‘American Idol’: What Prizes Do the Winners Get?

American Idol Season 20 came to a close on Sunday, May 22, crowning Noah Thompson as its newest Idol. But what exactly does that mean for Noah? Here’s everything American Idol winners and runners-up receive after the show, including prizes, contracts, and payments.

Ryan Seacrest, HunterGirl, and Noah Thompson awaiting the winners reveal on American Idol 2022.
Ryan Seacrest, HunterGirl, and Noah Thompson on ‘American Idol’ | Eric McCandless/ABC

Do ‘American Idol’ contestants get paid for joining the show?

American Idol contestants start raking in financial benefits long before a winner takes home the trophy. As Fox Business revealed in 2016, the Top 24 artists each season receive payment based on how many hours they spend filming. For example, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) pays contestants $1,571 and meals for a two-hour episode. Meanwhile, a one-hour show pays $1,303.

In addition to the payments, contestants also receive a $450 stipend for clothing. However, as Vanity Fair contributing editor Richard Rushfield told Fox Business, they often dip into their own personal budgets for clothing because $450 doesn’t cover an entire wardrobe in Hollywood. They can then keep the clothes after the competition ends.

What prizes do ‘American Idol’ winners receive?

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The most recent information on prizes for American Idol winners came in 2019 when season 17 third-place winner Madison VanDenburg’s contract leaked, as Newsweek reported. According to the contract, American Idol winners receive a record deal with the Disney-owned studio Hollywood Records. That record deal reportedly comes with $250,000, split into two payments.

The first $125,000 comes when artists sign the contract, followed by the remaining $125,000 when the singer finishes their album. The winners also receive a $300,000 advance to record the album, plus additional money for living expenses. However, they do need to pay back the advance, as well as 50% of marketing costs, with album sales. Additionally, as Newsweek points out, some of the money likely goes to managers and lawyers.

Do ‘American Idol’ runners-up get any prizes?

Second-place American Idol winners have the chance to take home prizes, as well. During the finale on Sunday night, the Top 2 artists — Noah Thompson and HunterGirl — received trips on Disney’s new Disney Wish cruise to the Bahamas with three guests each.

According to VanDenburg’s contract, American Idol runners-up could also receive a contract with Hollywood Records, albeit a smaller one. As The Blast notes, runners-up may receive $87,500 initially and then another $87,000 for a completed album.

This year, the Top 7 also had the chance to record and release original singles. Noah, HunterGirl, and third-place winner Leah Marlene performed their originals during the finale. They can use their songs however they wish after the competition.

‘American Idol’ used to offer larger prize packages

The American Idol prize packages have changed drastically over the years. As The New York Times revealed, earlier winners, including season 4 winner Carrie Underwood, received a $1 million recording contract, plus free access to a private jet and a car. It’s unclear why American Idol cut down the prizes or when exactly the changes occurred.

American Idol Season 20 is now streaming on Hulu. Stay tuned to Showbiz Cheat Sheet for more updates on the show and its winners.

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