If there has been one aspect of the singing-competition genre that has become rather appalling to watch over the years, it is the notion of seeing superstars be paid beyond anyone’s weight in gold to sit there and offer commentary on someone else singing. Let’s put it into some perspective here. Mariah Carey approximately earned around $18 million for her season of “American Idol,” which is more than any star of “The Big Bang Theory” received, despite it scoring higher ratings. The same goes for anyone like Patrick Dempsey or Mark Harmon, who star on drama series that require extremely rigorous schedules.
So why pay so much when there are so many other people that can do the job for less? What makes this all the more perplexing is that save for maybe Christina Aguilera, none of these $15 million-plus judges (see Carey or Jennifer Lopez) has really produced anything that entertaining. Nonetheless, the salaries keep coming, and Lopez was paid around $15 million to come back to “American Idol” this year. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Core Media head Mark Graboff (who oversees “American Idol” and other properties) explained the high costs, and even said that Aguilera was the first person to really get this going:
“They get it because they can. The arms race for competition-show judges started with Christina Aguilera on The Voice, and Idol should not have played into that arms race. But once they started, it got crazier. And then X Factor and then The Voice again — it ramps up. This year, other than one of the three [Jennifer Lopez, making an estimated $15 million], it’s within a normal salary range.”
“The X Factor” did away with this strategy more or less this year, as Simon Cowell is the only person making that sort of astronomical money (and that is more for his position as the show creator rather than his judging duties). As ratings for these shows fall, salaries are going to do the same unless something crazy happens this year and “American Idol” becomes shockingly relevant again. After last year and the new judges, though, we expect numbers that are lower than ever, and could only increase if the show turns out an amazing product.
You can at least get a taste of what is planned at the link here, and that is all courtesy of some highlights from the time the judges spent recently in Austin.