Be a seat filler and get cheap tickets

Save on theatre, film, comedy and more.

I’m going to let you in on a secret that’ll get you play, musical, festival, cabaret, pop-up cinema, stand-up, fairs, lectures, walking tours and other tickets for a £4 to £7 booking fee. It’s through something called seat-filling.

I’ve been to London Film Festival screenings, big West End shows, fringe theatre, Christmas fairs, gigs by comedy giants and more for just a few quid each time. Bargain!

Here’s how it works and the best places to find tickets.

What is seat filling?

The idea is that venues and promoters will give away cheap or free tickets when sales are low. They don’t want customers who’ve paid full whack to experience a half-empty auditorium, so they allocate small amounts of tickets to agencies who find people willing to give something a chance for a few quid.

The main rules of seat filling

There’s a good reason it’s a secret. If the person sitting next to you paid £50 and you paid £5, they’d understandably feel like they’ve been ripped off.

So the number one rule is to not tell anyone how you got your ticket. Sometimes this extends to the box office and theatre staff! You also shouldn’t share on social media about your bargain ticket, though feel free to tell people if you enjoyed the show.

The next key condition is you must show up! If you don’t there’s a chance your membership will be suspended.

What tickets can you get?

There really is a huge range. Across all the different sites I’ve seen tickets for a gig by some 90’s indie-rock legends, big London Shakespeare productions, sing-along screenings of the classic movie musicals, bingo nights and a Turner Prize winning artist in conversation.

But you could also see smaller shows you’ve never heard of in venues you didn’t know existed.

How much money can you save?

Obviously the bigger the show the bigger the saving. A festival could cost £80 (or more) at face value, but be just a fiver for the booking fee. Whereas a comedy show might normally be a tenner but you’d pay £4.

It’s certainly worth checking there aren’t other offers available on smaller shows.

When you can get tickets?

Tickets are usually listed just a day or two ahead of time, though sometimes they are available a week or two in advance. It all depends on advance sales.

Sometimes tickets go fast and sell out, but it’s always worth looking again later, even just hours ahead, in case more have been released or any have been returned.

It’s worth making sure you’re getting emails from the agencies so you can act fast when shows go on sale.

I find that there are more seats available in the summer when there are lots of events competing for sales, especially festivals and in the winter when poor weather encourages people to stay at home. For London you might also find more options when a train or tube strike has been planned – as long as you can get into town too.

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The downsides of seat filling

I’ve missed more shows than I’ve gone to as I’ve either not been free, the location hasn’t worked for me or the tickets have gone really fast. So unless you have loads of spare time you might only get to one or two shows.

You’re more likely to get tickets for London venues, but there can be a decent range of regional theatre or gigs available.

And it really can be hit and miss. Sometimes there are loads to pick from, and at other times there’s hardly anything available. So you need to be flexble.

You also don’t get to choose your seats, so it might be you’re up in the gods or have restricted views. If you think that’ll ruin your experience, maybe look elsewhere for deals.

Where to find seat filling tickets

Central Tickets

Central Tickets definitely seems to have a good range of tickets, though it is largely for London events.

It’s free to join, though you need to make at least one booking a year unless you’re a “regional member”. The fees range between £4 and £6.50 per ticket, though bigger events could be £15.

Show Film First

You might be familiar with Show Film First for advance screenings of movies, but they also have seat-filling opportunities. I’ve spotted a better range of non-London events here, though there’s usually a lot less to choose from. It’s probably the better site for live gigs and festivals. Fees tend to be a bit lower than elsewhere, but will vary depending on the type of show.

My Box Office

You’ll have to pay an annual membership fee for MBO, costing you £15. You’ll still pay an admin fee on top for each ticket.

The Audience Club

The Audience Club isn’t one I’ve used, and it costs £5 for a year to access the site, though Blue Light workers can get it free. As with the others there’s an admin fee for each ticket.

SeatFillers UK

I’ve not used Seatfillers UK either, but it’s one to look at. You’ll need to book a ticket at least once every 12 months to keep your membership active.

Other free ticket websites

Tickets for Good

Tickets for Good offers free tickets (subject to an admin fee) for NHS and charity workers, and potentially people receiving benefits too.

Blue Light Tickets

These tickets are just for NHS staff and allocated in a prize draw. You need to register with Blue Light Tickets.

SRO Audiences

Though not technically a seat-filler service SRO Audiences provides free tickets to TV and radio recordings for shows like Have I Got News for You and Dancing on Ice.

Lost In TV

Lost In TV works the same as SRO, with TV and radio show tickets given away for free. Programmes include The Masked Singer and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

BBC Shows and Tours

Finally you can also get more TV and radio production tickets for free direct from the BBC.

Tickets for Troops

If you’re in the military, been medically discharged or are next of kin to someone who died while in service you can get access to tickets for a small admin fee via Tickets for Troops.

Reduced free ticket websites

Avoid the likes of Viagogo and Stubhub. Instead focus on official resale options from the likes of Ticketmaster or See Tickets, or better still the following fan-to-fan options.


People relist tickets for events they can’t make and it can’t be more than face value. Sometimes they’re reduced or accept offers too, depending on how desperate they are to sell – though there will be admin fees on top.


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