It began in 1994 as a protest against the entry fees of the corporate-sponsored New Music West festival. Since the initial one night stand against the corporate-sponsored New Music West festival, Music Waste has become an integral part of the Vancouver music scene, highlighting the most innovative and exciting bands of Vancouver and surrounding areas. To make the festival as accessible as possible, all of the shows cost a maximum of $5 and are held at venues within walking distance.
From 2004 to 2008, Music Waste had been organized by Only (magazine), who also printed a festival guide featuring absurd, tongue-in-cheek write-ups about the bands performing. Discorder (magazine) has since taken over printing the festival guide. Since 2008, Music Waste has remained entirely non-profit, and is organized by a group of dedicated volunteers.
Music Waste's "flipping-the-bird" logo and the "goofball" logo were designed by Vancouver artist Sean Maxey.
Music Waste was voted 3rd Best Festival in Vancouver by readers of the Georgia Straight in 2007.
Music Waste 2012 took place June 7 to June 10, 2012. It featured over 100 comedy and musical acts at 24 different venues.