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American Idol's Top Money Earners

  Kelly Photo: Getty Images/Tide
 Forbes has announced its latest list of Top 10 American Idol money earners for the past year and, once again, the two most successful winners remain atop the list. No real surprise there. Daughtry, the most popular non-winner, also remains toward the top.

Surprises? Perhaps Kellie Pickler ranking so high (No. 4) though she writes her songs and has toured frequently and Kris Allen making the cut at 10 and the far higher profile Adam Lambert missing out.

The reasons? Though Adam's album sold more than twice as many copies as Kris' there is little money to be made through CD sales, especially if you're just the performer. Songwriters and producers get their cut first. Once you subtract the label's grab there's little left for the artist unless the album sells in the millions and few artists manage that these days.

 Adam's income would come largely from touring and merchandising and his tour just started, or is soon to get underway. Kris' income would likely be the result of those Ford commercials he's landed. One would expect Adam to make the list next year if the tour does well. The one season to fail to make the list this year: Season 3, Fantasia's year. Ruben Studdard, Season 2 winner, and Taylor Hicks, Season 5 victor, also missed.

  1. Kelly Clarkson -- $8 million


   2. Carrie Underwood -- $7 million


   3. Chris Daughtry -- $5.4 million


   4. Kellie Pickler -- $4.3 million


   5. David Cook -- $2.3 million


   6. Jennifer Hudson -- $2 million


   7. Jordin Sparks -- $1.8 million


   8. David Archuleta -- $1.4 million


   9. Clay Aiken -- $800,000


   10. Kris Allen -- $672,000



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Actually, Jennifer Hudson was a Season 3 finalist, so all the seasons from 1 to 8 are represented.


I think this list is inaccurate for 2 reasons. #1) Adam Lambert is missing off the list. He came in second to Kris but has been far more successful so if Kris made the list @#10 with over $600K Adam should be above him and he's missing altogether. No way Adam earned less then $1million dollars last year with all the press and appearances he's had not to mention cd and single sales.

#2) I was looking at the country forbes list and they have Carrie at #10 with 13 million in earnings (they have her at 7 million here).

Anyway, I'm think Kellie Picker made so much because she an opening act for Taylor Swift, I can't see any other reason for her earning over 4 million dollars. That is quite possible to earn millions of dollars opening for Taylor Swift since she herself earned over 45 million dollars in 2009.

I would also think Fantasia would be somewhere on that list as well. She headlined TCP had a reality show and a few other appearances. I find it hard to believe she didn't make at least one million dollars from TCP alone, that is a demanding leading role.

But the list has to be wrong simply because Adam Lambert isn't on it and Kris Allen is.


Taylor Hicks Is Laughing All The Way to the Bank

By Jo Piazza Posted May 23rd 2010 01:00PM

Hicks is often unfairly derided for the path he has taken after 'Idol.' Last year, the New York Times kicked off a story about 'Idol' success using Hicks as a cautionary tale. "It is doubtful that any of the remaining 24 contestants on 'American Idol' hope that they will be playing the Teen Angel in a touring production of 'Grease' in Milwaukee three years from now. But that's what Taylor Hicks, the 2006 'American Idol' winner, is doing. And it shows that winning the most popular talent competition in the country is no guarantee of superstardom," the Times wrote.

And it's true that winning 'Idol' is no guarantee of superstardom, but I think any of the 'Idol' constestants would be pleased as punch to be pulling in, according to insiders, the $3.5 million that Hicks has brought in during the past 18 months for his tour, album and merchandise sales and appearance fees.


Taylor Hicks Is Laughing All The Way to the Bank



So if Jo Piazza's info is correct Taylor should be in fifth position...right! Pretty cool, he's a hard worker with a huge talent.


