Although the ratings for this season's "American Idol" premiere earlier this month were significantly lower than last season's premiere (19 percent lower, approximately), the show's cache for its most successful contestants can't be overstated. Forbes magazine has compiled their annual list of "Idol"'s top earners for 2012, with country acts from the singing competition making an impressive showing.

Kelly Clarkson, who has increasingly dipped her toe in the country pool over the past few years, ranks as the top-earning Idol for 2012, raking in $8 million. Interestingly, Forbes notes, that's about twice as much as Keith Urban makes in his new role as an Idol judge (and roughly equivalent to what Nicki Minaj is earning in the same capacity).

Tied for second place are country superstar Carrie Underwood and rocker Chris Daughtry, with Carrie's million-selling Blown Away album boosting her income for the year. Also making an impressive showing: 2010 Idol champ Scotty McCreery, with estimated earnings of $4 million during the Forbes scoring period.

Scotty, who was just eight years old during the show's first season, is now 19 and it's been almost two years since he took the Idol crown, which included a a $250,000 record deal. His debut album, Clear As Day, was a million-seller and he followed that with a spot on Brad Paisley's tour, not to mention venturing off to college.

"It's meant everything," Scotty says of the show, now in its 12th season. "I didn't have a career before, so it was the starting point for my career and it got me going. ... They reach like 16 million fans on a bad night."

Scotty acknowledges, however, that recent winners of the show are required to relinquish about half of their income to Idol -- even before paying remaining agents, managers and attorneys, not to mention the IRS, meaning the teen only pockets around one-fifth of the $4 million he took in for the year.

"It's depressing when you look at it, but I'm still making a good amount," Scotty notes. "I'm not in any way complaining ... I'm doing a lot better than I was a few summers ago, living off the coin jar in my truck."

Forbes' numbers are based on artists' estimated income from May 2011 to May 2012, before subtracting taxes, "American Idol'"s cut and any additional fees for agents, lawyers and managers. The totals were compiled with the help of data from Pollstar, RIAA and others, as well as interviews with industry insiders including managers, publicists, agents and some of the musicians themselves.

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