Streamers on the Rise: How Ericka Bozeman became Twitch’s true crime queen

By 04/11/2023
Streamers on the Rise: How Ericka Bozeman became Twitch’s true crime queen

Welcome to Streamers on the Rise, where we find streamers who are growing their channels, content, and audiences in extraordinary ways. Each week we’ll talk with a creator about what goes into livestreaming–both on and off camera.

When Ericka Bozeman made her first $30 off streaming, she thought, Well, that’s it. This is my new career. Time to quit my job.

Then she quit her job.


Subscribe to get the latest creator news


And, a few years later, she regretted it. We all know how hard it is to grow on Twitch now. Back in 2017, it was even harder. Streamers like Bozeman relied largely on viewer donations, and though Bozeman had regular viewers, eventually the same people can only give so much, and “it just trails off,” she says. Without new viewers coming in, her income was suffering, and she was considering quitting streaming and going back to college.

Until she got a phone call.

At first, she thought it might be a scam. Some casting director in L.A. wanted to speak to her? Yeah, sure.

But after he persisted, she took his call. She still remembers exactly where she was when the phone rang: in her mom’s bedroom, watching her cell light up with a caller location that said “Beverly Hills.”

It turned out the casting director actually was a casting director, and he was looking for new Smosh members. He’d seen Bozeman streaming Grand Theft Auto on Twitch, and thought she was a good fit for Smosh’s style of comedy. Bozeman officially joined Smosh in late 2017, and stayed with the company until 2019. In the wake of former Smosh owner Defy Media‘s collapse, Bozeman stepped away from Smosh and from content creation.

Data from Streams Charts

Now she’s back, streaming full-time on Twitch as BigBossBoze, and growing her community at a speed 2017 Ericka thought was impossible.

Bozeman gave streaming another shot in 2020, and when she noticed true crime taking off across YouTube and in other industries like podcasting, she decided to see how the genre would fare on Twitch. She set aside one month–September 2020–where she focused exclusively on true crime content. It was supposed to be an experiment, but after her audience’s receptiveness and her growth in new followers (she’s now at just over 200,000), she made true crime a regular feature on her stream and secured herself a place as one of Twitch’s top true crime streamers.

Check out our chat with her below.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tubefilter: Great to meet you! You’re actually the first person I’ve interviewed for this series, so very cool. As I mentioned, we already do a series called Creators on the Rise, which focuses mostly on YouTubers who have seen a recent growth in views and subscribers. Now we’re expanding the same thing to Twitch.

Ericka Bozeman: Do you watch Twitch at all or are you just doing a crossover because the other series worked well?

Tubefilter: I watch Twitch! And I’m friends with a bunch of people who do VTubing and art streaming.

Ericka Bozeman: Oh, good.

Tubefilter: Yes, so I have experience. It’s just that Creators on the Rise has always been very data-driven, where we can look at a YouTube analytics chart and be like, “Okay, they’re gaining this many subscribers and views per month, so this is somebody we should talk to.” With Twitch, it doesn’t really work like that.

Ericka Bozeman: Yes, that’s true. That’s very true. It’s a lot different.

Tubefilter: Let’s start with your background. For a reader who doesn’t know you, can you talk a little bit about joining Smosh and then how you ended up here? Just your journey as a creator from pre-Smosh to now.

Ericka Bozeman: Yes, absolutely. God, it’s so funny. Basically, I started streaming on Twitch seven years ago. It’s funny that the series is Streamers on the Rise, because I feel like your career is always changing. Even though it’s been seven years, I do still feel like my career is changing, which is cool because seven years ago I was bartending at a TGI Fridays, and I wasn’t loving it. I had always really been into video games. One day I was off work for two weeks, workman’s comp, I had hurt myself, and I just drove to Walmart at one o’clock in the morning and bought a fucking NVIDIA graphics card and some RAM. I put it into my computer and I started streaming. It was a blast and I loved it.

I remember two or three weeks in, I made $30, and I was like, “I’m going to quit.” [laughs]

Tubefilter: That’s fat stacks.

Ericka Bozeman: Yes! I was 23, and I was like, “Dude, this is like three or four tables at TGI Fridays.” I’m like, “If I can make $30 a night, I live with my parents, this is fine.” So I was streaming for three or four years, and after a while, it really wasn’t going great. Back in those days, we really lived off viewer donations. Part of it is, “Hey, I’m a viewer, I like you, I want your attention.” The other part is, “Hey, I like your content. I want to invest in you because I want you to keep doing this.” After a while, when you’re not having an influx of new viewers, those people that invest in your content, they either…I don’t know, it just trails off, and it wasn’t going well.

