The show aired for the first time on February 5, 1984. Its original host was Augusta La Paix. The following year, La Paix left the show and was replaced by Brent Bambury. Throughout the 1980s, Brave New Waves was an enormously influential and legendary show, providing many Canadians without access to campus radio with their main exposure to alternative music. When alternative rock became the dominant commercial genre of the 1990s, Brave New Waves kept its focus on the underground.
In 1995, Bambury left the program to become cohost of CBC Television's Midday, and was replaced by Patti Schmidt, who also became the executive producer of the program. Schmidt remained the program's main host for the remainder of its run.
An album collecting live performances from the show, also titled Brave New Waves, was released in 1991.