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Winning 'American Idol' Comes With a Record Dead — but There's a Catch

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Season 18 of American Idol has just wrapped up, and Harlem native singer Just Sam was crowned the winner. After an emotional journey to the stage and sweeping the audience with her heartfelt rendition of "Rise Up" by Andra Day, Just Sam took home the title of this year's American Idol.

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We know the cost of being on the show is hefty, as the show's production only covers a fraction of the cost it takes to audition for and remain on American Idol, posing barriers for some who dream of being on the show. But does winning make it worth it? What does an American Idol winner receive for taking home the title? Here's what the grand prize is.

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And the 'American Idol' grand prize is...

According to The Blast, the 2019 winner of American Idol received a record deal with Hollywood Records as well as a $125,000 prize for winning. With the record deal, there's also a guarantee of another $125,000 upon completion of an album. The record deal may include up to six albums, though it varies from winner to winner.

After signing the record deal, the contestant has only four months to turn in a completed album. While recording, they allegedly receive $1,000 a week to cover living expenses, as well as an additional $1,000 for every master completed and turned in. 

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While this may sound like a pretty sweet deal — getting paid to make music, it comes with a catch. Since the record label is technically taking a chance on the contestant, they will receive a $300,000 advance to record the album, which they will be expected to pay back with the album's sales. They're also expected to pay back 50% of the marketing cost after the album's release.

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The runner up will sometimes also be offered a record deal by the show's affiliate record label, though they usually received an advance and deal only half of the size of the winner's.

The prizes used to be bigger.

Those who remember the early seasons of American Idol that brought fame to stars like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood probably don't know that those winners received even larger grand prize packages, which likely helped them skyrocket to fame.

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When Carrie won Season 4 in 2005, she received a million-dollar recording contract, as well as the use of a private jet and a car.

As the seasons progressed, they've cut the monetary prize winners receive, though the promise of a record deal still remains. 

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Before the winner's deal was cut so drastically from its original promise, any of the top five contestants could also receive up to $100,000 for their final placement and had the possibility of being signed by the same record label as the winner, potentially increasing their profits from appearing on the show.

Now, the final three contestants are guaranteed the opportunity to record one single they can use however they like once the show is over, whether or not they win. 

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