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Are American Idol contestants paid? Who covers the trip to Hollywood?

Are American Idol contestants paid? A sparkly new series of the ABC show airs weekly on Sundays at 8 pm ET. Let’s take a look at the costs covered by the show and how much contestants may have to fork out themselves.

American Idol often provokes feelings of nostalgia for many. Gone are the days of Simon Cowell sniggering alongside Paula Abul and the king of “It’s gonna be a no from me, dawg” Randy Jackson, now there’s a fresh new panel of judges.

The iconic show is back in 2021. Kicking off from February 14th with round one of auditions, American Idol is set to run the audition stages until March 14th. March 21st will see the successful contestants head to Hollywood!

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Are American Idol contestants paid?

Yes, American Idol contestants are paid – but only if they make the final stages of the competition.

Contestants who make it to the top 12 are compensated over $900 a week according to a 2007 report from USA TODAY: “After signing with TV union AFTRA, contestants are paid at least $921 a week for each hour-long show“.

A more recent report from Fox Business in 2012 reveals that “AFTRA pays each top 24 contestant a performance fee of $1,571 plus meals for two-hour Idol shows, $1,303 for one-hour shows and $910 for half-hour results shows.

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A 2020 report from Distractify also confirms that American Idol contestants begin to get their expenses paid once they make the top 24: “the show only pays for travel once you make it to the top 24“.

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Do you have to pay to get on American Idol?

No, you don’t to pay to get on American Idol. To audition for the show is free, however, it looks as though there are some costs to expect to pay along the Idol journey.

There are some perks for those who make it to the final stages of the contest. Speaking to Fox Business, American Idol ‘expert’ Richard Rushfield, said: “They go on a shopping trip with a fashion consultant who works on the show and they get like $450 a week to spend on whatever they want“.

Anything over the fashion budget, contestants have to pay for themselves. The hopefuls’ families also have to pay for their accomodation and travel expenses to follow the contestants during the competition.

The payouts for half-hour, hour-long and two-hour American Idol shows look to be quite attractive. But there is a catch. According to Distractify, “they all must fork over $1,600 to join AFTRA upfront”.

Meet the 2021 American Idol judges

From 2018 to today the American Idol judging panel has consisted of Lionel Ritchie, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry.

From series 16 onwards the show was revamped with a new channel, ABC, and a trio of judges. Lionel Ritchie needs no introduction as everyone likely knows of the Hello singer. Katy Perry is best known for hits such as Roar and I Kissed A Girl. Country singer Luke has had hits with Down To One and Country Girl.

Ryan Seacrest has remained the host of American Idol since its first ever episode in 2002.

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