What the Heck are Seat Fillers?
by Lu, OTL City Guides & Seat Fillers
If you came across this blog post because you did a Google search for "seat fillers," then I want to shake your virtual hand.
I've been with the OTL Seat Fillers Club for more than five years, and less than 100 of our current seat fillers found us based on that phrase.
Most people think of seat fillers as those lucky folks who get to rub shoulders with celebrities at award shows like the Grammys, Academy Awards, or BAFTAs. They're vetted to have the prestigious job of filling an open spot for someone like Leonardo DiCaprio when he needs to use the restroom or grab a drink.
Seat Fillers get some prime spots in the audience, but they're not there for long. As soon as the star returns, it's off to another assignment. So, getting to enjoy any of the shows is pretty much out of the question. And, if you even have a thought of your friend moving around the auditorium with you, forget about it. Seat Fillers are on their own, being relocated from one chair to another.
That's the original concept…
I'm here to answer the question in 2020.
The New Seat Filler
So, what the heck are Seat Fillers or, more specifically, what the heck are OTL Seat Fillers?
At least until holograms are good enough to stand in for audience members, seat fillers will continue to be used at the most prestigious award ceremonies around the world. But, there's a different type of seat filler, the kind that is part of the OTL (On the List) Seat Fillers Club.
Community Seat Fillers
OTL has taken the basic premise and given it a local twist.
Seat Fillers who are part of the club don't fill seats for someone else; they fill seats, period.
So, it's different than moving around and taking the place of someone who typically occupies the chair. Instead, it belongs to the seat filler for the duration of the show.
Bring a Guest (or Three)
As far as friends and family being out of the picture, that's also not the case with OTL seat filling. Members can reserve two tickets to the shows, events, and experiences they opt to attend. Some seat filler members even have four-seat memberships and can bring up to three people as guests.
You're probably wondering if they're scattered around the theater. The answer is no.
OTL Seat Fillers are seated with their party. They're there to enjoy the show just like every other paying patron. No one but the Box Office knows their secret identity.
Not only are they in "disguise" as audience members, but they get to experience everything for free. OTL members never pay for tickets to the events they attend as private seat fillers.
Providing Free Tickets
Why would an event promoter offer free tickets then?
The answer is because it's a win-win proposition.
Event promoters who find themselves with a few unsold seats here and there are better off filling those seats at the last minute by partnering with OTL. They don't pay anything for the service, except through the donation of the comps.
Plus, event partners know how many seats will be filled and by whom. That's because OTL members reserve the tickets, and a reservation list is, in turn, sent to the venue. Tickets are then picked up right at the Box Office (or other designated location) right before the curtain rises.
Seat Filling and Seat Fillers
So, just to recap where we are so far:
OTL Seat Fillers
- Attend shows with up to three guests
- Never pay for tickets
- Make reservations in the OTL member area and pick up tickets at the venue
- Aren't there to fill a seat for someone; they're there to fill the seat
- Are seated with their party
OTL Entertainment Partners
- Pay nothing for the seat filling service
- Provide comp tickets
- Receive a reservation list
- Handle their own tickets by distributing them just before showtime
- Receive a free, private, and easy way to fill seats (partner names aren't publicized)
Shows, Not Awards Shows
So, if seat fillers aren't attending awards types of shows, what are they experiencing?
The answer is that seat fillers attend pretty much everything. Over the past five or six years, OTL members get private invites to plays, musicals, comedy shows, concerts, symphony, ballet, opera, sporting events, fairs, festivals, conventions and expos, lectures, movies, book signings, and more!
Non-ticketed Activities Too
Additionally, though, seat filling goes beyond traditional shows. While theater is typically the most popular and offered more than anything else, OTL members are up for trying new things. They've attended classes, wine tastings, film screenings, preview events, TV show tapings, escape rooms, and all kinds of other experiences.
It doesn't need to be a standard ticketed show, as OTL can offer all kinds of activities to members, as long as it's not a free opportunity available to the general public. That's the main caveat for partners is that the tickets or invitations extended to members must have a monetary value or offer something exclusive.
What's the Catch?
You may think that I'm about to say that there's no catch, and then you'll become skeptical. After all, how could it be that seat fillers get to attend all kinds of fun things "just because."
I'm not going to say there's no catch because there are three requirements for being an OTL Seat Filler.
- Seat Fillers pay membership dues of $9.50 a month for two tickets per show and $14.50 a month for a four-seat membership.
- OTL members don't have to reserve any shows. There's no minimum requirement. However, if they make a reservation, they must attend, as names are submitted to the theater or show promoter who counts on filled seats.
- Privacy is the number one policy. OTL doesn't publicize the names of its entertainment partners so that there's no negative impact on regular ticket sales. So, as part of the club, seat filler members don't announce that they've received free tickets or advertise that a specific show is being offered to seat fillers.
Those three things aren't so bad, though, are they?
Not a Ticket Broker
The one thing you'll want to know if you're thinking about joining in on the fun of OTL and the community seat filler concept is that the club is not a ticket broker. OTL and brokers like Ticketmaster have pretty much nothing in common.
Ticket brokers are there to sell tickets and, once you buy them, you can show up or not. You've paid for your seats.
Supporting Arts and Entertainment
The OTL Seat Fillers Club is there to help out venues at the last minute by privately posting opportunities to members and compiling a list. That means that some months, you may be invited to 10 different shows, while other months may be slower, and one or two will pop up in the member area.
It's the unknown that makes this club so much fun. You could go for several weeks without an invitation, and then, all of a sudden, bam, $100 value tickets to a one-night-only play.
OTL Seat Fillers are currently in the following locations: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, London, Miami, Nashville, Orlando, Portland OR, Raleigh, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay. More cities will be added in 2020 (and beyond).
A Personal Note
I hope that I've answered the "What the heck are seat fillers" question for you. Because of our "privacy to shows" policy, OTL has been a well-kept secret. We can't promote who our partners are or what they're offering; we can only publicize the general concept.
My family and friends manage the clubs. We got together and agreed that we love the win-win aspect of OTL. When we get to sit down one on one with someone and explain how it works, we always get a "wow! That's so cool. I didn't know it even existed." But now, YOU know.
I need to stress that you're not going to get front row tickets to Beyonce or have your pick from every show scheduled in your city. That's not how OTL works. It's an expensive club that opens the door to pairs of free tickets every so often.
When you compare the value of the tickets offered to the membership dues that would add up in a year, the ticket value always well exceeds the investment. We've had members reserve tickets to just one show and more than pay for six months of dues in one shot.
But if you pay $34 to join for three months and then expect to see $34 tickets within your first five minutes of being a member, you could be disappointed. It's all about what pops up from time to time. After all, how would a venue plan to have open seats a month in advance if they haven't even started selling their tickets yet?
Seat Fillers Know What Seat Fillers Receive
I'd rather see that you fully understand the concept and love it as much as I, my family, friends, and fellow members do than be disappointed because you think it's a way to get a better price than through ticket brokers.
We’ve got an explainer video that will clue you in even more on this unique seat filler club. If you love live entertainment of all sorts, then I think you'll be excited about OTL!
So, What the Heck are "OTL" Seat Fillers?
OTL seat fillers are members of a unique club. They get private invitations from time to time for all kinds of shows, events, and activities.
These types of seat fillers never pay for tickets, attend with guests, sit together, enjoy the show, and are treated just like every other paying patron. The only difference is that they don't pay.