Carrie Underwood Tops List of American Idol Earners

Simon Cowell was only half right. When he told Carrie Underwood he predicted that she’d not only win American Idol back in 2005 but that she’d sell more records than any other previous Idol winner, he didn’t even make mention of how much money she’d make with her champion voice.

Forbes magazine has just released its list of top-earning American Idol contestants for 2013 . And Underwood is way, way, way at the top. She made $31 million last year, which adds up to $83 million over the past five years. I’m sure her tour, her Blown Away album, her work with Olay and other endeavors all contributed to her big paycheck this year.

But this is the exact way that Forbes comes up with the ranking: “We calculate our earnings estimates with the help of data from Pollstar Pro, the RIAA, Nielsen SoundScan as well as industry veterans, the musicians’ handlers and some of the artists themselves. These numbers reflect pretax earnings from June 2012 through June 2013.”

When you really look at the numbers, you can see that not only did Underwood out-earn all of her fellow Idol winners but also all of the show’s 2013 judges, including Keith Urban. According to Forbes, the show’s rating have taken a hit the past two years (a 30 percent hit each year).

And while Underwood was spared this little setback, the newer winners have to give a significant portion of their earnings back to the show. After doing that, the winners have to pay their agents, managers, attorneys and taxes.

For example, Scotty McCreery, who earned approximately $3 million in 2013, says he only brings home about one-fifth of his gross earnings. If he’s looking at this past year, that would be about $600,000, which isn’t bad for a college sophomore.

“It’s depressing when you look at it, but I’m still making a good amount,” McCreery said. “I’m not in any way complaining. I’m doing a lot better than I was a few summers ago, living off the coin jar in my truck.”

Here are the Top 11 earners, who collectively made $62.5 million last year:

Carrie Underwood, $31 million

Kelly Clarkson, $7 million

Phillip Phillips, $5 million

Adam Lambert, $5 million

Chris Daughtry, $4 million

Scotty McCreery, $3 million

Taylor Hicks, $2.5 million

Fantasia Barrino, $1.5 million

Kellie Pickler, $1.5 million

Katharine McPhee, $1 million

Jennifer Hudson, $1 million

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.