Becoming a seat filler in London is a fantastic way to see live entertainment for free. It sounds too good to be true, but trust me, it isn’t! I’ve seen some fantastic theatre shows, TV shows, and movies, all through being part of the seat filler community.
Over the past year, I’ve attended a live comedy show in Soho, watched a Game Show being filmed for ‘Dave’, been to my first ever immersive cinema experience, and I have just bagged tickets for ‘Live at the Apollo’ for next month!
What is seat filling?
The supply of complimentary tickets to audience members, or ‘seat fillers’, is an important, but not particularly well publicised, arrangement within the industry. Seat fillers, in London and across the UK, are used:
- to help in spreading the word. The entertainment industry rely heavily on word of mouth recommendations, and this is an effective way to build excitement via free marketing
- to encourage a fantastic atmosphere. A full house of engaged audience members is going to provide a great buzz for performers (as well as for paying audience members)
- when feedback is required, for a new production for example. Genuine feedback is invaluable for the teams working behind the scenes
You get to see a fab night of entertainment completely free, and the broadcaster or producer benefits by having a full auditorium, an engaged audience and an excellent atmosphere.
It’s a real win-win for all involved!
What tickets can you get as a seat filler?
If you are looking to attend TV screenings, there are a whole host available, which can include:
- Live Comedy
- Reality shows
- Game Shows
- Panel Shows
- Day time shows
- Talk Shows
- Charity evenings such as Red Nose Day, or other special events
- Seasonal productions, including Christmas specials
There are also opportunities to get your mitts on tickets to see West End theatre, comedy nights, outdoor cinema screenings, live music and more.
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How do I become a seat filler?
Here are the simple steps to apply to be a seat filler:
- First of all, set up an account with your chosen seat filler website (I have listed my favourites below). Complete your details and personal preferences honestly.
- Ensure you have signed up to the mailing list for each seat filler site, to be the first to hear about any new opportunities.
- Check the website and your email inbox regularly for invitations to apply for shows of your choice. Often you will need to be fast as tickets are limited, so be quick if something catches your eye!
- Many shows are allocated via a ballot; you are likely to need to wait to see if you have been successful and have been issued tickets.
- If you have been chosen you will be notified, and will be sent the location details as well as the ticket (usually a QR code).
- Enjoy your evening of complimentary entertainment! Remember to be courteous and to notify the company if you are no longer able to attend, so that your tickets can be redistributed to another seat filler in the community.
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Best Seat Filler Websites for UK TV Shows
If you are looking for seat filler tickets to TV show recordings, here are the best websites to try:
Apply directly via the BBC website
The BBC work on over one thousand productions each year, providing free tickets to television and radio shows, including well-known shows such as ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘A Question of Sport’.
Keep an eye on the BBC shows and tours page for the latest tickets, and join the mailing list to be notified when new shows are available for booking. The most popular shows will be allocated via a random draw.
‘Standing Room Only’ (SRO) Audiences are an established and well known television ticketing company with over 25 years experience. Recent SRO Audiences’ shows with tickets up for grabs include ‘Have I Got News For You’, ‘Mock the Week’, ‘The Last Leg’, ‘Live at the Apollo’ and ‘8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown’.
Earlier this year I attended a TV show filming of a new game show for ‘Dave’, at the BBC Studios in White City.
I was on the second row, and was entertained by comedians such as Richard Ayoade, Katherine Ryan (my fave) and Adam Kay, totally free. It was such a fun experience; 10/10, would recommend!
All tickets via SRO are free, however they do accept donations to Comic Relief if you would like to make a contribution in exchange for your tickets.
Lost in TV
Lost in TV have been running since 2003 and have issued over 1.2 million (!) complimentary tickets over the years. Tickets for shows such as ‘The Masked Singer’, ‘Top Gear’, and ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ are currently up for grabs.
Lost in TV also offer a paid premium membership option, with perks such as guaranteed entry. I would suggest signing up for the free membership however; in my opinion, a premium membership is not required.
I first attended a seat filling show via Applause Store as a teenager! It was a recording of ‘The Sharon Osbourne Show’ (what a throwback!), and it was my first ever live TV experience.
Applause Store, established in 2001, are currently offering tickets for a range of popular shows including ‘Saturday Night Takeaway’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.
