Over the last fifteen years, independent rock music has become a wider field of cultural production and consumption in Italy. Indeed, while during the 1970s and 1990s the production of independent music was connected predominantly to political movements, alternative subcultures and the antagonistic attitude of the ‘centri sociali’, in the present decade, independent popular music has moved towards the centre of the national music industry and the mass media of the musical mainstream. This article describes the phases of this process of institutionalisation, showing how the politically based culture of independent music is today at the centre of a symbolic struggle occurring between the values of authenticity, rooted in political youth cultures, and the strategic and pragmatic tendency towards integration into the mainstream of the national music industry. This analysis is carried out applying the Bourdieian concepts of ‘field of cultural production’ and ‘cultural capital’, together with their evolutions into the notion of ‘subcultural capital’. This theoretical framework is applied in order to show both the process of institutionalisation this cultural field is undergoing, and the symbolic struggle taking place between the original values of the political and cultural autonomy of music and the commoditisation of musical objects in the mainstream mass media and national industrial sector. Finally, it is shown how new agents who represent the independent popular music industry at the national level need to deal with claims for authenticity raised by the alternative and extreme wings of the independent music scene.