Forbes ranks Top-Earning ‘Idols’ ; the elite three: Underwood, Clarkson and Daughtry

The Top-Earning ‘Idols’

Forbes’ rankings of the top-earning American Idol alums are based on earnings from album sales, concerts, endorsements and other income for the year from June 1, 2009, through May 2010.

No. 1: Carrie Underwood

$13 million

The Muskogee, Okla.-born country pop singer has won four Grammys, 14 Billboard Music Awards and five American Music Awards. She’s also sold 9.6 million albums.

No. 2: Kelly Clarkson

$11.7 million

Idol’s first winner has sold 10.6 million albums (along with 16.1 million digital tracks, according to Nielsen SoundScan). Her latest single, “Already Gone,” hit No. 3 on Billboard charts. Currently touring in New Zealand, she’ll play the Lilith Fair music festival this month. Clarkson, 28, is now working on her fifth album.

No. 3: Chris Daughtry

$10.2 million

After playing with a series of bar bands traveling around North Carolina, Daughtry made it to Idol’s final four in the fifth season. Since leaving the show he has sold 5.7 million copies of his two albums: a Grammy-nominated self-titled debut in 2006 and Leave This Town, released last year. Followers on Twitter: 159,000.

No. 4: Kellie Pickler

$7.6 million

Pickler was one of the hardest-working Idol alums this past year, with a 100-date concert schedule. The season five finalist has sold 1.3 million records, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

No. 5: Jordin Sparks

$3.7 million

Entering Idol competition at age 17, Sparks was the youngest winner in the show’s history. The season six winner broke out with “No Air,” a duet with R&B vocalist Chris Brown. She has toured with Alicia Keyes and the Jonas Brothers. Sparks’ second album, Battlefield, debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard charts.

No. 6: Jennifer Hudson

$3.5 million

Hudson ranks lower this year due to slowing album sales and a light touring schedule, yet she remains one of the most successful Idol alums. She placed just seventh in the third season but went on to win an Oscar in 2006 for her role in Dreamgirls. Her 2008 self-titled album, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, has sold over 750,000 copies. Earlier this year she signed on as the latest spokeswoman for Weight Watchers.

No. 7: David Cook

$2.8 million

Three years ago, David Cook was tending bar in Tulsa, Okla. After winning Idol’s seventh season title in 2008, his first single, “The Time of My Life,” debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100, followed by a debut album, David Cook, which went platinum. He continues a lucrative endorsement deal with Skechers shoes.

No. 8: David Archuleta

$2.2 million

Defeated in the seventh season by David Cook, Archuleta went on to release a self-titled album on Jive records that reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts. He has played more than 100 live shows since Idol. Twitter followers: 372,000.

No. 9: Clay Aiken

$2 million

The Raleigh, N.C., native maintains a loyal following six years after finishing second on Idol. He has sold 4 million albums and penned a New York Times bestselling memoir. Aiken recently finished a run in Broadway’s “Spamalot.”

No. 10: Kris Allen

$1.7 million

The Arkansas native gained traction with Idol fans with his acoustic version of Kanye West’s “Heartless.” He engineered a stunning upset over Adam Lambert last year. He signed with Jive Records and released a self-titled album that reached No. 11 on the Billboard 200. He’s been performing in Las Vegas and touring nationally.

Original story appears on Forbes.com