The group was said to be in discussions with rival music labels over managing its North American catalogue business, which includes tracks by the Beatles and Blondie, for a five-year period.
It hopes to raise 400m from the deal, which would be enough to stop it breaching covenants by mid-June on its 3.2bn debt, and prevent it being taken over by its lender, Citigroup.
It may also mean its owner, private equity group Terra Firma, could abandon plans to raise 120m from investors to solve the problem.
EMI is understood to have started talks with Universal Music, while Sony and Warner Music are also thought to be in the frame.
The back catalogue contributes virtually all of the earnings at the company's recorded music division, which generated 55 per cent of EMI's 293m earnings last year.
It is separate from EMI's music publishing arm, which owns the rights to the songs themselves, but not their recordings.
No-one from EMI could be contacted to comment.