How Much Do American Idol Contestants Get Paid?

American Idol Contestants


While people who audition for American Idol are hoping to win the grand prize at the end of the show and get a record deal, some fans may wonder if all the other contestants walk away with nothing at the end of the show.

The auditioning process for American Idol is not paid for by the show, but there are some perks later on in the show that do contribute a monetary value to contestants.

Read on to learn more about how much American Idol contestants get paid.

Auditioning For ‘American Idol’ Can Be Expensive

According to Fox Business, auditioning for Idol is costly for some contestants because of travel and hotel costs.

“What the TV audience doesn’t see is, if you’re from San Diego and you audition and make it through in St. Louis, then you have to return to St. Louis a month or two later for the next round, and then again for the third round,” Richard Rushfield, author of American Idol: The Untold Story told Fox Business. “Some can’t afford to and drop out.”

Sometimes the costs of competing do pay off, but that’s not always the case. Forbes reported that David Archuleta, who finished second on season 7 of American Idol, had to travel to San Diego from Salt Lake City for his audition. He later made over $1.4 million.

Top 24 Contestants Are Provided Room and Board & Given a Fashion Budget

According to E! News, contestants who make it through to Hollywood Week are given plane tickets and the show pays for hotel costs and a couple of meals a day. They are also given a fashion budget.

“They do not fly us first class,” former contestant Leslie Hunt told the outlet.

Contestants who want their families at the competition to cheer them on are not given a stipend for that, however, with those family members paying their own way.

Showbiz Cheat Sheet reported that each of the final 12 contestants on each season receives $450 a week for their wardrobes, but that number comes from a Fox News piece published in 2012, so the number is likely to have changed since then.

At that time, the contestants earned a performance fee of $1,571 plus meals for each two-hour show, $1,303 for a one-hour show, and $910 for each of the half-hour results show. Fox News Business says that each contestant has to join The American Federation of Televised and Radio Arts (AFTRA) to earn that payout and at the time joining the organization cost $1,600.

Fox News Business also reported that when there is a top 12 summer tour contestants are paid around $150,000 for their months of touring.

How Much Does the Winner Receive?

The Blast obtained a contract signed by a 17-year-old contestant in 2019 that revealed what the contestants may earn when they win the show. The contract showed that the winner of the show gets a payout of $250,000 eventually, but the show does not cover the costs of producing music.

When the show crowns a winner, that winner is signed to Hollywood Records, and that’s when they get their first $125,000. After that, they will be paid $125,000 after producing their first album. The runner-up of the show, if they get signed by the label, gets half of that.

According to The Blast, the winner of the show gets paid $1,000 a week while recording their record and then $1,000 per recording. They are also paid a 15% royalty on each of their first three albums. The contract also revealed that the contestant gets a budget of $300,000 for recording their album, but they have to pay the costs back once their album starts selling.

The winner also pays back 50% of marketing costs.

Overall, it’s not incredibly clear how much the contestants take home from each show on American Idol, but they do bring home some money once they make it through to Hollywood Week.

READ NEXT: How Much Do the ‘American Idol’ Judges Get Paid?

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