Ever been watching the show and wondered... How much do American Idol contestants make? Well, if you think American Idol contestants get rich overnight just by competing on the show, you can think again!
Even though American Idol wannabes are lucky to make it onto the hottest show on television, their bank accounts won’t necessarily reflect their newfound fame unless they’re talented enough to score a spot on the Top 10 tour or land a recording contract. Ca-ching!
Here are a few things to know if you've ever wondered how much does American Idol pay contestants.
Earning Money in the Top 10 or Top 12
It’s safe to assume that most of a contestant’s expenses are covered when they make it into the Top 24, but an Idol hopeful doesn’t start seeing a regular paycheck until they make it to the Top 10 or Top 12 (depending on the season). That’s when each finalist is required to join the performers’ union AFTRA (The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). As members of AFTRA, contestants must be paid the minimum hourly rate for a TV performer. AFTRA’s last reported minimum wage rate was $921 per hour.
Earning Money on Tour
Rumor has it that the American Idol Top 10 earns a minimum of $1,000 per show when they hit the road for the summer American Idol tour. (Winners might be paid a bit more than that.) With stops in more than 50 cities for some nationwide tours, a finalist can earn a decent amount of money for what ends up being a three-month gig.
Earning Money For Record Deals
According to a contract obtained by TMZ in 2011,
- The winner of American Idol gets $350,000 for recording their first album.
- The second place winner used to get at least $175,000 for recording their first album, but last year the guarantee was removed. Instead, the new contract specified they could earn as little as $30,000 in advances for recording singles.
- Remaining Top 10 or Top 12 finalists could receive record deals or be drafted to record singles, with the lowest advance being $24,000 if they record up to four singles.
Depending on the success of each contestant’s album, they earn significantly more money as they crank out more CDs. If the winner gets a second album, they’ll make anywhere from $275,000 to $550,000, depending on the album’s success. A third album will net them $325,000 to $650,000, and a fourth, from $375,000 to $750,000. A fifth can earn them $450,000 to $900,000, and a sixth gets the winner $500,000 to $1 million. If the runner-up goes on to record a second album, they can make anywhere from $225,000 to $450,000. It pays to record!
Of course, none of this is conting the money contestants can earn from personal appearances, endorsements and other gigs. For example, Phillip Phillips reportedly earned $200,000 for working with Disney.
Some American Idol contestants end up making it very big actually. Which American Idol alum made the most money last year in 2012? Find out here!