The creators of American Idol knew they'd caught lightning in a bottle practically from the minute the massively popular show aired in 2002. In addition to various corporate sponsorships and other tie-ins, one of the mainstay franchises in the AI brand are the live tours.
The first American Idols Live! hit the road in October of 2002 with the top 10 contestants from season one. They covered 30 cities and carved out a mould for future endeavors. On the bill were Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Nikki McKibbin, Tamyra Gray, RJ Helton, Christina Christian, Ryan Starr, A.J. Gil, Jim Verraros, and EJay Day.
For the first set of the concert, the performers appeared in the order that they were eliminated with video montages from their days on AI mixed in. The second half of the show boasted mostly group numbers and medleys. The tour grossed over $8 million, selling out in some markets.
In 2003, nine of the top 12 finishers took to the road together: Ruben Studdard (winner), Clay Aiken (2nd place), Kimberley Locke (3rd place), Trenyce (5th place), Carmen Rasmusen (6th place), Kimberly Caldwell (7th place), Rickey Smith (8th place), Julia DeMato (10th place), and Charles Grigsby (11th place).
Sponsored by Kellogg's Pop-Tarts, the trek expanded to include 41 stops and gross almost $16 million. The format kept pretty true to the original with a few mash-ups in the group performance section. Pop-Tarts were on board for the 2004 tour, as well. Some 50 shows brought in over $11 million, down considerably from previous sales.
All 10 of the top finalists joined the fun this time around: Fantasia Barrino (winner), Diana DeGarmo (2nd place), Jasmine Trias (3rd place), La Toya London (4th place), George Huff (5th place), John Stevens (6th place), Jennifer Hudson (7th place), Jon Peter Lewis (8th place), Camile Velasco (9th place), and Amy Adams (10th place).
For the fourth outing, in 2005, the routing was scaled back to around 40 dates. The 89%-capacity crowds poured over $17 million into the AI coffers to see Carrie Underwood (winner), Bo Bice (2nd place), Vonzell Solomon (3rd place), Anthony Fedorov (4th place), Scott Savol (5th place), Constantine Maroulis (6th place), Anwar Robinson (7th place), Nadia Turner (8th place), Nikko Smith (9th place), and Jessica Sierra (10th place).
AI attempted to keep the slate around 40 shows in 2006, but demand caused an additional 21 performances to be added such was the popularity of Taylor Hicks (winner), Katharine McPhee (2nd place), Elliott Yamin (3rd place), Paris Bennett (5th place), Chris Daughtry (4th place), Kellie Pickler (6th place), Ace Young (7th place), Mandisa (9th place), Bucky Covington (8th place), and Lisa Tucker (10th place).
The 2006 outing was the most successful by far, bringing in over $35 million and selling out 20 of the venues. Along the way, Pop-Tarts continued its sponsorship of the tour.
In 2007, 59 cities hosted the motley crew of Jordin Sparks (winner) Blake Lewis (2nd place) Melinda Doolittle (3rd place) LaKisha Jones (4th place) Chris Richardson (5th or 6th place) Phil Stacey (5th or 6th place) Sanjaya Malakar (7th place) Haley Scarnato (8th place) Gina Glocksen (9th place) and Chris Sligh (10th place). Tickets weren't so hot though the overall gross topped $23 million thanks to high prices.
Guitar Hero joined Pop-Tarts for the 53-date run in 2008 featuring David Cook (winner) David Archuleta (runner-up) Syesha Mercado (3rd Place) Jason Castro (4th place) Brooke White (5th place) Carly Smithson (6th place) Kristy Lee Cook (7th place) Michael Johns (8th place) Ramiele Malubay (9th place) and Chikezie (10th place).
Due to the incredible diversity of the singers, the show's format was divided into individual sets to showcase them better with group numbers serving as bonuses. Attendance jumped some 35% from the previous year to rack up nearly $30 million in gross sales.
In 2009, Pop-Tarts bailed and Guitar Hero didn't return leaving the Idols without a sponsor. Still, 52 concerts later, Kris Allen (Winner) Adam Lambert (Runner-Up) Danny Gokey (3rd place) Allison Iraheta (4th place) Matt Giraud (5th place) Anoop Desai (6th or 7th place) Lil Rounds (6th or 7th place) Scott MacIntyre (8th place) Megan Joy (9th place) and Michael Sarver (10th place) brought in $30 million.
Now there are some new AI judges on the show and the choices are credited for reviving the franchise. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Jennfier Lopez have joined Randy Jackson to complete the triumverate.