Boy bands embody contradictory representations of their own individuality and authenticity and the corporate nature of their genesis and presentation. Boy band members, the impresarios and entrepreneurs behind them, and the producers of television shows about them must contend in their work and relationships with the social and symbolic conventions of their historical moment. In this article I analyse representations of boy bands on the American TV shows The Monkees (1966-8) and Making the Band (2000-) in order to highlight shifts in the ways the performers and production personnel have been represented and have sought to represent themselves. The internal push for legitimacy and autonomy of the young stars of these shows, acting from within a perceived but unstable gap between ‘musician’ and ‘employee’, exists in tension with the external push of TV and music producers, network, record label and marketing departments for rational, predictable products and behaviours that fit within an overall business plan. While the rock ideology of authenticity has lost much of the force it had in the 1960s and change in representational conventions seem to indicate a general acceptance of the overt commercialism of chart-busting pop, this article shows that even within the mainstream flows a strong current of concern over issues of authenticity, legitimacy and autonomy.