'American Idol' Final 2021: What The Winner Actually Wins

American Idol airs its grand finale on Sunday, May 23, as the last remaining contestants, Willie Spence, Grace Kinstler and Chayce Beckham, each perform three songs in the battle for the top prize on the ABC show.

The winner receives a record deal with Hollywood Records, the record label owned by Disney (also the parent of ABC).

Among the acts previously signed to the label are singers who started their life as Disney Channel stars, including Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and Selena Gomez. Former Idol contestants still signed up include last year's winner, Just Sam, and Season 17 winner Laine Hardy and runner-up Alejandro Aranda (who records as Scarypoolparty).

The best estimate of what that deal is worth comes from two years ago, when details of third-place contestant Madison VanDenburg's contract was leaked to the press. The contract revealed that the artists take home $250,000 in two lump sums.

The American Idol winner gets $125,000 when they sign the contract and the remaining $125,000 when they complete an album, which they have four months to do. They also have a budget of as much as $300,000 to record that album, which is given as an advance that they will have to pay back against future earnings.

While the headline figure is $250,000, the artist probably won't get all of it. In the entertainment business, a manager usually takes 15 to 20 percent, while lawyers get about 5 percent. That could leave the Idol winner taking home about $187,000.

The leaked contract also revealed that the winner gets paid $1,000 a week during recording, and another $1,000 for every master recording handed in to the company.

Newsweek reached out to American Idol's representatives to determine whether the winner's contract has changed since 2019, and no response has yet been received.

Contestants in earlier years took home far more lucrative contracts, with winners like Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino winning $1 million deals. As the show has gone on, and winners have become less successful, the value of the prize has fallen.

Though the deal is much smaller than in the glory days, it's still thought to be significantly more lucrative than the prize awarded to winners of The Voice–reflecting the fact that the show has never been able to launch the career of a Kelly Clarkson-caliber star.

The Voice winners also get a record deal, in their case with Universal Music Group (UMG). The cash prize, however, is only $100,000–though you do also get to take away the V-shaped trophy.

The Voice's coaches have criticized the prize package and UMG for failing to promote the show's winners. Blake Shelton told Entertainment Tonight: "One of the most frustrating things for me, as a coach on this show year after year, is they win this record deal with Universal.

"So many times the ball's been dropped. And there hasn't been a lot of follow-through with the record deal...it's a hard pill to swallow when somebody works as hard as Todd [Tilghman, Season 18 winner] has, and they get this chance, and there's just no follow-through with the record deal."

The American Idol 2021 final airs Sunday, May 23, at 8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CT on ABC.

american idol final 3 2021
Either Grace Kinstler, Willie Spence or Chayce Beckham will win 'American Idol' 2021 and take home the top prize. ABC