I was planning to go back to college, and then I get this email from this dude, and he’s like, “Hey, do you want to audition for this gaming company out in Los Angeles?” And I live in Bumfuck, Virginia. I’m not doing shit. I’m like, “Yes, sure, but…” He keeps following up with me, eventually I’m like, “Okay, whatever.”

I gave him my number, and I still remember being in my mom’s bedroom and I get the call and the city says Beverly Hills. So I’m like, “This isn’t fucking real.” I answer the call, and it turns out it was a casting director for Smosh, and they were hiring for Smosh Games. They wanted to give me salary to move out to Beverly Hills and play video games. I was like, “Get the suitcase, bitch!” I was gone.

Tubefilter: That’s wild. Did he just find you streaming, then?

Ericka Bozeman: Yes, I know exactly how he found me. I was going to TwitchCon that year and this casting director didn’t know where to find gamers, so he went to the page for Partners that were livestreaming, and he literally just went down in alphabetical order. Because my name was BigBossBoze, I was the first person he clicked on that was live at the time, and I was playing Grand Theft Auto for 30 viewers, and that’s how he found me.

Tubefilter: That’s insane. Wow.

Ericka Bozeman: I know. Dude, it’s cracked, right?

Tubefilter: Good thing you named yourself BigBossBoze then.

Ericka Bozeman: [laughs] Actually, I think my name was just Boze…something…at the time, but it started with a B. So I joined Smosh. It was rocky at first. I was this kid that didn’t have a lot of socialization and these were industry pros. They’re working at the top of YouTube budgets, a lot of them have been in the cast for three to five years, they’ve had media training. I feel like I wasn’t all the way there, and I had a lot of trouble fitting in. I don’t blame them, but it was weird.

Tubefilter: You were really young too. How old are you now?

Ericka Bozeman: I just turned 31. My birthday was yesterday.

Tubefilter: Happy birthday! My birthday’s today. [laughs] I turned 30 today.

Ericka Bozeman: Oh my God. Dude, 30 is great, it’s honestly great.

Tubefilter: I’m very excited.

Ericka Bozeman: You get it. Anyway, I’m all over the place. I was at Smosh. Like I said, I didn’t fit in that well. I think that’s normal, to be honest, but I really wanted to prove myself while I was there, so I learned how to direct, I learned how to produce. I put out some of Smosh’s top series, like Smosh and Order was created, directed, produced, everything, by me, and I think that series has over 10 million views. It was one of the most popular of all time. I wanted to do a good job because even if people thought I was a fucking weirdo, at least I was useful.

Tubefilter: Did you do any audition process or did they just move you out there?

Ericka Bozeman: No, I did do a long audition process. I went through three or four interviews. They flew me out to shoot with them for like a week or two, and then I went into a 90-day demo contract. I had to jump through some hoops, to be honest.

Tubefilter: Interesting. Then you switched gears really heavily when Defy closed down. You switched out of content creating almost entirely.

Ericka Bozeman: I had to.  I was on a live stream when I found out that we’d all lost–

Tubefilter: Oh my god.

Ericka Bozeman: There is footage of me playing Fortnite while everyone’s getting the call about the WARN Act. It’s so crazy. Like I said, I was young. I was in my mid-20s. I didn’t finish college, and I was out in California. I had a boyfriend at the time, and I really wanted to make it work. I was determined to stay out there, so I switched gears, I took a 40% pay cut, and I got back into marketing.

I planned to completely leave content creation because I need stability. I felt like my emotions were all over the place, I couldn’t just conjure emotional stability out of nowhere, so I had to start with work stability. The best thing for me to do was just to get a normal job, so I got a job at a law firm in marketing. Then after that, I worked at Live Nation in marketing.

I was a comedy marketing manager, and then I eventually became a comedy marketing director. I saved up a lot of money. Dude, I sold my stocks in the company. I probably saved up like $25,000 because I had some little brand deals on the side too, so I stacked up some decent money, and I just fucking quit, bro, I quit. I basically took off about six months from everything and lived off the money I’d saved up, and I just went to therapy.

Tubefilter: Having been to therapy, that is the smartest decision you could possibly have made.