Forbes got it wrong again.

cleta beth

Not sure just where Taylor Hicks should have fit in since the time periods weren't exactly the same. But the fact is that the Forbes so-called list is very inaccurate. They estimated Taylor low last year. They aren't looking at anyones tax returns, they are just estimating on certain criteria and not looking at other facts. Taylor is doing just great, he still is the most fun to watch, listen to, and be around and personally I don't give a C*** about their lists.


Who really cares???


"Insiders say" is invalid. If people aren't willing to be quoted by name they have no validity. Taylor Hicks is not on the Forbes list. That is what I reported.
It is highly unlikely that he's pulling in $3.5 million as a minor character in a road production of Grease.
As for Kris-Adam, Adam is no doubt the bigger star but he hasn't capitalized yet. Getting on magazine covers and in newspaper stories doesn't pay. You get paid when you sell out concerts, merchandise or otherwise invest wisely. Adam's album sold more than twice what Kris' has but he didn't write many of the songs so lacks songwriting royalties. Very little pay, if any, for album sales. Label, producers and songwriters get their cut before the singer. Kris has those Ford commercials and resulting residuals and that pays more than album sales.
Next year, if Adam's tour is a success, I expect to see him on the Forbes list.
Fantasia sold no records this year, had no tour and wasn't on Broadway. No reason she'd make the list.
Taylor fans can't seem to accept that the world hasn't a conspiracy to keep him off lists. Forbes has no interest in ignoring Hicks.
And again, this is a plain reprinting of a list. No need to attack the messanger. I'm not making value judgments on any of these people for the purposes of this post.


These are good ideas.


income would likely be the result of those Ford commercials he's landed. One would expect Adam to make the list next this is goodear if the tour does well

cleta beth

Just saw your response. You sure are wrong a lot.
No conspiracy, the Forbes list just missed a few things. Why is it that you cannot accept that Hicks , with his minor role, was the star of the show. He had top billing, his picture on all the ads and billboards, he was the one doing all the publicity work. His draw was what added the extras ticket sales to make it a long, successful tour. He did have a special deal, plus his merchandise sales, and the fact according to his fellow actors that all the Grease merchandise sales wre larger with him there. Why is it that you cannot accept that he is not the huge flop you so wanted him to be. He works hard, is independent and will do it his way. Report your lists all you want, I know the facts.

dolores seger

i think the list is pretty accurate i think this seasons idol will produce the worst sales ever to me the show was terribly boring too much rock and not enough great songs
they better change the way contestants pick their songs or your gonna lose a lot of faithful veiwers like i was swooo dissappointed tipi


It doesn't really matter who top earners were from Idol and usually the same are in the top two anyway, but since there is speculation about Taylor Hicks' earnings, it seems strange that he was #10 the year before with 300+thousand, after taking most of the year off to write a record, random concerts and only three months of Grease.
In 2009, he had a full year of Grease and in fact, even though his part was small, was used as a draw, sold his CD's etc at the venues, and did some gigs on the side.(They didn't put up an 8 story likeness of him and use him on their banners for nothing) It doesn't seem possible that he would be lower in 2009 than in 2008.
Be that as it may, he says he has done very well, even with a cameo part, selling CD's on his own label and doing side gigs.Grease was a real boon to Hicks, that's for sure, as he was for Grease. For a guy who can't get radio to play him, I would say he is doing spectacularly.

Eddie Crowe

What a joke. Who are the idiots buying this crap?
A huge William Hung Fan.LOL

Real singers sing 35 - 40 songs in show.I doubt that any of these so called American Idols can handle that.


alot of the people you all are talking about obviously aren't making as many records as the top 10. Adam L. just barely won!! Give him time. The top 10 is I think pretty accurate. Forbes? Come on. Quit you whining. Jennifer H. has been on B'way. Has a baby. THINK!!!!


Make money on line: Daughtry is a guy. DAM you are so informed.


