Born in Bremen in 1957, Rainer Neumann won national and state prizes in the "Jugend musiziert" competition as a young clarinettist. From 1977 he studied clarinet with Prof. Hans Deinzer at the Hanover Academy of Music (training course for orchestral musicians). His other teachers included the bassoonist Prof. Klaus Thunemann, the oboist Prof. Ingo Goritzki and Prof. Lutz Köhler (wind chamber music). The artistic diploma was followed by a second degree in musicology and German studies at the University of Hamburg, among others with Prof. Peter Petersen and Prof. Constantin Floros. Neumann obtained his Master's degree with a thesis on the overtures of Carl Maria von Weber.

After full-time training as a daily newspaper editor at the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, Neumann began working in music management in 1991. Engagements took him to the Lower Saxony State Opera in Hanover and to the Aalto Theatre in Essen, where he worked with the Essen Philharmonic as a personal assistant to artistic director and GMD Wolf-Dieter Hauschild. On the recommendation of Elmar Weingarten, Neumann succeeded him as director of the Lower Saxony Music Days in 1992, a position he held until 1994.

Neumann was active in a variety of dramaturgical fields. He wrote booklet texts for EMI Classics and produced radio broadcasts among others for NDR, WDR and Radio Bremen. He regularly gave introductory events to symphony concerts and presented gala concerts as well as concerts for children and young people.

In 1997, the Rhineland-Palatinate state government appointed Neumann Artistic Director of the Rheinische Philharmonie State Orchestra (Koblenz). In 2002 he also took over as General Director of the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz (Ludwigshafen), a post he held until July 2012. Under Neumann's aegis, both orchestras have given guest performances and toured to Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Italy, Spain, South America (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay), China, Rwanda and the USA. In addition to his orchestral activities, Neumann founded in 2001 the Mittelrhein Musik Momente, a music festival for the UNESCO World Heritage Upper Middle Rhine Valley, which he directed until 2010.

For the 2013/14 season, Neumann moved to the Dortmund Theatre as orchestra manager and personal assistant to GMD Gabriel Feltz.
For the 14/15 season Neumann took over the position of orchestra director at the National Theatre Mannheim. In February 2020, the WKO Foundation Board appointed him as the new Executive Director of the WKO.