There’s a lot of confusion about the recording contract with 19M and SONY. Even to the extent some people said Adam Lambert should not win. What this people did not think about is that 19M has first choice to sign Adam Lambert whether he wins or loses. In more detail:
There is 19M = 19 Management
They have first right of refusal for all of the Top 36. If 19M doesn’t opt to sign them, they have to wait until the contract runs out – which is usually the middle of August – before they can sign any other management deal. On rare occassions they release people early (like Michael Johns and Elliot Yamin). The reason they do this is to prevent non-winners from directly competing with their winners.
The majority of winners and runners up have been signed by 19M immediately post show.
possibly Bo Bice
Several Winners/Runners up started with 19E and moved on to other management either after their contract ran out, they were dropped or they sued to get out of their contract
In rare occassions 19M will sign other contestants. In Season 5 19M signed 4th place Chris Daughtry and 6th place Kellie Pickler.
There is also 19R = 19 Recordings
There is SONY/BMG Music group – A corporate umbrella that houses a large number of record labels.
The above also gets first right of refusal for the same time period. The record deals are usually a combination of 19R and one of the SONY/BMG record labels. I’m not exactly sure how that relationship works but my feeling is that 19R is more of a financial arrangement (meaning they take a cut of record sales) and whatever SONY/BMG record label the contestant signs with is in charge of the actual record production, creative direction, marketing and distribution of the album.
A list of all the Sony/BMG music labels can be found here:
Again, it is a total misnomer that not winning sets a contestant free of 19M/19R’s clutches. If 19 wants Adam and/or Kris, neither will have a choice but to sign with them.
So with that reality, it’s really better to WIN, because then 19M/19R will make the winner their first priority – in most cases. Unless you’re name is Taylor Hicks. That year, they treated Daughtry as the winner. Taylor and Katharine McPhee signed with different management.
Also, post Idol CAA (Creative Artists Agency) acts as the Top 10’s booking agent for at least 1 year post Idol.
Credit to Hollygo72 and edited by Dreamsound