Skip to main content

See also:

Forbes list: 'Idol' alums rake in millions but are blown away by top earner

Top earning "Idol": Carrie Underwood attends the 47th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 6, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

As "American Idol" returns to television for its thirteenth season, Forbes magazine has released its "Top Earning American Idol's 2013" list. Although all the faces and names are familiar, there are a couple on the list posted by Forbes on Jan. 14 that just might surprise the casual reader and "Idol" fan. But the top earners? No surprises in that the top "Idol" artists earning the most in 2013 are also the ones leading the pack with regard to album sales -- Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

First ever "Idol" winner Clarkson took the top spot on Forbes' now annual list of "American Idol" alum money-makers last year. She slipped to second this go-round with a respectable $7 million in earnings, but she didn't go far. Last year, she pulled in a million more, mostly on the back of her platinum-selling Stronger album, touring, and a television judgeship (the short-lived series "Duets"). This year, she coasted along with gigs, television spots, and a Greatest Hits album.

Rising up from last year's runner-up spot is Carrie Underwood, winner of the fourth season of the hit television show. She vaulted from earning $5 million in 2013 to a stunning $31 million in 2014. To say that her "Idol" colleagues were blown away (pun totally intended) would be an understatement. The total earnings of all the other alums making the top ten list (there are ten due to a tie for tenth place) reaches only $31.5 million. That's correct -- Carrie Underwood scored almost as much money in the past year than the next ten top "American Idol" earners.

She did it with endorsements, signing on with NBCUniversal to do "The Sound Of Music" live, extensive touring, and pushing the album sales of her fourth album, Blown Away, well past a million.

The Forbes list includes six winners, two runners-up, one fourth placer, and two finalists that finished in sixth and seventh. Having five non-winners make the list is proof that just being on the show can lead to bigger and better things for finalists.

Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips and Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert tied for third place, both raking in $5 million in 2013. Phillips did a lot of touring and had two singles go platinum. (In fact, "Home," his coronation song, became the biggest selling single ever for an "Idol," moving over 4 million units.) His debut album also sold over a million copies. Adam Lambert's haul came from touring and numerous television appearances, including a stint on Fox's hit show, "Glee."

Chris Daughtry, a finalist in Season 5, pulled down the fifth spot, scoring 4 million.

The others rounding out the Forbes "Top Earning American Idols 2013" were Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery, Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks (who pulled down the first Las Vegas residency gig), Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino, Season 5 finalist Kellie Pickler (who appeared on and won "Dancing With The Stars" Season 16, Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee, and Season 3 finalist Jennifer Hudson.

Season 5 had the lion's share of success, placing four "Idol" finalists on the Forbes list.

Phillips, Hicks, and Barrino were new to this year's list. Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks and Season 7's winner and runner-up, David Cook and David Archuleta, respectively, fell from the line-up.

The Forbes Top-Earning American Idols of 2013

1. Carrie Underwood - $31 million

2. Kelly Clarkson - $7 million

3. Adam Lambert - $5 million

3. Phillip Phillips - $5 million

5. Chris Daughtry - $4 million

6. Scotty McCreery - $3 million

7. Taylor Hicks - $2.5 million

8. Fantasa Barrino - $1.5 million

8. Kellie Pickler - $1.5 million

10. Katharine McPhee - $1 million

10. Jennifer Hudson - $1 million

Season 12's winner, Candice Glover, will release her debut album in February to make a bid for inclusion on the 2014 list.

Forbes pulled the earnings amounts for the 2014 list from June 2012 to June 2013.

Season 13 of "American Idol," the show that claims to launch superstars (and seems to be the only one to consistently do so, at least in the U. S.), premieres on Wednesday, Jan. 15, on Fox Television.