- Over 30,000 people applied on SeatfillersAndMore.com this year for the chance to warm a seat at the world's biggest music awards show — the Grammys.
- Just 650 fans scored the "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to be seat-fillers with the odds of success at just over 2%.
- But even if fans are lucky enough to score the golden ticket to some of America's biggest awards shows, there's no guarantee they'll be allowed in.
- SeatfillersAndMore.com says people are "always overbooked to compensate for no shows and late cancels," which means they could be refused admission upon arrival.
- Insider spoke to two seat-fillers — Tonya Stanfield from Indianapolis and British man Terry George — who paid thousands to go to this year's Grammys in the hopes they'd get to rub shoulders with some of music's elite.
- For them, the risk was worth the reward: "It was so expensive to pull all together but it was so worth it. I knew it was going to be the experience of a lifetime," Stanfield said.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
When British man Terry George was seated next to a pop star little-known to him at the Grammys, he was not expecting to become an internet sensation.
"The amount of young people who have been messaging me and saying 'I can't believe you've touched Billie Eilish, you've met her, you've been next to her,' they're absolutely in awe of me," George told Insider.
It was serendipity twice-over for the 54-year-old who scored the "golden seat of the night" after winning a coveted seat-filler job.
But the man who travelled all the way from Leeds, England could have missed out on the opportunity altogether.
As even if seat-fillers are lucky enough to get the gig — their dreams could be shattered before it's even begun.
SeatfillersAndMore.com says on their website people are "always overbooked to compensate for no shows and late cancels," which means they could be refused admission upon arrival.
Seat-filler Tonya Stanfield provided Insider with a screenshot from her acceptance email with SeatfillersAndMore.
"They [overbook] because people cancel, people get sick, people get stuck in traffic, they're late so they overbook to make sure they've got plenty," seat-filler Tonya Stanfield told Insider.
The Recording Academy declined to comment, saying they weren't directly involved with the process of obtaining seat-fillers.
While entry to the event is free, some seat-fillers — like Stanfield and George — are spending thousands to get there.
When Stanfield won the "once-in-a-lifetime" seat-filler opportunity, she said she "invested a lot to potentially be turned away."
Living in Indianapolis more than 2,000 miles from the venue, Stanfield said she had to spend more than $4,000 "on a whim" to get herself from the Midwest to Los Angeles for an event she may not have been able to get into.
As applicants only find out if they've won a place 10 days prior to the event, Stanfield said she had to pay almost three times higher than average on flights.
"So I could have bought the tickets, my hotel, my dress, and flown all the way to Los Angeles to find out I wasn't even going to get into the Grammys," Stanfield said.
Similarly, George said he paid more than £5,500 ($7,100) for his trip from the UK.
"There's no guarantee you'll get in, you really don't know until you get there," George said.
Thousands of fans who live outside of Los Angeles are willing to take the risk
Stanfield said over 30,000 people applied on SeatfillersAndMore.com this year for the chance to warm a seat at the world's biggest music awards show.
And of those, just 650 people were fortunate enough to receive an email saying they'd won the golden ticket, making the odds of success just over 2%.
While Stanfield said it was made clear seat-fillers could be denied entry and "the expense was high," the potential reward was priceless.
"Last minute, it was so expensive to pull all together but it was so worth it, like I knew it was going to be the experience of a lifetime," Stanfield said.
So what makes being a seat-filler so compelling that fans are willing to fork out thousands of dollars despite the risk they could be turned away?
'It's the best concert you could see in your entire life'
"This is a night of glamor and it's a night of [artists] being recognized, and cheering on your favorites, and sharing that experience with them," Stanfield said.
SeatfillersAndMore says on their website that seat-fillers are required to fill all empty seats for televised award shows, so when cameras pan across the audience, they don't see any empty seats.
"There are sometimes people that just don't show up for the show and we are also pulling talent backstage to perform or present an award, leaving these seats empty.
"You would fill these seats while the celebrity talent is backstage and when they return, you would hop up and we would move you to another seat," SeatfillersAndMore says.
The website also says: "Sometimes you get lucky and never have to move."
British seat-filler Terry George told Insider he spent most of his night next to Billie Eilish despite not knowing who she was until just a few days before.
"The seat I stayed in the longest was where Billie Eilish was, right next to Billie Eilish, and it was just serendipity really, it was just unbelievable," George said.
Stanfield, however, was moved several times throughout the night, but said it was still, "the best musical chairs I'll ever play in my life."
Fans can apply for different seat-filler jobs but the main floor is the 'hardest to get'
Stanfield said applicants on SeatfillersAndMore have three options to choose from when it comes to deciding how they want to spend their Grammys experience.
