered more than just the CD."
All of which is true. The problem with Goldberg's version of the story is that, just as Manson's official site reported, the information on the Weathermen site pertaining to the Japanese version of Holy Wood was inaccurate. When Weathermen made the disc available for advance orders, the site claimed that the album would be released on Interscope Japan on September 25 and would feature one bonus track, a song that would not appear on the domestic release. According to a source within the Manson camp, at that time, the group had not even finished or delivered the album to Interscope, or decided on an official North American release date, much less a Japanese release date. Not only that, but plans called for two additional songs to appear on the Japanese version of Holy Wood, not just one. A minor quibble, sure, but not when people are debating whether to spend the $36.97--the import disc's asking price on Amazon.com--just to hear one or two extra songs. Definitely not when you're receiving thousands of e-mails a day from impatient and angry fans demanding an album two months earlier than planned, and even earlier for those who intended to buy the Japanese import of the album. (Albums tend to come out at least a week earlier in Japan.) The source says that the band and its management posted the message on the Web site simply to clear up the confusion caused by Weathermen's gun-jumping announcement and didn't hear another word about it until recently. That is, when Goldberg contacted Manson and company through his lawyers, the prelude to a full-blown lawsuit.
It is strange that Goldberg would wait so long--almost five months after the fact--to mount his defense. When the message first appeared, Goldberg says, he was unable to fight back because he didn't have anything other than his word to back him up. Until copies of the disc arrived on November 17--"I had to wait to get the CD in from Japan to make sure that it did indeed exist," he says--Goldberg was only able to offer customers his assurances that if they ordered it, it would come. To him, it remains a conspiracy, a plan to box his company, which is not on the same level as more established outlets like Amazon or CDNow, out of the profits. Goldberg contends he didn't, and doesn't, understand why the message was aimed directly at him and his company, pointing out that other retailers, such as Amazon, were also taking advance orders for the Japanese import. The only answer he can come up with is that "We are in direct competition with each other. The bottom line is if no one buys the Japanese CD, the shift in funds will be toward the U.S. release, thus gaining more royalties." Which isn't technically true: Interscope Japan would have to pay Manson the same royalty rate as its American counterpart. This is not a bootleg we're talking about.