What Does The “American Idol” Runner-Up Receive?

Jessica Sanchez became a fast favorite for American Idol viewers. Although she did not win the American Idol crown, coming in second on America’s number one reality show usually has its perks and benefits, including instant fame, on-the-job-training and the opportunity to make a nice sum of money.

Typically, a runner-up could be guaranteed the opportunity to record an album, which came with the royalties advancement of around $175,000. This isn’t a bad deal for the second-place contestant. However, this year, it doesn’t appear that Sanchez will be receiving the same treatment.


As per the contract signed by all the American Idol finalists of 2012, Sanchez is getting approximately $30,0000, with the guarantee of a Development Period, offered by 19 Recordings, instead of a record deal. If Sanchez is asked to sing four songs for release, she can get the $30,000, and if she is asked to sing between four to ten song s for an EP, then she could get paid as much as $60,000, but neither of these sums approach the $175,000 previous runners-up have been offered.

These numbers come from an analysis that was done on eight of the eleven existing seasons for Idol. This analysis showed the amounts given on former contracts, reviewed and approved by judges adhering to the 15% law.

While this may put a dent in the runner-ups initial earnings, it won’t necessarily hinder them completely. Even under current contracting, Sanchez is eligible to receive as much as $50,000 for appearances she makes for Disney attraction and promotion work.

The first place contestant, currently Phillip Phillips, has the same contractual benefits as last year’s winner, Scott McCreery. He is entitled to a $300,000 advancement when he completes his first record. He can also receive as much as $800,000 if he records as many as six albums. All of this is contingent on whether or not 19 Recordings produces them. Phillips is also entitled to $200,000 for any appearances he makes for Disney attraction and promotion work. Also, both have been promised a share of the profits made from merchandising.

The other finalists that placed third, or lower, have been offered $24,000 in advancements for four songs, with an as-yet undetermined amount for albums or EPs.



To date, this is the first time in the 11 year history of the show that American Idol did not offer a recording contract for at least one full album to an American Idol runner up. The drop in advancements and contractual agreements has been blamed on low ratings for the show, and the current trend to buy single songs, instead of entire albums. Ratings for the 2012 season finale of American Idol were down by 32% from the season finale of the 2011 season, making it the lowest finale, ever, for the number one rated show on television.

Sanchez is currently being represented by Creative Artists Agency, a well-known company. This company will represent Sanchez on personal appearances, television appearances and employment offers in the future.