Born in Mannheim, Germany, Mayer became a citizen of Great Britain in 1902. His wife Dorothy, whom he married in 1919, encouraged him to seek an interest in music and he went on to found the Robert Mayer Concerts for Children in 1923. In 1932, Mayer was one of the founders of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and he also helped found the London Schools Symphony Orchestra in 1951. In his later years, with his vast wealth, Mayer worked to improve international relations.
His 100th birthday was a national celebration that included a gala concert at the Royal Festival Hall which was attended by Queen Elizabeth II. He also published an autobiography titled My First 100 Years in 1979.