EMI, the fourth-largest label group (and host of March is Metal Month), may be preparing to outsource its music in North America to rival labels, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. We’ve covered their problems in the past, and this is just the latest volley back and forth between the troubled label group and their owner, private equity group Terra Firma. Essentially, EMI has two groups: music and publishing. The publishing group is doing ok, it’s the music one that’s in trouble. If Terra Firma isn’t able to pay $192 million to its lender, Citigroup, the bank might become the owner of both the label group and the publishing group. Citigroup is actually owed more than $4.5 billion. That’s a lot of Beatles CDs.

According to the Journal, talks to outsource their music are just in the preliminary stages. There’s no word on how the relationship between EMI and its artists would be effected. Nor is there any word on how the affiliated labels (like Earache, Century Media, Nuclear Blast, Season of Mist, Willowtip and others) might fare should this become a reality. It would likely initially effect their core labels, like Capitol and Virgin.