Danny Tetley, who reached the semi-finals of the singing competition in 2018, blamed his offending on the "fame he could not cope with", Bradford Crown Court heard on Friday.
A prosecutor said Tetley's victims were offered hundreds of pounds for sexualised images and videos of themselves, after he had got them onside by discussing girls, offering to lend one boy a car, and by passing on pictures of members of The X Factor cast.
The court heard that the 39-year-old "spent likely many thousands of pounds" on convincing seven teenagers to send him pictures, telling one of them: "Trust me, money ain't a prob as long as they are good."
One of the boys later said "we let him get away with it" because of the amount of money they were offered during the conversations on WhatsApp.
His offending - which ran over a "period of months" until his arrest in May in Leeds last year - came to light when the parents of one of the boys became concerned about the amount of money he had and looked through his phone.
The singer admitted seven charges of causing sexual exploitation of boys aged between 14 and 16, as well as two counts relating to the distribution of indecent images.
Wearing a grey sweatshirt, bearded Tetley, of St Enoch's Road, Bradford, showed no emotion in the dock on Friday morning as he was jailed for nine years, plus an extended licence period of eight years.
The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Durham Hall, told him: "Those in the public eye have a deep responsibility which many you see exercise magnificently, with additional work for society.
"Many will see you, I'm afraid, for what you are, to some extent: a despicable creature with very few redeeming features."
The judge said there was significant interest in the sentencing "because of the extent of the depravity displayed in this case, including a number of young victims, but also your celebrity status, now gone, tarnished and destroyed".
Describing the offending as "blatant and disgusting", the judge added: "The level to which you sank, Mr Tetley, was unbelievable."
Michael Smith, prosecuting, described Tetley as "relatively high profile", adding that he was a "regular appearer on national television", including on the programme Benidorm and on Pop Idol near the turn of the century.
"His fame and notoriety, we submit, was part of the grooming process," he added.
Mr Smith said that, during a police interview, Tetley told officers the offending was "all due to The X Factor and the fame that he could not cope with".
One of the boys, who sent images when Tetley was still regularly appearing on TV as part of The X Factor series, was a "genuine fan" of the show and was sent videos by Tetley of members of the programme's cast as part of the grooming process, the court heard.
Tetley told another boy he often forgot he was 14, adding: "It's because you're so sound and you are one of the lads.
"You've got a friend for life in me, mate, I will always help you out."
The prosecutor added that, despite it not being proposed by Tetley, two of the boys performed sexual acts on camera with one another in exchange for more money.
Tetley sat in the dock with his arms folded and his head bowed for much of the sentencing hearing.
Andrew Dallas, defending, told the court: "He was effectively alone in a very public world, emotionally vulnerable and been given money for his singing, all of which is gone.
"By the time he was locked up, he was penniless. It was easy come, easy go, as the saying goes."
He added that Tetley's motivation was solely to gain images and that he had no interest in going any further.
An NSPCC spokesman added: "Tetley's use of his TV appearances and promises of money in the thousands of messages he sent these boys are an example of the depraved lengths that predators will go to in their pursuit of victims."
Speaking after Tetley was sentenced, Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Ian Cottrell, said: “I would like to thank the victims for engaging with our officers to report Tetley’s crimes and I hope this outcome will give them some comfort.
“Tetley claimed he had been set up and that people were out to get him because he was famous, but our investigation was able to prove that he was actively grooming children through social media.
“West Yorkshire Police and partner agencies are committed to tackling the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
“We hope this result will encourage other victims to come forward and engage with our specially trained officers in the knowledge that they will be supported and their reports will be investigated to bring perpetrators to justice.”