The Idol (Less) Rich: For Jessica Sanchez, No Guaranteed Album Deal, Likely Smaller Payday

For what appears to be the first time in American Idol history, the first runner-up is not being awarded a guaranteed album deal that comes with a $175,000 advance.

The reworking of the prize package terms for Season 11 was discovered by the Associated Press upon review of show contracts from eight of the past 11 seasons.

Season 11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez is not guaranteed an album deal (with 19 Recordings Inc.) that pays a $175,000 advance, as Season 10 counterpart Lauren Alaina was, says the AP’s findings. Instead, the 16-year-old is subject to a “development” deal that could net her as little as $30,000 to $60,000, depending on how many singles 19 Recordings commissions.

Idol pacts also require winners and finalists to perform on tour and lend their likenesses to a Disney World attraction. On the plus side, Sanchez stands to reap $50,000 per public appearance. And if 19 does order an album, the $175K payout kicks in.

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Experts quoted in the AP report say the restructuring makes sense, given the current marketplace where nearly 1.3 billion singles were bought in 2011 (versus 331 million albums). There’s also the matter of the Fox series’ lower ratings, which translates into a shrinking pool of prospective purchasers, and the fact that, as one expert notes, megahit albums from the likes of Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson are “flukes.”

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Season 11 Idol champ Phillip Phillips, however, will collect the same $300,000 advance given to predecessor Scotty McCreery upon delivery of his first album, the AP notes.

Idol faithful, do you think the new runner-up prize package makes sense? Is it fair?