Simon Cowell predicted it during season 4 and in 2011 it came true Carrie Underwood is now officially "American Idol's" top earner, surpassing season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson.
Last year, Clarkson reigned supreme on Billboard's Top 24 Idols tally, with 10,600,000 albums and 15,900,000 digital tracks sold since 2002. As of May 16, Underwood's album sales topped 12,296,000 and she's moved more than 18,482,000 digital tracks since winning season 4. (Sales data provided by Nielsen SoundScan.)
Underwood has also spent a healthy chunk of the last two years on the road, most recently with the 115-plus-date Play On tour, and while Clarkson's international presence is stronger than Underwood's, who plays mostly to U.S. and Canadian audiences, she's devoted much of 2010 and 2011 to working on her as yet unreleased fifth album — or spending rather than earning. To compare, Clarkson's tour revenues since her win hover around $32,000,000, according to Billboard BoxScore, while Underwood has pulled in twice that amount since 2006, or north of $66,000,000.
Further cementing Underwood's place at the top of the "Idol" heap is her recent foray into film. Underwood was cast for a supporting role in April's "Soul Surfer," which grossed $39.5 million at the box office, and has also scored guest spots on popular sitcoms like CBS' "How I Met Your Mother."