Carrie underwood performance

Simon Cowell actually predicted it during Season 4 and in 2011 it came true — Carrie Underwood is now officially American Idol’s top earner, surpassing Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson.

Last year, Kelly Clarkson reigned supreme on Billboard’s Top 24 Idols tally- with 10,600,000 albums and 15,900,000 digital tracks sold since 2002. As of May 16, Underwood’s album sales topped 12,296,000 and she’s moved more than 18,482,000 digital tracks since winning season 4. (Sales data provided by Nielsen SoundScan.)

While Clarkson’s international presence is stronger than Underwood’s, who plays mostly to U.S. and Canadian audiences, Kelly has devoted much of 2010 and 2011 to working on her as yet unreleased fifth album -- or spending rather than earning. Further cementing Underwood’s place at the top of the Idol heap is her recent foray into film. She was cast for a supporting role in April’s Soul Surfer, which grossed $39.5 million at the box office. She has also scored guest spots on popular sitcoms like CBS’ How I Met Your Mother.

As for the rest of the top 10, the Idols’ ranking has barely shifted since last year, though some graduates boast lucrative new endorsement deals (Jennifer Hudson as spokesperson for Weight Watchers) and hit shows (Fantasia’s No. 1 rated VH1 series Fantasia For Real).


1. Carrie Underwood

Season 4 winner

Album sales: 12,296,000

Digital track sales: 18,482,000

Concert revenue: $66,762,207

Underwood has also spent a healthy chunk of the last two years on the road, most recently with the 115-plus-date Play On tour, and she has pulled in over $66 million in revenues.

2. Kelly Clarkson

Season 1 winner

Album sales: 10,674,000

Digital track sales: 17,254,000

Concert revenue: $32,681,389

3. Chris Daughtry

Season 5, 4th place

Album sales: 6,104,000

Digital track sales: 11,127,000

Concert revenue: $19,159,287

4. Clay Aiken

Season 2, runner up

Album sales: 4,990,000

Digital track sales: 581,000

Concert revenue: $17,754,872

5. Fantasia Barrino

Season 3 winner

Album sales: 2,809,000

Digital track sales: 1,325,000

Concert revenues: $466,631

After a 2008 stint on Broadway in The Color Purple, she launched a reality show, Fantasia For Real, which became VH1’s No. 1 rated series.

6. Ruben Studdard

Season 2 winner

Album sales: 2,556,000

Digital track sales: 445,000

Concert revenues: N/A

Four albums, a Grammy nomination and a co-headlining tour with Clay Aiken has kept Studdard on the radar.

7. Jordin Sparks

Season 6 winner

Album sales: 1,275,000

Digital track sales: 9,547,000

Concert revenue: $1,141,629

Her massive presence on pop radio translates to 9 tracks sold for every album.

8. Jennifer Hudson

Season 3, 7th place

Album sales: 1,160,000

Digital track sales: 1,964,000

Concert revenues: $1,055,971

After winning an Oscar and Grammy, she lost over 80 pounds and became the spokewoman for Weight Watchers in 2010.

9. David Cook

Season 7 winner

Album sales: 1,324,000

Digital track sales: 4,196,000

Concert revenue: $1,012,335

Soon to follow his platinum-selling debut with June 28’s This Loud Morning, Cook also tours regularly and scored a deal with Skechers.

10. Kellie Pickler

Season 5, 6th place

Album sales: 1,322,000

Digital track sales: 3,319,000

Concert revenues: N/A

Pickler made big waves on the country scene with her 2006 debut album, Small Town Girl. Tours with Brad Paisley (2007) and Taylor Swift (2009) followed.

The list should give recent Season 10 finalists James Durbin and Thia Megia- it just goes to show you don't have to win American Idol to be a winning earner.



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