Ericka Bozeman: I was like, “The best investment that I can make in anything, not my business, not materialistic things or like temporary ego or feeling better, was I needed to make a real change in the way that I thought about myself and others, why I was procrastinating all the time, just everything.” I just stopped doing everything and went to therapy for six months. […] So this is where shit gets to present time. God, I’m so annoying.

Tubefilter: No, it’s totally fine. This is the kind of stuff that people love to hear, because viewers feel like there’s a very curated image of somebody presented to them, so when you get to hear somebody speak like this about their own background and the troubles that they’ve had and the things they’ve had to go through, I think it’s really helpful for readers and for other creators.

Ericka Bozeman: You’ll probably notice, if you’re anything like me, that you don’t realize everything you’ve been through for the past five years until somebody asked you about it, and you’re like, “Low-key, this shit is crazy.” You’ve got to get interviewed. [laughs] I’m going to interview you just so you can walk me through the whole thing, because when you say it, it’s so weird to think about.

I went to therapy, and then I fucking came out and wanted to do streaming and was like, “Well, I don’t want to play video games anymore because I’m about to be 30.” There’s a lot of creators that can do that, like the dudes that are really fucking good at video games, but that just wasn’t me. I realized there was a hole in the market because there’s a lot of true crime content, but nobody was doing true crime livestreams. I had actually been doing it for five years, like I have tweets dating from 2017 where I’m promoting Murder Monday because I would literally play League of Legends and then in the middle of a game, I’d be like, “Do you guys want to hear this fucked-up murder story?” My audience would be like, “I guess.” [laughs]

Tubefilter: Well, you’re going to!

Ericka Bozeman: Yes, because I would hear interesting things, and then I’d have to tell them. Then I just decided to make it into a bigger production. What I learned from Smosh was production sheets. One sheets where you plot out everything that you’re going to do. You make it easy and accessible, and so I started building out my production sheets, focusing on segments and retention, and really trying to make it feel like a whole show. Then another interesting part of it was, this comes from me hating myself and wanting to die. I was like, “Well, no one wants to watch me five days a week, so why don’t I just make it a big event once a week?”

I think it really played into my numbers, because not a lot of people do that. I think you don’t exhaust your audience. Then you can really pick the best content for them, so I started doing that. I went from 30 viewers when this whole thing started. Then, when I was in Smosh, I had like 200 viewers, maybe. Then it just slowly started to climb to like 500 and then like 1,000, and then like 1,700. Then I got on YouTube, and I had this one video last year really blow up. It was called She dumped the baby WHERE? I was losing my mind over this court case because I have ADHD, I’m just very neurodivergent in general, so I’m just losing my mind watching this video. 

Tubefilter: Believe me, I understand.

Ericka Bozeman: It’s real, I’m not fake reacting or anything through camera. I’m like, “I can’t believe this is happening.” I think the audience feels that authenticity, and they just ride the fucking wave with me. I posted that video, I didn’t pay much attention to it, and I fucking come back one day, and it had a million views. It was fast.

Then I started posting more on YouTube, and then I started cross-pollinating it into my Twitch channel. Then the views went from 1,700 to like 2,000 and like 2,500. Then I had another video go viral. This is so crazy because I’ve never talked to anybody about this, I just keep doing it. I had another video go viral, and then I cross-pollinated that again. Then it was like 4,000 viewers. Then it was like 5,000. I focused on myself and my relationship with my audience.

I think another one of my trauma adaptations is to perform. What makes me genuinely happy is when the other person is entertained. That will never leave me. Do you have that at all, James?

Tubefilter: Maybe a little bit. I definitely like making other people happy. I like to make other people laugh. Seeing joy in other people is really nice.

Ericka Bozeman: Yes! That, dude, is all I fucking care about! I found a way to separate my people-pleaser from my performer.

Tubefilter: Okay, that’s hard.

Ericka Bozeman: Yes, it is really hard because a lot of times, they’re all combined into one. A lot of times, the people-pleaser hurts us, but the performer, it can be symbiotic for the audience and for you. That’s never going to leave me. I’m always going to be a performer. I fucking love what I do, man. I love it. I take a lot of mental health breaks. I’ll randomly go on a two-month hiatus, but it seems like my audience is always there when I come back, which is really great.

Damn, that’s my whole backstory. That was long as fuck.

Tubefilter: No, that’s perfect! That’s exactly what I was looking for. Are you still doing this once-a-week stream or what’s your current production schedule like?

