There are situations where it would be helpful to have people buzzing around enthusiastically. Examples would be an open house or a book signing. What would you call people hired to attend such events? Shill seems too harsh.

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    – Lawrence
    Jan 15, 2018 at 11:57
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    Shill, plant, astroturfing... all the words that come to mind are negative (probably because the act deliberately creates a false impression, and people don’t like to be made fools of).
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 15, 2018 at 11:58
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    A claque used to be hired to applaud opera or theatrical performances — or to boo a rival soprano — but the word now is used to suggest a crowd of sycophants.
    – KarlG
    Jan 15, 2018 at 12:53
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    In duck hunting, they're called decoys.
    – Al Maki
    Jan 15, 2018 at 16:21
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    I've heard the term "party pumpers" used for the paid dancers who try to get more people out on the dance floor, for example. Slang/joke term is "fluffers" but that's derogatory.
    – Rocky
    Jan 15, 2018 at 17:18

7 Answers 7




Originally a person who was hired to applaud at a theatre performance. More generally, a person hired to create "enthusiastic buzz" at an event, as you put it.

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    Welcome to EL&U. Thank you for including a reference in your answer. Jan 16, 2018 at 1:37
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    Collectively they are a claque. Jan 16, 2018 at 3:49

In psychological experiments, where you have actual subjects and people who the subject is meant to think are also subjects but are secretly working with the experimenters to influence them, I have seen the word "confederate" used.


There are plenty of words that could generally be a positive version of "shill" (like "advocate"), but in the specific context you suggest I'm not sure there are that many, since it's a scenario of deliberate deception. Which is usually considered a bad thing.

  • It's possible some parts of American culture would find this word to be more negative than "shill", but other than that it's a good word. Jan 16, 2018 at 17:37

Rent-a-crowd [plural rent-a-crowds]

A group of people who are paid to attend an event to increase attendance figures, rather than attending of their own volition.

The term is derived from a fictional company, Rentacrowd Ltd., mentioned in the Peter Simple (Michael Wharton) columns in the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper.



rent-a-crowd (also rent-a-mob) NOUN British informal

A group of people regarded as regularly or instantly available for an expedient purpose, especially a public demonstration.


While rent-a-mob is obviously pejorative, rent-a-crowd can come across as being more humorous.

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    I've never heard this in AmEng, but given the existence of "rent-a-cop" it would be readily understood, I think. Of course, rent-a-cop is a bit demeaning as well (eg they're not real cops, just mall cops)... Jan 15, 2018 at 16:40

If you don't mind using two words, "Paid Attendee" is probably the clearest neutral way to convey the concept.

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    Consider "compensated" instead of paid.
    – jiggunjer
    Jan 16, 2018 at 6:19

Promoter, one who is paid to promote an event or company.

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    Welcome to EL&U. Thanks for your answer. Please consider adding references to support the word you're suggesting. Jan 15, 2018 at 19:24
  • Promoting an event and being paid to attend an event are two completely different things.
    – JeffC
    Jan 16, 2018 at 17:50

The first word that springs to mind is 'compatriots'.

In science, any person who aids in the endeavor or experiment is called a compatriot.

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    You have a link to back up your claim about this? I've never heard this in terms of science (or any field for that matter). Compatriot is Somebody from one's own country. wiktionary
    – JeffC
    Jan 15, 2018 at 16:28
  • @JeffC it can also just mean "friend or colleague."
    – stannius
    Jan 16, 2018 at 17:44
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    @stannius According to what source? Any word can be misused but I linked the definition above and it doesn't mean friend or colleague.
    – JeffC
    Jan 16, 2018 at 17:48
  • @JeffC merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compatriot
    – stannius
    Jan 16, 2018 at 18:26

Most of the following related terms are similarly pejorative, except the last: stooges stool pigeons flunkeys flim-flams dupes snitches chisellers grifters welchers warm-ups (as in a warm-up act before the main act, often used before live comedy shows on TV to get the audience in the mood)

Alternatively, you could make up your own term based on a related concept, but the manipulative nature of the objective means it will be difficult to avoid the implication of deception. Some examples (gratis): Fob-mob foxers stingers wringers diddlers

  • In some political activitiy (or commercial ?) you can hire a truckload of slogan shouters for a certain party in the morning and and the same gang shouts out orchestrated support for the opponent party in the evening. Only the flag on the truck needs to be changed. I dont know the right word. Maybe vshout4u?
    – Narasimham
    Jan 16, 2018 at 12:41

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