Without a doubt, free enables an idea to spread, it creates opportunity for sampling, it can open the door to engagement.
But when you buy something, you're paying for something that you can never get when it's handed to you.
Buying requires emotional commitment. Even a small payment has been shown to change the way people set expectations, not just for what they receive but how much energy and effort they're willing to contribute. It begins with confirmation bias, because if you paid for it, it must be worthwhile. But in the constantly-free world of digital media, I think it goes beyond this.
In my new Skillshare course on modern marketing, I see this every day. Instead of clicking away and giving up, people devote more energy and effort to pushing through the hard stuff. That energy and effort, of course, opens ever more doors, which creates a virtuous cycle of learning.
One way to play in the digital age is to appeal to those that browse, the window shoppers, the mass audience that can't and won't commit. The alternative is to focus on impact, not numbers, and impact comes from commitment.
Price is more than an exchange of coins. Price is a story, a powerful tool for changing minds and one way we persuade ourselves to make a change. Lowering your price (all the way to free) isn't the only way (or even the best way) to move your market.
Commitment is a benefit.