I don't see how Kris beat Adam money wise. He won the American Idol title, but his tour wasn't as successful and he didn't sell as many CD's. The only explanation possible hinges on the possibility that the winner gets more upfront money from their recording contract. But jeeze louise, if this is information accurate Adam is making barely enough money to keep him in glitter and eyeliner. But I guess (hope) he's making more than he did when he was in the chorus with Wicked and he did get to travel a lot and perform which was his dream.


I always thought Kellie Pickler would do real well. Simon kinda tanked her with poor reviews of her since he dispises the two top selling types of music. Country and Western.


Kat's net worth is $4 million


Taylor Hicks is the biggest embarrassment in Idol history


Jennifer Hudson was Fantasia's year so this is really stupid, get your facts straight!


Where's William Hung on the list?


They already showed why Kris made more than Adam.
This is total income, not CD sales.
Income can be derived from many sources, and Kelly has been touring, plus she also has royalties. Adam hasn't. Since his CD sales were not so great, I don't expect much from his tour.
Way too hysterical for mainstream pop audiences.


Coming from the Broadway show tour world, I can tell you that you're all way over estimating how much Taylor could possibly have earned doing Grease. The reason Taylor is 'blacklisted' as far as Idol is concerned is that he panned the competition publicly right after winning it. He bit the hand that fed him and they didn't like it. That's why his public persona is 'tarnished'. The idol machine wants it that way.

Also, like the article said... the only people who make money in the music business are the writer and the publisher of the song. Performers get a performance fee...and just check with your local musicians union to see how low that rate is! Unless these pop performers are writing their own material, they're not raking it in.


I agree with glowworm. It's not that I go for Adam Lambert, but Adam is definitely more successful worldwide than Kris. Allen's concert in our country is not that successful compared to Lambert's. I think the list is for America only.

But after all, it's Forbes list, right? So we don't really have to argue if it has discrepancy. They just have different basis when they made that.


Why is David Archuleta missing???


Fantasia is horrible simply CANNOT sing - period!


David Archuleta is #8, not missing. And even though he didn't tour last year he had many appearances that obviously made him some money. David has made the list for three years, everyone since his season on idol.


@Greg, Adam headlined a world tour of over 110 venues, and most of them were sold out. Some of these venues were very large (one 75K in Canada, and a few 15-20K in Asia). In many cities, like New York, people were camped out overnight in line to the general admission shows. Not sure what the total income will be but I guess we'll find out in the 2011 list.


I think the problem with Adam is his fans think he is doing better than he really is! Plus he spends more than any other Idol on all the fuss! yes he did sell out most venues but so have most Idols prior to him! Archuleta. Cook etc. Plus the Asia concert for Cook and Archuleta was well over 50,000 +. The Glamberts put Adam on this high pedistal! Archuleta tour over 200 venues in one year! Two solo tours, asia, UK, Demi tour all summer big venues! 4th of July DC, Headline Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert! I love that Akien made more than Lambert! Ouch that hurts the Lambert fans! Since they seem to think Adam is the best Idol! Gee Archuleta, Cook and others have made the list 3 years in a row! Adam is where??? you dont see the other Idol fans putting down the other Idols! Adams good but not a GOD!! Lets get real!!!


"Plus he spends more than any other Idol on all the fuss!" Excuse me Melanie but what does that mean? You don't follow Adam, you know nothing about him as a person since you obviously don't like him....how do you know WHAT he spends his money on? You say "you don't see the other Idol fans putting down the other Idols" yet you insult Adam like 3 times in your comment. Adam's tour was phenomenally successful and he's going to have songwriting credits on every song on his upcoming album...so be prepared to see his name on this list for many years.


Comment re: Kris/Adam: Simply put, most of Kris's income is simply that, income. Adam, however, has a tremendous overhead, dancers, costumes, lighting etc. I suspect Adam is doing fine, but his budget for shows is much larger than Kris, (and all tax deductible.) And if it is paid before Adam has a chance to claim his pocket money, that may account for his not being on this list. It is simply a matter of what is important to each.

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