How Voss Events Are ‘Werqing’ Live Drag Shows To Another Level

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Body Surfing: Voss Events, which produces the world’s largest drag shows including“RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour” (pictured here), is coming to Radio City Music Hall in July. Photo by Marco Ovando / Voss

“For us, it’s Pride every day of the year, really,” says Brandon Voss, president and founder of Voss Events, whose promotion, management and creative agency has a rather unique focus. “We’re touring drag shows year-round.” 

Indeed, Voss Events, which works in tandem with RuPaul’s massively successful “Drag Race” reality show franchise since 2009, produces and tours drag events across the globe. Its “Werq the World Tour” has featured such fantastically-named Drag Race alumni as Plastique Tiara, Kim Chi, Aquaria, Violet Chachki, and, of course, Gottmik. Before the pandemic hit, Voss was having great success as it began to scale globally.  

“In 2017, we started in Europe, moved to North America the same year and started doing Latin America in 2018,” says Voss Events Senior Producer Jon Norris. “We did it all over again in all those markets and added Asia and Australia in 2019, and then did another Europe and North American tour. After a few years we were like, ‘Okay, we’re getting really good at this, we’re selling out all our shows, let’s route the tour in arenas in the U.K. and Europe.’ So we did that, and then COVID hit.” 

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Beyond Thunderdome: Some of the cast backstage at the “Werq The World Tour. Photo by Marco Ovando / Voss

During the pandemic, Voss’ successfully pivoted to an impressive run of “Drive ‘N Drag” drive-in shows, some 200, which turned up on Pollstar’s charts.  2020’s “Drive ‘N Drag” trek, for example, featured some 61 shows in nine American cities during a 15-week span. Its 2021 winter tour had a number of strong grosses including nearly $380K for seven shows held in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl in March 2021 and some $322K grossed for six shows at New York’s Randall’s Island, according to reports submitted to Pollstar. 

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Brandon Voss, president and co-founder of Voss Events, has built a successful promotions, management and creative agency. (Photo courtesy Voss; Steven Trumon Gray / Voss)

During this period, however, and much like the rest of the industry, Voss had to repeatedly re-book and re-schedule their core touring business. “We had to reschedule about six or seven times,” Norris says. “And I did every reschedule. Not only was it depressing to push back our first arena tour six, seven times – it hurt, it hurt a lot – but it finally went out. It’s going to be wrapping up in a few days. It will be a weight off our shoulders that we finally finished our first arena tour.”

More than that, Voss says its “Werq The World 2022 Tour” had one of his career tentpoles: “We just did our show at Manchester Arena, which is the largest arena in the United Kingdom, with 10,000 people,” he says. “That was the biggest drag show in history, which broke our own record in 2019 at Wimberley arena.” 

Voss is also producing “RuPaul’s Drag Race Live” residency in Las Vegas at the Flamingo, which the company head says has proven wildly successful, though its original launch was less than ideal. He explains, “It started right before the pandemic. It actually opened in January of 2020. It was two years of my life building that show and then in two months, it was shattered. But we reopened and now it is actually the most successful full-time residency – not including like Lady Gaga and whatnot – but for a full-time residency on The Strip, we’re number one in revenue. It’s five nights a week and almost always sold out. Before us, Spiegelworld was the big mainstay on The Strip, but we surpassed them, so we’re the big fish there now.” 

Voss Events senior producer Jon Norris (Photo courtesy Voss; Steven Trumon Gray / Voss)

These days, Voss has five tours out simultaneously. “We have a lot,” Voss says. “At the moment, we have a tour in Australia, a tour in Canada, two tours in the US, and then we have a tour in Europe, which is ending in Spain this weekend.”

Like most promoters in 2022, Voss too is facing myriad challenges with inflation, supply chain issues and labor shortages, especially internationally. “Touring now is completely different,” he says.  “It’s especially so in Europe – there’s no labor, there’s no gear, there’s no trucks, there’s no buses. Everything there is at least 20% to 30% more expensive. So to do a tour that was priced in late 2018 and 2019 and executed in 2022 in an inflationary world with such high demand, kind of sucks. Had we done this tour in 2020 as planned, I think we’d have a huge payday. Doing it now in 2022, not so great because the revenue was in the bank but the expenses just grew.”

Norris felt the labor shortages acutely in his capacity as Voss’ senior producer. “We just wrapped up a two-week fly tour,” he says, “and I had to train two new tour managers, a production manager and a stage manager. I was wrapping myself around all of those positions and wearing every single hat as much as possible. But that’s just the reality of our world. No one’s around or everyone’s getting sick or something’s comes up, it’s just about how you react and follow through. All of our backlog sat until March, April, May, June, July and it’s going to carry on through the end of the year, but I’m just glad they’re going out.” 

As for Pride month, Voss says the management side of the business, which reps the most popular stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race, is busy. “May and June are the busiest months for us on the management side of the business,” he says. “Every company out there wants to have a social activation and talent for Pride events, which  keeps us busy during Pride.”

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In regards to what lies ahead for Voss Events, there’s another career highlight coming soon. “We’ve been looking forward to doing the biggest, best show in New York,” Voss says. “So we’re doing one this summer, July 28 at Radio City Music Hall, that’s going to be a tent pole for sure.”

While Voss’ business acumen may be due in large measure to the MBA he earned from Baruch College and his time working as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers, his knowledge of the drag scene came from an entirely different source. “When I was getting my MBA, I supported myself bartending. I was a shirtless bartender at XL on 16th Street,” he says. “So I kind of knew everyone in nightlife and knew all the drag queens and I started doing this for fun. And as you can tell, I never went back to investment banking.”