Why Leave Even One Seat Empty?

How to Fill Seats with Seat Fillers

by Lu, OTL City Guides & Seat Fillers

As the title implies, this posting will answer the question, “How to Fill Seats with Seat Fillers?” But, at the same time, I wanted to dedicate an event promoter and event marketing blog post specifically to a personal note about seat filling and, notably, the OTL Seat Fillers Club.

I want to address the what, why, and how’s of the Seat Fillers and the seat filling concept from my perspective.

Secret Seat Fillers

It’s quite exciting to me that you’ve come across this post, as our biggest challenge over the past seven years has been to let people know what we here at OTL exist.

Let’s be honest. There aren’t a lot of people out there Googling “seat fillers.” That is unless they live in Los Angeles or New York.

The same holds for event promoters. If you’re in Atlanta, Tampa, Austin, or San Francisco, for example, it may not have ever occurred to you that seat filling is a marketing tool that's at your disposal. And, even better than that, you can fill seats by inviting Seat Fillers through the OTL (On the List) club, and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Accurate Electronic Papering

From time to time, I tend to use the term “accurate electronic papering.” That phrase came out of my old life in Minor League Baseball.

As a Marketing Director for a 10,000-seat stadium, my primary responsibility was to figure out how to fill seats. Now, this was a previous life, and I don’t want to date myself, but it wasn’t an online task. One of the primary methods we used back then was the good old stadium buyout.

Companies would sponsor a game, and we would print hundreds of thousands of tickets that could be distributed at fast-food chains, car dealers, grocery stores, and the like.

When you do the math, it’s a head-scratcher, as I already mentioned the seat count of 10,000.


Because it’s very fuzzy math, as customers would take ten tickets and then maybe only use two. Or, they wouldn’t show up at all. So, papering was a crapshoot. Sometimes it was hugely successful. At other times, though, we’d look at 5,000 empty chairs.

Now I’m not saying that the OTL Seat Fillers Club is going to fill thousands or even hundreds of seats for you. But we’ve taken the papering concept and turned it into a more accurate way to fill a few rows or maybe just a few pairs of seats in a theatre, arena, stadium, comedy club, or similar venue without any tickets changing hands.

A New Way to "Paper" Part of the House

Here’s the new twist on "papering" part of the house.

Event promoters and local marketers (like you?) come across situations where all projections and advance ticket sales determine that you have a few seats to fill. Maybe you can relate to what I’m talking about, and that’s why you’re reading this.

Often, it’s for a small show, a local play, musical, or even a class, wine tasting, festival, etc. More intimate gatherings may not have a big budget to advertise, and social media may not be producing as big of a result as needed.

What do you do?

You could let the spots remain empty. But, an even better solution would be to have OTL privately post your show and give members (aka "Seat Fillers") the chance to fill some of those seats. Not only does it create a better audience environment, but more food and beverage sales and other benefits.

seat filler invitations, invite seat fillers, seat filling invitations

Entertainment Partners are a Well-kept Secret

Note that I just used the phrase “privately post your show.”

Our privacy to shows concept has kept OTL Seat Fillers as a hidden secret because we never promote or share information regarding individual shows, events, and names of partners.

Bad for the Club, Good for Our Partners

The privacy to shows policy keeps us at OTL from telling the world how awesome it is to be a Seat Filler, as we can't provide any examples of tickets offered.

However, secrecy is also what makes seat filling successful for our awesome entertainment, event, and marketing partners.

We recognize that priority number one for our partners is selling tickets. Obviously, they want to fill seats with paying patrons. So, why would anyone buy them if they knew they could reserve some for free through the OTL Seat Fillers Club?

We’re not here to negatively impact ticket sales, so we don’t promote the tickets that are offered to OTL. The information is posted in the private, password-protected member’s area.

When and How to Request Seat Fillers

I strayed a bit here. So, let me reverse course and start with step one of the Seat Fillers partnership.

Let’s say that it’s Wednesday, and you have a performance on Friday with 50 open seats. You can’t see a way that all 50 will be filled. So, you turn to OTL and offer 20 comp tickets to members.

Compiling a Will-Call List for You

From there, OTL posts the show in the private member area. We include an image, a write-up, ticket pick-up time, and even the dress code. Seat Fillers then receive an email alert letting them know that some tickets are now available.

OTL Seat Fillers who are interested in attending then make online reservations for pairs of those seats (while they last).

Sometimes all of the tickets are scooped up and, other times, it’s hit and miss. It all depends on what else has been posted, the time of the year, and how many members are in a particular area.

Seat Filling and Showtime

On the afternoon of the show, OTL’s system automatically generates a reservation list. It's emailed to you, your Box Office, or to anyone you designate, so everything is back in your hands.

Just before the event starts, OTL Seat Fillers on the reservation list present their ID to pick up their comp tickets. There’s no discussion about the fact that tickets are free. They act like every other paying patron so that no one knows they’re receiving comps to fill seats.

That’s the whole, super easy process.

You can see why I refer to it as electronic papering. You’re offering a block of tickets, but they’re virtual, at least until the Seat Fillers arrive.

Accurate RSVPs

It’s also a much more precise process, as Seat Fillers are required to attend anything for which they reserve tickets. Barring any last-minute emergencies, there’s typically 80% to 90% attendance because if an OTL member “no-shows,” they could lose their seat filler privileges.

You won’t always need OTL to fill seats. But the Seat Fillers premise could be a beneficial tool to keep in your toolbox. It’s also handy for preview or media performances. Even stadiums have used OTL members to fill in sections so that seats were filled for the TV cameras.

OTL Seat Fillers have also attended classes, conferences, expos, book signings, lectures, TV filmings, movies, and more.

The Benefits of Partnering with OTL Seat Fillers to Fill Seats

Seat Filling Benefits

  • Free
  • Private
  • Easy
  • Reservation "Will Call" list compiled and provided to YOU


  • YOU handle tickets and seating arrangements
  • Seat Fillers purchase food & beverages, merchandise, etc.
  • OTL members LOVE entertainment and new activities and experiences - they make great audience members

A New Friend in the OTL Seat Fillers Team

OTL doesn’t have a vast membership. Over the years, the club has whittled its members down to people with an affinity for arts and entertainment. Current OTL Seat Fillers understand how the club works, and they appreciate the opportunity to see and experience new things, while they fill seats and help out the venue and performers.

Our little management team consists of my family and friends who also believe in the concept. My 77-year-old Mom came out of retirement to work with members and create partnerships in the arts and entertainment community. We all work together and like to keep things simple and streamlined.

While we have an Event Promoters section on OTLSeatFillers.com with submission forms, you can just as easily shoot your OTL contact an email with a few details. You don’t need to fill out a form every time.

Dip Your Toe in the Seat Filling Water to Fill Seats

If you’re not currently a partner but like the idea of how it all works, give it a try with just a few seats to start. The first time you offer comps, we do need all of the information on the submission form. But, from there, we can chat on the phone, send emails back and forth, and keep it casual.

OTL is a win-win-win in our book, and we hope that you’ll become part of the partnership team!

Oh, and did I mention that’s it’s free, private, and easy?