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Things to remember when applying to be a seat filler for TV shows
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when applying for complimentary TV recording tickets:
- Your ticket does not always guarantee entry. Often companies over issue a certain number of tickets accounting for a percentage of drop outs and last minute cancellations, so there is a small chance you could arrive and be turned away on the door. However, if you turn up at a reasonable time, you have a very good chance of gaining entry. I have attended several shows over the years, and have never had any issues! Keep this in mind if you are travelling further, or if you have significant travel expenses; it’s a good idea to have a back up plan for your evening, just incase. As a general rule, the more popular the show, the more likely there is to be a longer queue, so arrive with plenty of time to spare.
- For those who arrive and are not allocated a seat on the day, priority tickets to an alternative show tend to be allocated, allowing guaranteed entry next time.
- Always take ID just in case you are asked for proof of identity; you don’t want to be turned away on the door
- You might need to apply for several shows before being chosen, as the demand is high
- Christmas Specials are often filmed way ahead of the festive period (think August/September time), and there are other special events that may pop up throughout the year. Check the website regularly or sign up to the mailing list to receive alerts
- Filming does take a while, so remember to allow several hours even if the actual television programme is relatively short
- As filming usually takes a couple of hours minimum, and it’s unlikely you will get breaks to leave the studio, take water with you to ensure you stay hydrated, and take a snack for the queue. Also make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes and shoes! It’s unlikely to be a speedy process, so make sure you are prepared for standing around.
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Best Seat Filler Websites for Reduced West End Theatre
As well as TV shows, there are websites advertising free tickets to London theatre, comedy, gigs and cinema.
I hve been signed up to Showfilmfirst for years, and am always excited when I spot on of their emails landing in my inbox!
Tickets are hugely varied, and include preview screenings for movies, concerts, theatre, and gigs. Showfilmfirst offer free seat filler tickets, as well as reduced West End theatre tickets.
If you live in London, it’s well worth registering!
Central Tickets are one of my newest finds, and one of my favourites. They offer tickets for various theatre, comedy, cinema and live music events.
There is a reduced fee (£5.00 per ticket, for example), but the difference in cost campared to the full price alternative is often huge. It is a fantastic way to see live entertainment at a highly discounted rate.
You can also refer a friend and receive free tickets (to the value of £6 each), which is a generous perk well worth taking note of. To sign up, if you use my Central Tickets referral link I would be very grateful!
Free tickets for NHS staff
Okay, so this is strictly not just a seat filler website, but I have included it in the list as the premise is very similar. Also I don’t think enough people are aware of this fantastic initative!
Complimentary tickets are allocated by venues or production companies as a thank you to NHS workers, via Tickets for Good. If you are an NHS worker, register an account using your NHS email address, and you can begin choosing the events which take your fancy. The more popular events are allocated tickets via ballot, so simply register your interest and cross your fingers!
I attended a performance of ‘Wicked’ via Tickets for Good, and cannot recommend them highly enough. An NHS colleague of mine saw Ed Sheeran perform for just one pound using this ticketing website! Crazy.
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Things to remember when applying to be a London West End Seat Filler
- You might need to pay a small booking fee. This is to ensure people do not reserve free tickets with no intention of attending. The fees tend to be minimal, particularly considering the cost of the full price tickets.
- Opportunities for tickets are often limited. Be quick if you see anything you fancy!
- Sometimes you will be politely asked not to disclose the fact you have received your tickets for free, or to avoid posting to your social media sites. This may be due to the fact that there will be customers attending who have paid full price for tickets. Be courteous and discreet!
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Seat Filler FAQ‘s
How much do you get paid to be a seat filler?
Seat fillers do not get paid a fee, or earn a salary, to attend any type of show. This includes attending theatre performances, TV, or gigs. The majority of seat filler tickets are supplied for free (sometimes a small booking fee is required, depending on the site).
How often can you get tickets?
There are no limits as to how many tickets you can get as a seat filler. However, as many are allocated by a random draw, you may need to apply for several before being allocated tickets.
What should a seat filler wear?
The websites usually advise against wearing black clothes, floral prints, or any clothing items with large logo’s if attending TV recordings. Bright, block colours are best.
Do I need to travel to London? Are there seat filling opportunities elsewhere in the UK?
Although the majority of events advertised tend to be based in the capital, increasingly there are opportunties in other parts of the UK. One popular location for TV show recordings is Salford, Manchester.
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Final Thoughts: Be a Seat Filler in London & get FREE Theatre Tickets
I hope this post has inspired you to sign up to be a London seat filler! The opportunities up for grabs are amazing, and as the majority of tickets are free, what more could you want!
Let me know in the comments if you have ever been a seat filler in London (or beyond), and what was your experience? Do you have any tips or hacks?