What will the ''American Idol'' champ really win? Here's what's in store for Justin or Kelly when the voting public makes its final decision

By Brian Hiatt
September 05, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson: Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

After beating out more than 10,000 competitors and enduring weeks of Simon’s jibes (not to mention Randy Randy Randy’s name-dropping) the winner of ”American Idol” might seem entitled to some rest. But when Justin Guarini or Kelly Clarkson triumphs Wednesday night, the work will have just begun. Here’s what the ”Idol” champ can expect in the coming months.

The record deal

Despite the show’s frequent promises of ”a $1 million recording contract,” RCA Records — which has agreed to sign the winner — is not revealing the actual terms. ”It’s just a standard new artist deal — the money involved is undisclosed,” a source close to the deal says. A spokesperson for ”American Idol”’s production company acknowledges that there’s no guarantee of any particular amount, but adds, ”I would think it would be worth at least a million dollars. We wouldn’t be saying that if wasn’t true.” Such contracts typically cover the recording budget, so a $1 million dollar deal wouldn’t mean that the winner could take home that much in cash (though a successful release’s royalties could ultimately reach that amount or more).

In any case, the winner’s single (which will be heard live on ”American Idol” this week) will hit stores Sept. 17, followed by a full-length album set for a Nov. 26 release. ”Simon Cowell will not be in charge of the project, but he will be involved,” says the source close to the deal. The winner will also be signed to a management contract with ”American Idol”’s 19 Management, which is run by former Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller (who’s also one of ”American Idol”’s producers). The details of that deal are unclear, but a show spokesperson promises that it will be ”very lucrative.”

The winner will also be featured, along with the nine other finalists, on a compilation album, ”American Idol Greatest Hits,” due out on RCA Records in October. The album will include two tracks each from the winner and the two top runners-up, and one cut each from the other finalists. It’ll also boast a song that’ll have all 10 finalists singing together (”We Are the World,” perhaps?).

The perks

The management and recording deals are the only official prizes for the winner, but there are other, unofficial benefits. The ”American Idol” champ will perform the national anthem at the Lincoln Memorial on Sept. 11 as part of a televised 9/11 tribute, according to the ”Idol” spokesperson. And the winner is also scheduled to appear on Thursday’s ”The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.

Plus, all of the finalists will perform in ”American Idols Live,” a tour that will hit at least 28 cities in October and November. It’s slated to kick off Oct. 8 in San Diego — which doesn’t give Justin or Kelly much time to finish that album.

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