Kris Allen earned at least $650,000, and other details about American Idol salaries

Information about how much money the American Idol 8 contestants made from their time on the show and work afterwards has been revealed. The New York Times reports on how much they’ve earned using “copies of last year’s contracts filed in state court in Los Angeles under laws requiring court approval of entertainment-industry deals with minors.”

Top 12 finalists received AFTRA contract fees: $1,011 for hour-long episodes and $1,540 for two hour episodes; that’s “close to $10,000 in performance fees over the season” for a top-five contestant, according to the Times. If 19 Entertainment signed the finalists, they would have received $200,000 for their first record and $50,000 for merchandise. In addition, finalists “receive a one-time payment of $1,000 and a $1,000 advance on royalties for each recording” that goes onto iTunes.

Those who made it to the top five also got $50,000 from Disney for taking part in The American Idol Experience attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

As to the two finalists, Kris Allen “earned an advance of $350,000 for his first album, exclusive of recording costs, half of it paid soon after the competition ended and half when he finished recording,” according to the paper. Kris also received a $100,000 “advance on royalties from a three-year merchandising contract,” and also got $100,000 for the “I’m going to Disney World” ad and another $100,000 “for spending a day filming scripted dialogue segments for use in the attraction and for taping a vocal performance for the Walt Disney World Christmas Parade television show.”

Adam Lambert, on the other hand, received a $300,000 advance, $75,000 for merchandising, and $50,000 from Disney.

This is all a lot more than standard contracts in the recording industry, though the paper notes that “the ‘Idol’ contract potentially binds the artist to the show’s producers for up to seven years, roughly twice as long as a typical first contract.” And 19 Entertainment “can sign a management contract with any contestant it chooses, binding the contestant to pay 15 percent of his earnings, not including those from recording and merchandising contracts, to 19 Entertainment-related companies as a manager’s fee. The initial contract extends for three years, although 19 continues to collect a percentage of some of the contestant’s earnings for 10 years.”

‘Idol’ Winners: Not Just Fame but Big Bucks [New York Times]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.