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These Are the Strict Rules That All ‘American Idol’ Contestants Must Follow

Following the rules. While Kenedi Anderson decided to leave American Idol of her own volition, many contestants don’t have a choice — they’re kicked off after violating one of the show’s many strict rules.

In addition to all of the contracts and agreements required to take part in the show, whoever comes out on top has to sign a record contract with the show’s label of choice and continue to work with production company 19 Entertainment, which used to produce the reality competition. The contracts are negotiated prior to the finale — which sometimes leaves winners stuck in a deal that they find “manipulative” and overbearing.

“I am very grateful for the opportunities provided to me through appearing on American Idol,” season 11 winner Phillip Phillips alleged in a January 2015 legal petition to the California Labor Commissioner. “The value that the fans and the show have given to my career is not lost on me. However, I have not felt that I have been free to conduct my career in a way that I am comfortable with. I look forward to being able to make my own choices about my career and to being able to make great music and play it for my fans.”

In his filing, the Georgia native claimed that he performed multiple concerts without compensation and that he had very little creative control over his music. In one instance, Phillips alleged that the production and management company hired a producer that “compromised his interests” when he recorded his first two albums and in another, he claimed that they withheld the title of his 2014 album, Behind the Light, from him.

Phillips’ legal dispute with the company was settled privately in June 2017 after 19 Entertainment filed for bankruptcy. (The corporation is no longer involved with producing American Idol.) But the “Home” singer’s negative experiences with his post-show deal hasn’t dissuaded others from signing up to take part in the reality competition — and agreeing to the show’s many rules.

While some of the regulations — such as being an American citizen between the ages of 15 and 29 — are relatively innocuous, other rules are much more restrictive. Every Thursday, contestants “get a CD with snippets of 50 to 200 songs that fit in the category” of that week’s theme, the Washington Post reported in 2017. From there, contestants only have one hour to choose the song that will determine whether or not they’ll stay in the competition for another week. “The reason for this is simply copyright issues,” the official American Idol website explains. “The songs as performed by the contestants are released as singles and made available for downloading.”

Keep scrolling to find out what other rules American Idol contestants have to abide by during the competition: