How Much Money Does the ‘American Idol’ Winner Earn? Cash Prize and Record Deal Details

Since airing for the first time in 2002, American Idol helped launch the careers of stars like Jordin Sparks, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino, Ruben Studdard, and numerous others. While singers like Underwood and Clarkson went on to gain massive success in the music industry, their time on the show is iconic. Besides winning the title of American Idol, the winners also walked away with a sizable cash prize and a record deal. But that is just the start of what awaits the next winner of American Idol

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For starters, the contestant who wins American Idol walks away with $125,000 for simply winning. As already mentioned, that also comes with a record deal. But what many might not know, when the singer completes their first album, they receive another check for $100,000. That comes to a total of $250,000. While a great deal of money, American Idol knows what it takes to make an album. So wanting to make sure the winners have enough, apparently, they receive a recording budget of $300,000. 

[RELATED: Are Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan Returning to ‘American Idol’ Next Season? Katy Perry’s Exit Shakes up Judge Panel]

‘American Idol’ Cash Prize Reduced Over The Years

While it appears the winnings climb to over $500,000 – like anything, there is a catch. According to reports, the $300,000 budget is not a gift but a loan. Winners “have a budget of as much as $300,000 to record that album, which is given as an advance that they will have to pay back against future earnings.”  

Still, with winners walking away with close to $300,000 for becoming the next American Idol, it doesn’t come close to what the original winner walked away with. When the show first aired, American Idol dominated the ratings as fans cheered on singers like Clakson, Studdard, and Barrino. And given the popularity of the show at the time, each singer walked away with $1 million deals. Since the show has seen its ratings dip over the seasons, the prize poll has been significantly reduced. 

Although not receiving the same amount as the original American Idol, the opportunity to launch a professional career in music seems to be the main focus for contestants like Abi Carter, Will Moseley, and Jack Blocker. 

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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