People can apply to spectate on the bleachers at the red carpet but not enter the awards show, be given a guaranteed seat all night on the side during the show, or be on the main floor among all the celebrity action.
Stanfield said the main floor is the "hardest to get."
"And in my mind, I'm thinking if Jay Z gets up, I get to sit next to Beyoncé and if Gwen Stefani gets up I can sit with Blake and I was like, 'That's so cool, that's what I want to do,'" Stanfield said.
Both George and Stanfield scored the coveted main floor seat-filling job and traveled solo to the Staples Center in Los Angeles as seat-fillers aren't allowed to bring a plus one.
Once staff handed out badges and wristbands that identified them as seat-fillers, the countdown began.
Seat-fillers had to line up for hours outside the Staples Center
George and Stanfield said they had to arrive at the Grammys four hours early and spend the time leading up to the event lining up outside.
While hours standing outside may seem tiresome, Stanfield said it actually hyped them up.
"Everyone was so excited, meeting others and interacting. The hours passed very quickly. Being in line was actually fun too!" she said.
She became "instant friends" with some of the other seat-fillers and also said some kindly offered snacks around.
Stanfield said they were told in advance they wouldn't be able to purchase any food or drink at the venue.
"One sweet and thoughtful seat-filler brought a huge bag of granola bars and was passing them out to others," Stanfield said.
Not everyone made it inside
Just under an hour before the show began, the seat-fillers were allowed inside — and unfortunately — George said he saw two girls who arrived late being turned away at the door.
Once entering the arena, seat-fillers had to wait by the concession for another 45 minutes where Stanfield said they got to do some "pretty awesome people watching."
"I looked up and there was Ellen, there was Brandi Carlile, there's Chrissy Teigen, there's John Legend, and they were all in the same room, it's just this adrenaline rush of just wow," Stanfield said.
About 10 minutes before the televised event, George said seat-fillers were rushed to the floor — and it was basically everyone for themselves.
"Just minutes before the event goes live on TV they sort of scatter you out and say quick get your seats, fill the empty seats, and basically everybody goes and does that," George said.
The 54-year-old was fortunate enough to race his way to the front where he was seated next to Grammy and Oscar-winning musician John Legend.
"He sort of nudged me up to get me to sing at one point," George said.
His second seat was next to best-selling female country artist Shania Twain.
"My next seat was with a lady who I didn't know at the time, who I was dancing with and having such good fun, and she turned out to be Shania Twain," George said.
Meanwhile, Stanfield's first spot was in Billie Eilish's mom's seat — like George, she said the Eilish family was "super sweet."
Her following seats were next to Ariana Grande, country musician Orville Peck, the 12-year-old yodeler Mason Ramsey, and also in Lana Del Rey's very own seat.
Stanfield said, "It was kinda neat to be there like a fly on the wall."
She observed famous musicians like John Legend and Smokey Robinson "excited to meet one another" for the first time.
She even said she saw Ariana Grande's mom "constantly" hug her daughter and comfort her by "telling her she's beautiful" as the singer stressed out.
Seat-fillers can be escorted out if they use their phone or camera, ask for autographs, or talk to talent
As a seat-filler, Stanfield said security was tight and told them they weren't allowed to take their phones out.
"We were told if they saw us with our phones out trying to take a selfie or anything, we would be escorted out of the building," Stanfield said.
Seat-fillers are also advised not to speak to talent unless they speak to you.
While 54-year-old George got to engage with some famous faces, which also included Lizzo and Lil Nas X, Stanfield said she didn't "want to break the rules."
Stanfield ended up right back where she started, near Eilish — who George was seated next to — and got to bask in her astonishing five-Grammy award wins.
"When she came back off the stage with her brother, they both grabbed my hand in a celebration moment," George said.
While Stanfield was disappointed she didn't get the chance to chat to Eilish or take photos with any of the other celebrities, she said, "it truly made me live in the moment."
"Not being able to have my phone out, made me experience it to the fullest and it just wasn't worth getting kicked out in my opinion," Stanfield said.
Both George and Stanfield said despite the costs and risks — they're hoping for another shot next year
Stanfield said she would absolutely do the whole experience again, even with all the risks and setbacks involved.
"[Eilish] is coming to perform in Indianapolis in March and I was planning to go to the concert but now I kind of feel like, am I ever going to have a better seat than I did that night?"
"In my opinion, it's the best concert you could see in your entire life," Stanfield said.
As for George, who's been a seat-filler at the Grammys on several occasions — he's also met Paul McCartney, Madonna, Beyoncé, and Adele — he said: "You've really got to be in it to win it."
The 54-year-old said he hopes he can go again next year and finally get the chance to meet one of his favourite musicians.
"Justin Bieber, that would be a perfect one — if he was there that would be just perfect," George said.
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