It's difficult to find any direct materials online with references for America's Got Talent. From their official website:
DOES IT COST ANYTHING TO AUDITION?
Auditioning for America's Got
Talent is completely free. Sure you still need to get to the venue,
and maybe get a hotel for the night if it's a long drive, but we
cannot reimburse you for your expenses. But if anyone is claiming they
are with the show and want to charge you money to audition please
contact us right away.
If you make it beyond the first round of auditions, we will discuss
with you in detail how we reimburse for travel arrangements as you
progress in the competition.
So clearly once you actually get onto the show, there are some travel arrangements. I'll cheat a little in my answer here, and rather than give examples of America's Got Talent, I'll post some examples of information I found regarding American Idol, which will likely have a very similar expenses policy.
For American Idol, Fox Business describe the process for auditioning:
Auditions Can Be Expensive
...Audition costs remain a financial
hurdle for hopefuls who follow the Idol audition trail from city to
city, hoping to be selected.
"What the TV audience doesn't see is, if you're from San Diego and you
audition and make it through in St. Louis, then you have to return to
St. Louis a month or two later for the next round, and then again for
a third round," says Rushfield. "Some can't afford to and drop out.
They then describe actually being a contestant:
Once chosen for the top 12, Idol contestants are provided room and
board, although the accommodations have varied widely from season to
"There have been years where they want to show it on the air so they
put them up in mansions in the Hollywood hills; other years, they've
put them up in this apartment complex that's not seen on the air,"
says Rushfield. "It's nothing fancy, but it's not squalor. They have
roommates all the way through, and when their roommates get cut, they
consolidate them to save on the rooms."
A far bigger expense falls to the contestants' families. "They don't
provide travel or expenses for families," he says. "That's the expense
that causes the most trouble for Idols and their families."
What about costume expenses? The same article states:
Ever wonder whether Adam Lambert paid for those outrageous "Glambert"
costumes he wore on the eigth season? The answer is yes -- and no.
"They go on a shopping trip with a fashion consultant who works on the
show and they get like $450 a week to spend on whatever they want,"
says Rushfield. "But a lot of them dip into their own pocket because a
few hundred dollars doesn't go that far in a lot of these expensive
stores in Hollywood. The clothes are theirs to keep after the show."
As for how much they earn overall:
How much does an "Idol" finalist earn?
"Their payday for a year of very hard work comes to something like $1
million," says Rushfield. "The top four all do Disney World
commercials; that's one of the biggest paydays. They also get money
for albums and shooting the Ford commercials."
Then there's the show itself. The American Federation of Television
and Radio Artists, or AFTRA, pays each top 24 contestant a performance
fee: $1,571 plus meals for two-hour Idol shows, $1,303 for one-hour
shows and $910 for half-hour results shows. But they all must fork
over $1,600 to join AFTRA.
The biggest payday for most of the top 12 is the summer tour. "They
get around $150,000 for four or five months of touring," says
The higher the finish, the larger the paycheck -- with notable
exceptions. According to Forbes, season four winner Carrie Underwood
led the pack, earning $13 million from June 2009 to May 2010. She was
followed by season one winner Kelly Clarkson with $11.7 million. But
Idol runners-up Chris Daughtry (third at $10.2 million), Kellie
Pickler (fourth, $7.6 million) and Jennifer Hudson (sixth, $3.5
million) routinely out-earn winners David Cook, Taylor Hicks, Kris
Allen and Ruben Studdard.
A different Fox Business article gives a more granular view of parts of the audition process:
Only a handful of contestants get called to audition for what the show
calls "Hollywood Week." An "American Idol" insider confirmed that
contestants are flown out to Los Angeles and housed at the show's
expense. No meal money is given, but the shoot days are usually rather
long and a contestant could easily eat all three meals for free while
on set, according to the insider.
While Hollywood Week takes about five days to film, a contestant's
time commitment varies. "They can stay the whole time if they do
really well," says the insider. "Or, they can be done within a few
hours on the first day."
If the contestant continues to impress the judges, he or she will be
called back for live shows several months later. Again, the show pays
for travel and lodging, but the commitment can last several weeks.
To confirm the overall amount earned by an Idol participant in a year, The American Idol Net.com fansite states:
ARE AMERICAN IDOL CONTESTANTS PAID FOR BEING IN THE COMPETITION?
a contestant reaches the Top 10 and in some seasons the Top 12, they
start to receive a paycheck for appearing and performing on the weekly
shows. At that point, they are also required to join the AFTRA union
(The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). The most
recently reported hourly rate I could reliably source is $1,571.00 per
two-hour episode and a bit less for a one-hour show. The Top 10
contestants (plus the wildcard pick this season) who go on to perform
on the American Idol Summer Tour will also receive a fee of $1,000.00
ARE THE FINALIST’S FAMILIES COMPENSATED FOR BEING IN THE
Even though American Idol loves to utilize the finalists’
friends and family sitting in the audience, either by airing reactions
or actually bringing them up on stage, they do not compensate them for
their expenses. The cost to the families can be quite high considering
they must pay for travel and accommodations out of their own pockets.
The audition process can also be a financial drain, considering some
hopefuls must travel long distances to get to the audition city. If
they make it through the first round they must travel back again to
audition for the next round. These rounds of auditioning can be
separated by several weeks. Many believe it’s well worth the expense
for the chance to become an overnight success.
DO THE CONTESTANT’S
CHOOSE THEIR OWN WARDROBE AND WHO PAYS FOR IT?
The contestants are
given a clothing allowance. The last verified amount I could find is
$450.00 per week but it must be increased occasionally to keep up with
inflation. A stylist, employed by Idol, accompanies contestants on
shopping trips to help choose outfits for the coming week and advise
them on what “look” will work best based on the their individual style
as well as the style of their upcoming performance. Idol also provides
them with a hair stylist and makeup artist.
So, I've given a bunch of articles and I'm well aware the majority of them aren't actually focused on your particular question - about America's Got Talent. However, I'm hoping they will still be of us considering the fact the shows are very similar and thus very likely have similar expense regulations.