Lights! Cameras! Cue audience applause! You know those TV shows? The ones taped in front of a live studio audience? The ones that air daily and seem to be on all of the time with no reruns? Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes or how people get to be in the audience? How do they fill their seats every single day? Especially the, well, not so good shows. The answer is surprisingly simple.
TV shows pay people to attend. No, not all of them, but many, and some are very well-known shows at that. Take The People's Court for instance. You could earn $70 for sitting in their courtroom. How about the Beat Bobby Flay cooking competition? Folks can earn $54 just for attending, and probably get a tasty sample to boot. Interested? It's not hard to do. Here's what you need to know.
1. Pay Rates Vary by Show
As you can see from the examples above, the amount that you can earn as a paid audience member can vary. Some shows pay a set fee and others pay an hourly rate. The amount of time involved can differ too. Some shows will pay for one taping, and for other shows audience members participate in two, three, or more tapings in a day. Payment is received on the same day and is almost always in cash.
2. Some Shows Provide Transportation
For example, a number of shows that used to tape in New York City moved to Stamford, Connecticut, presumably to save money on production costs. Since it's easier to find public transportation to NYC than Connecticut, these shows offer transportation to keep the seats full. In this case, audience members meet at a location pre-determined by the show. A bus picks everyone up, takes them to the show, and returns them to the original location.
3. Sometimes You'll Be Fed
One time I attended a show with my mom and we received pre-taping breakfast pastries, coffee and juice, and pizza for lunch after the taping. Many shows do this. Many do not. You most likely won't know in advance. Think of it as a welcome surprise if it does happen.
4. It's Easier to Get Paid Audience Gigs if You Reside on the Coasts
The reality is that most shows are taped on the East or West coast, so if you don't have easy access to the New York or Los Angeles areas, you won't have as many options. This could still work for you if you're visiting the area and plan for it in advance. It would be a fun and unique vacation experience.
5. Some People Audience-Sit as a Job
Not a formal job, mind you. But if you live in the vicinity of a lot of tapings like Los Angeles, you can earn as much as, or more than, minimum wage for a day's sitting. This is appealing to a variety of people like actors trying to break in, students, or anyone really who wants to earn some cash while keeping a flexible schedule. There is of course no guarantee that audience-sitting gigs will be available exactly when you want them, but there are a lot of opportunities available for folks who hustle.
6. So How Do I Find the Shows That Pay?
There are a variety of ways to find paid seat-filling gigs from checking the Craigslist "talent," "gigs," or "TV" sections, to subscribing to newsletters that typically target actors. The easiest way to find paid audience-sitting opportunities is to go to the companies that specialize in them. Below are two of the most well-known companies that fit the bill:
Here you will find opportunities to be paid audience members, get cast as a performer for product endorsements, or just score free tickets to TV shows like, MTV Catfish Aftershow, or the Bridezilla's Reunion Aftershow. The paid audience member opportunities are mostly lump sums, like $50–$70 (sometimes more, sometimes less). Some shows provide transportation to the tapings. Interested parties complete a free online profile which includes age, gender, and ethnicity. Once your profile is created, you can request tickets from the numerous shows available. You'll be notified if you've been chosen to receive tickets, and if it's a show that indicated that it is paying, you'll enjoy a show and walk out with some extra cash.
Standing Room Only
This process of finding paid seat-filling opportunities is similar to Onset Productions in that you fill out a profile before requesting tickets to a show. Though their game shows and political talk shows pay an hourly rate as opposed to a lump sum.
There are other companies out there, like Auditions Free, that primarily focus on casting extras and actors for movies, that occasionally offer paid audience-sitting gigs as well. But if experiencing a TV show from behind the camera while getting paid is your primary objective, it's easier to stick with the two companies above.