Subcultures are formed when members of society branch off from a particular culture, forming a connection with like-minded people while resisting the convention of the traditional cultural standard. I believe that Terranova is saying that while the original purpose of a subculture is more akin to rebelling against capitalism, members of a subculture eventually contribute voluntarily to capitalism by the very nature of their communication and distribution of knowledge about it. When a subculture is first born, spreading the word is the natural inclination of those involved. The subculture becomes “successful” as word gets out and more people idealize it and strive to be a part of it. Terranova speaks about free labor fueling the digital economy as cultural knowledge is shared for pleasure rather than payment. The subculture ideal is shared voluntarily at first but in time as it becomes more popular it is adopted into the mainstream and becomes the means to a profit. Terranova says it is not that capitalism is seeking out the subculture, but rather that a subculture contributes to capitalism from the “active participation of subculture members in the production of cultural goods” (p. 53-54) Subcultures pave the way for new styles to emerge in music, clothing, TV and film by providing the latest thing that society wants to be a part of. By the time that popular culture has caught on, it is the end of what Terranova calls the “authentic phase” of the cultural formation. She says that the appropriation of capital has not come from outside the subculture but actually from “channeling collective labor within capitalist business practices.” (p. 53)
Subcultures usually begin with the dissatisfaction of a culture or societal norm. In the late 1960s the “hippie” subculture began when young people protested the Vietnam War and refuted all things capitalistic or “establishment.” By wearing patched jeans, long hair, bare feet and preaching peace and love, members distanced themselves from the “older generation” who were seen as being cogs in the wheels of capitalism and proponents of the war machine. Poverty was idealized. Commercialism was vilified. But even long before the digital age, subcultures eventually became conventional. Before long one could buy patched designer jeans for hundreds of dollars and “Hair” was a Broadway hit that tourists flocked to. The peace/love message remained but even the most anti-capitalist movement succumbed to capitalist business practices.