American Idol 6‘s 12 finalists are paid almost $1,000 per one-hour episode, thanks to the fact that they’re union members.
The top 12 transition “from mere amateurs, the equivalent of game show contestants, to professional TV performers,” and “[t]hey became union members covered under contracts negotiated by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists,” USA TODAY reported.
That means they receive “at least the minimum $921 each time they appear on a one-hour show. In addition, they receive residual payments when a show they’re in as a finalist is aired again or is sold via DVDs or other media.”
An AFTRA spokesperson says “the nature of what they’re doing in the show changes from the final 12 on. Prior to that time, they’re just singing in a singing format. After that, they’re doing more interactions and set bits.”
If the finalists are members of a union or guild prior to auditioning, they have to “agree that their Idol performances are not professional appearances covered by a labor agreement,” according to the paper. And upon making it to the finals, each contestant “must join AFTRA, which requires a one-time initiation fee of $1,300.”