Adam is 7th in Forbes Top-Earning American Idols 2014

It’s become a tradition. The Forbes list is out. And it’s actually somewhat surprising.

Before I start, I need to mention a couple of things. One is that this list, despite coming out in January, is from June to June. To be precise, June 2013 to June 2014. I have Ideas about the timing, but I’ll get into that later.

The other is that, while I believe we can rely on the relative numbers (who is on the list and their order), we need to be skeptical about the absolute numbers (what they earned.) They explain their methodology in the article, but basically it’s a mixture of public information, guess work and what the artists and/or their people will tell them.  Which may not be the entire truth. Also, it’s pretax earnings and they may not be able to guess all earnings or expenses.


  1. Carrie Underwood  $10M
  2. Kelly Clarkson   $8M
  3. Phillip Phillips  $5M
  4. Scotty McCreery and Taylor Hicks (tie) $3.5M
  5. Daughtry $3M
  6. Adam Lambert $2.5M
  7. Fantasia $2M
  8. Kellie Pickler $1M

Whole bunch of things to notice just as it is. The most glaring is that there are only NINE people on it.  Yes, there’s a tie, but they just skipped #5. Which means that, in their estimation, no one else earned $1M during that time period.  In times past, there were people tied for last, or the top ten cut off before that mark.

Other stats – Four women. The top five are all winners, with six in total – which is just less than half of the thirteen.  Only one runner-up.

The source of the income? For most of these artists, it’s performing. Kellie and Carrie both earn 6 figures for each concert (and I suspect so do Adam and Daughtry.)  Daughtry tours every year. Kellie had 62 performances during that time period.  P2 has been on the road constantly; Scotty has done as much as his college schedule will allow (and good for him.) Carrie also did Sound of Music Live, and that earned her a pretty penny, too.

Taylor doesn’t tour as such, but he had a residency in Las Vegas that paid VERY well, plus he has investments. Basically, they all work very hard to get where they are. So do the Idols who are not on this list, but they managed to capitalize on the leg up they got. Winning seems to help a lot, as most of this list shows, although there are seven who didn’t make it.

It also shows that season 5 was a VERY good season, since three out of the nine were from there.

So. What about Adam? Well, that’s the thing. Adam was very busy during that time period, but what he was doing, mostly, was making an album, including spending a couple months in Sweden working with Max Martin. He also did a five episode stint on Glee, but Glee is notorious for not paying anyone well. He did a couple of benefits with piano accompaniment, and maybe four shows with a backing band, plus a couple of private parties.  Oh, and the IHeartRadio concert with Queen. Which, compared to Scotty’s 77 shows in the same time period, is NOTHING.

Yet, somehow, he managed to earn $2.5M. Those shows he did do seem to have paid very well indeed.

Next year, things will be very different. He started the Queen tour in July 2013, and it’s continuing this winter. Plus I dearly hope he’ll have at least one single and an album out before summer. And we know he bought a $3M house and a $200K car. Since he’s not really a spendthrift (he gets his money’s worth out of his expensive clothing and accessories), that would suggest he’s doing quite well.

Now, for a change of subject – why the odd timing for the article. This is purest speculation – while I actually know someone who works for Forbes, she’s only a writer and I haven’t really spoken to her in many years. Mostly, I’m just impressed she’s there.

There are two points in the year when publications come out with Idol listicles – January, when the season begins, and May, when the season ends.  Idol, with it’s thirteen completed seasons, provides ample material for such lists, and those are the times with the most interest.  Plus the Idol year pretty much ends in May when the current crop begins their careers with the tour.

The first Forbes article I wrote about was late July 2011, which was close to the time period covered, and close to the end of the Idol year. But that’s also when Idol ratings really began to slip.

I skipped the 2013 article but I wrote about it in my post for the 2014 one. They skipped publishing the article in July 2012, waiting until January of 2013 to put it out. I think this is because while there is still some interest in Idol at the beginning of the year, that interest wanes, as do the ratings, as the seasons progress. So no one cares about an Idol listicle published in July, even thought it’s more timely and less confusing. But unless they did an article about the 18 month time period, they’re stuck with the June to June with which they started. And we will continue to be confused.

I will say, though, that he earned $1.5M his last writing/album making year, so he did much better this time around. And I’m intensely curious to find out how much he earned this summer and winter of Queen.


About mamadeb

I'm a devoted fan of Adam Lambert, but also of cooking, knitting, science fiction and pretty anything pop culture. I'm @_mamadeb on Twitter.
This entry was posted in Adam Lambert, American Idol, Earnings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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