Ericka Bozeman: I’m branching out into other things. As it stands, right now, I still do once a week, but I’ve pivoted. I used to record my YouTube videos live on my Twitch stream, and now, we just watch documentaries because the whole gimmick of my stream, is don’t watch True Crime alone. I now record my YouTube videos offline and then my audience gets brand-new things on YouTube. My Twitch channel is just us watching top-tier documentaries. I have a whole team that pre-scrubs them to make sure there’s no gore, no violence. We do trigger warnings and stuff like that if it’s an essay-heavy case or something. I’ve switched that around, and I’m working on other projects.

I’m starting a fictional podcast, which is something I just decided I wanted to fucking do because I miss doing storytelling. I started a small tech company. I’m going on tour again this year. I don’t know, let’s see. I think I am going to start doing an extra stream each week, but I want to make a new show, maybe something horror related. That’s the plan.

Tubefilter: Makes sense. I’ve talked to people who do both YouTube and Twitch, and virtually everyone have said to me that Twitch is awful for promoting yourself and that if you want to build a Twitch audience, you have to be present somewhere else. I feel like that’s true with what you’re telling me. You had YouTube videos go viral, and then you fed that into your Twitch stream. Do you feel like that’s necessary? Do you feel like you could just start streaming on Twitch and just organically grow and be fine?

Ericka Bozeman: You cannot. It is absolutely impossible. What Twitch offers is a culture that’s different than any type of platform. If you can convert a TikTok viewer to a Twitch viewer, which is very difficult, you’re having them jump platform to platform, short form to long form, then you could have a viewer for two months to life. See, Twitch is still important because you create a different type of relationship with your viewers. I think the meta in content creation now, is to have a small, almost cult-like following because audiences are fragmented now at this point.

We don’t have the big…Who was it back in the day? I don’t know, like the Shane Dawsons and stuff, and the David Dobrik, that had all of the viewership. Audiences are fragmented because there’s so many content creators, so the best thing that you can do is figure out your revenue model and then create a cohesive audience that’s going to be with you for a long time, and you can’t create that just on TikTok. TikTok viewers leave you just like that. If you don’t pop up in the For You page, you’re gone, they forget about you, you’re irrelevant, but Twitch gives you that backbone like a relationship with your viewer. It’s hard to grow on Twitch, but I believe it’s almost necessary to grow your audience on Twitch.

It’s complicated because I was used to this. They can’t do thumbnails on Twitch. They can do the recommended all day, but if somebody’s going to click on your name, the only marketing tool you have is your name and your current still that’s on Twitch, and I’m not sure how Twitch is able to change that. If they were to give people thumbnails, it would take away the realness that we get from those screen taps. Then from there, the viewer has 30 seconds to engage the viewer and get them to follow, that’s like impossible. I don’t know how they would solve that.

Tubefilter: That’s true, yes. That’s a good point. I feel like there’s a whole thing here with you reestablishing yourself, because reestablishing yourself on Twitch is harder than on any other platform, to be frank.

Ericka Bozeman: It’s interesting you say that because I think most content creators spend their first, if I’m being honest, three to five years figuring out what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it. You’re not on the rise in the first five years. You’re either an overnight success or you’re figuring it out. Then after those three to five years, that’s when everything you’ve learned…Because think about it, it’s a brand new career. Who the fuck just hops into it and knows what they’re doing? That’s crazy. It is a real job.

After you get to those three to five years, that’s when you can start to put everything you’ve learned together out because you’re not just figuring out the business aspect of it, you’re figuring out the performer aspect, you’re figuring out the marketing aspect, you’re figuring out the social and networking aspect. How do you move through this industry and meet people without getting stabbed in the fucking back and losing all of your hopes in it? It’s a lot of pieces to put together at once.

Tubefilter: Yes, absolutely. It’s a whole thing to balance. I feel interviews like this are really helpful. What are your goals for this year? You said you wanted to start maybe a second stream, maybe a horror stream, but do you have any other plans, any other goals for yourself?

Ericka Bozeman: Yes, I do. I’m trying to think of how much I want to disclose.

Tubefilter: No spoilers, don’t worry.

Ericka Bozeman: Yes, yes, yes. Honestly, a lot of the stuff that I’m working on right now, I probably shouldn’t talk about.

Tubefilter: Okay. [laughs] Well, that’s good news, though. If you have something that’s hush-hush, it’s usually something really good.

Ericka Bozeman: Yes!

Subscribe for daily Tubefilter Top Stories

Stay up-to-date with the latest and breaking creator and online video news delivered right to your inbox.